Our faith is manifested through charity toward the poor and suffering
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
On June 28, I had the privilege of having a private audience with Pope Francis. It was an extraordinary opportunity to speak with him about the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus throughout all the countries in which we are active. It was also an inspiring opportunity to witness first-hand the love and concern that our new Holy Father has for the poor and suffering.
The next day, Pope Francis signed his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith). It is a remarkable document. Drafted initially by Pope Benedict XVI and supplemented by Pope Francis, it is a unique testament of the continuity and closeness of Pope Francis with his predecessor.
In Lumen Fidei we read, “Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing” (18).
This is especially true in the way we regard the poor and the suffering. Are we able to truly see them as Christ sees them? In several places in Lumen Fidei, the pope holds up Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as an example. Those of us who knew her are likely to recall how often she encouraged us to “take time to love Jesus in the poor.”
In Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis asks each of us to consider the nature of love, writing, “The boundless love of our Father also comes to us, in Jesus, through our brothers and sisters. Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters” (54).
In recent years, this idea was brought home to me in a special way when I joined brother Knights in distributing wheelchairs to people in Haiti and Mexico who had lost their legs or had other physical disabilities. Many were living in severe poverty and all were suffering from their disabilities yet they were filled with faith and hope in spite of all they had endured.
Through the Knights of Columbus, we were able to be a blessing for them to transform their lives in a material way and give them hope for a better life. In return, they were a spiritual blessing for us through their own testimony of faith.
These charitable missions provided each of us with the opportunity for a very personal exchange of gifts, an exchange that bettered our own lives. It was an exchange in which those who were materially poor were a spiritual blessing to those of us who were not.
The lives of many who suffer give quiet testimony to what Pope Francis writes in Lumen Fidei: “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light” (57).
Last year, the Knights of Columbus once again set new records in charitable giving. According to our 2012-13 Survey of Fraternal Activity, we provided more than $167 million and more than 70 million hours of service to our neighbors in need. These statistics testify to the fact that millions of lives have been touched for the better by the Knights of Columbus.
This was accomplished because so many brother Knights determined to make a gift of themselves to their neighbors a gift of their time and hard work.
Our principles of charity, unity and fraternity have guided us for more than 131 years. To those who suffer, the Knights of Columbus has been “an accompanying presence … which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light.”
This was the vision of our founder, Venerable Michael McGivney. It remains our legacy and mission today.