Blessed John Paul II entrusted us with the task of a new evangelization
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
The beatification of Pope John Paul II will be a time for reflection upon the accomplishments of his pontificate and the holiness of his life. But it will not be enough for the Knights of Columbus to simply look back and remember history. If we are to keep faith with our great friend and beloved spiritual leader, we must also look to the future.
In working toward this goal, we should ask ourselves, "What would Blessed John Paul II say to us today?" We are fortunate that we have thousands of pages of his writings that still speak to us clearly, and none is more relevant to the work of the Knights of Columbus than his 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America. In reading this document, it seems as though John Paul II is speaking directly to us.
He wrote, "The renewal of the Church in America will not be possible without the active presence of the laity. Therefore, they are largely responsible for the future of the Church" (44).
Today, there is no lay organization in the countries where the Knights of Columbus works that surpasses us in terms of charity, promotion of vocations and evangelization. Thus, the magnitude of our work on behalf of the Church can be measured in a certain degree only by the magnitude of our responsibility for the future of the Church.
Perhaps more than any other document, it was in Ecclesia in America that John Paul II proclaimed the need for a new evangelization. He wrote, "As the Church's Supreme Pastor, I urgently desire to encourage all the members of God's People, particularly those living in America … to take up this project and to cooperate in carrying it out" (66).
The pope understood that there was a common Christian foundation to the new civilization being built in the Western Hemisphere during the past five centuries. This common foundation offers the promise of an even greater solidarity, community and charity in the future, if only we have the determination to work for such a transformation.
For more than a century, the Knights of Columbus has been promoting this greater solidarity among Catholics in Canada, Mexico, the United States and the Philippines through our work of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism.
Blessed John Paul II knew that the task before us was not simply a "re-evangelization" — a repetition of what had gone before — but an evangelization "new in ardor, methods and expression" (6).
This newness, in a significant way, depends upon the creativity and the dedication of the lay faithful who are willing to commit their personal lives, their families and their associations in witnessing to the good news of the Gospel.
"In accepting this mission," John Paul II wrote, "everyone should keep in mind that the vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ" (66).
For the Knights of Columbus, the beatification of Pope John Paul II is a historic occasion to reflect on precisely the ways in which our dedication to our principles of charity, unity and fraternity provide "a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ."
And as we witness with confidence to this reality, both on a personal level and through the work of our thousands of active councils, we will not only take up a more vigorous role in the work of the new evangelization, but we will also realize more fully Father Michael McGivney's vision of a dynamic organization that is wholly at the service of the Church.