Chaplains Gather for Prayer and Planning
Beginning their participation in pre-convention events, more than 80 state chaplains gathered for Mass on Monday, Aug. 3, at the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, where the bodily remains of the fourth bishop of Philadelphia are interred. Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore was the main celebrant of the Mass, which was offered on the altar used by St. John Neumann, who died in 1860 and was canonized in 1977.
“It is a privilege to be here at the shrine dedicated to this great American bishop,” Archbishop Lori said in his homily. “St. John Neumann is an example to all of us of humility and zeal, a missionary priest and bishop who offered himself to his people in self-giving love.”
Acknowledging the challenges to the Catholic faith in an increasingly secular society, the archbishop outlined three areas of hope that he said should guide the chaplains.
“First,” he said, “people are hungry. People have a physical hunger, but even deeper is their spiritual hunger. We know that this hunger is only satisfied by God’s infinite love.”
The second hopeful sign is that Jesus fed 5,000 people with only two fish and five loaves, he continued. “We must do our best to feed our people with the skills, talents and best efforts that we have,” said Archbishop Lori, “but we know that in the end it is Jesus who acts and bestows the grace that people need. We are instruments of that blessing.”
“Third,” he added, “is that we as priests and bishops preside over the greatest mystery of faith in the Eucharist. This is the bread of life come down from heaven, and it is a more wondrous gift from God than the food that fed the 5,000.”
Concluding his homily, the archbishop said that fidelity to the priestly ministry is the key to realizing the three signs of hope just outlined. “This means resisting the temptation of expecting immediate and quantifiable success,” he said. “We leave it in the hands of God. Our zeal must be tempered by humility and our humility must be tempered by zeal.”
Before Mass, the chaplains had an opportunity to venerate the relics of St. John Neumann, which are preserved in a glass case beneath an altar. The shrine is part of St. Peter the Apostle parish, which is administered by the Redemptorist order to which the saint belonged.
After Mass, the chaplains returned to the convention hotel for their annual meeting. In his address, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson thanked them for their service to the Order and underlined their key role in fostering spiritual growth among Knights in their jurisdictions. He asked them to exercise spiritual wisdom and practical judgment in addressing the challenges of the culture.
The supreme knight asked the chaplains to promote two Supreme Council programs – Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive, and the new pilgrim icon program featuring an image of the Holy Family that will travel to all councils over the next few years. The Domestic Church program is a month-by-month guide for families to integrate prayer, study and service into their daily lives.
“This is what the new evangelization is all about,” he said.
Images of the Holy Family were scheduled to be blessed and dedicated after the convention’s Opening Mass on Tuesday. Each state deputy will take an image back to his jurisdiction for a prayer service at each council.
Addressing his fellow chaplains, Archbishop Lori said that their role in the lay organization is “to build the faith of our brother Knights and to help them to live the Gospel and Gospel principles more fully.”