Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Friday, June 13th, 2014
An Accessible Saint
To this day my parents belong to St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville, Indiana. Every Tuesday the parish prays the Novena to St. Anthony and many people come from far and wide to beg the intercession of one of the most beloved saints of all time.
So often I remember taking part in those Novenas and sometimes, when I was home for a visit, I’d have the privilege of leading that Novena after Mass.
St. Anthony hails to us from the high middle ages, the 12th – 13th centuries. He was born into a prominent, powerful family, but gave his life to the Lord. He began as an Augustinian friar, but desirous of becoming a missionary, he became a Franciscan and embarked on an ill-starred journey which nearly cost him his life. He recovered from illness and fatigue in a Franciscan house where he did menial tasks until his stellar talents were discovered.
St. Anthony is a beloved saint because he is so accessible. He is depicted as holding the child Jesus because that is how the Lord appeared to him in a vision. He is also approachable because he taught the faith in a way that was simple, profound, and beautiful, so much so that he put all heretical opinions to shame. That trait earned him the name, “Hammer of Heretics”. He is near and dear to us because of all the healings and cures associated with his intercession.
Most of us, however, think of St. Anthony as helping us find what we have lost. I for one have kept St. Anthony pretty busy over the years – these days he helps me find my mislaid I-phone.
Finding What Is Lost
I was tempted, of course, to dwell on St. Anthony as ‘the hammer of heretics’ but I thought the better of it and decided to concentrate instead on St. Anthony’s role in helping us and our loved ones find what is lost. But I won’t be talking about keys or I-phones but things of greater consequence.
First, St. Anthony is often portrayed holding the Child Jesus. Sometimes in our busy, distracted lives we lose sight of Christ. It’s not that we don’t know or love him but somehow he slips from the center of our lives.
Anyone and everything else takes precedence over our relationship with Jesus. When see St. Anthony holding the child Jesus we are reminded that the Son of God became small, indeed a little child, so that we could approach him and experience his love in our lives. St. Anthony will help us find Jesus, to encounter Jesus, to know his tender love in the rough and tumble of our daily lives.
But let me add a point, specific to the Knights of Columbus and to this occasion. You are here at this venerable parish church of St. Mary’s where the Order was born because you are leaders in the Order, leaders among your brother Knights. We are here because we have embraced the principles of the Order of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism.
Yet those principles remain abstract and lifeless until we encounter Christ. For it is Christ who reveals God’s love, makes us one, calls us to care for one another and prompts us to love our native country by implanting in us a love of heaven, which is our true and lasting homeland.
In helping us to find Christ, St. Anthony is helping us to re-discover the beautiful and guiding principles which the Venerable Father McGivney gave us to guide our beloved Order in all that it does.
In helping us find Christ, St. Anthony also helps us re-discover the faith we profess. Most of us are life-long Catholics who have been formed in the faith as children. Most of us consider ourselves reasonably informed Catholics, but sometimes in our lives there comes a moment when the truth, beauty, and coherence of the faith dawns upon us, when, as Pope Francis tells us, we see the faith, not as a series of disjointed things to be believed, but truly as the words of spirit and life, truly as only reliable guide for living & loving as true disciples of the Lord & as members of His Body, the Church.
St. Anthony who preached the faith with a beautiful and profound practicality, much, I would suppose, the way our beloved Fr. McGivney preached, will help us to rediscover and re-appropriate our faith.
Here’s the upshot, the takeaway. It is well and good for us to ask St. Anthony for anything we need, including helping us to find lost objects. But even as this great saint helps us in ways big and small, he also puts in sharp relief our responsibilities and mine as Officers, board members, and state deputies toward our brother knights.
In a sense, our responsibility is to be St. Anthony’s for our brother Knights. We are entrusted with positions in the Order of the Knights of Columbus to help our brother Knights and their families to find Christ and to rediscover and live their faith with fidelity and love.
After all, one of the reasons Fr. McGivney founded the Knights was because of his observation as a parish priest, viz., that the women of the parish tended to be more involved in their faith whereas the men tended to be more lax, more disengaged.
True to Fr. McGivney’s vision we recruit men to the Knights of Columbus and we seek to build up each and every local council first and foremost to help our members find the Lord in their lives and rediscover the importance and meaning of the faith in their lives as key to becoming better disciples, husbands, and fathers.
This means that, like St. Anthony, we need to open our hearts to Christ, we need to spend time rediscovering our faith, and we need to rediscover the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom, courage, and love we need to bear witness to the faith and to lead others to Jesus in the Church. This is how we become like St. Anthony to our brother Knights.
The Jewels of Office
As you receive the Jewels of Office today, see them not merely as a human honor bestowed by a favorite organization, see them not merely as a sign of what you have achieved in the Order, but rather see them as a challenge to bear witness to the Christ whose truth and love you find in the teaching, worship, and service of the Church as members and leaders of the Knights of Columbus.
And may St Anthony intercede for you that your time as State Deputies may truly fruitful for your families and loved ones, for the jurisdictions you represent, and for the good of our beloved Order, the Knights of Columbus.