by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
At the end of May, I spoke to approximately 100,000 pilgrims at the basilica in Piekary Śląskie, a city in southern Poland. Speaking before men from every part of the country and from beyond its borders, I recognized that pilgrimage is an excellent metaphor for our own lives.
I was proud to have joined a large delegation of brother Knights from Poland and the United States as together we walked several miles from a local parish to the basilica.
Pilgrimage – in the traditional sense – occurs when a person travels to a place that holds special spiritual promise. During a pilgrimage, the pilgrim encounters days of journey and prayer completely oriented to increasing one’s faith. In fact, a person is a pilgrim both during the journey and at the actual pilgrimage site, since the journey – often a difficult one – is part of the preparation for arriving at a holy place. The pilgrim gives witness along the way, as well as at his destination.
As on a pilgrimage, our lives should be a journey toward a spiritual destination. If an eternity with Christ is our goal, then our journey should be oriented to that objective. In addition, our witness during the pilgrimage of life must be complete. Each moment in each aspect of our lives must be oriented toward our expectation of full unity with Christ in heaven.
In the 1980s, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – wrote, “Faith means entering into solidarity with salvation history, taking up its ‘already’ and on that basis working toward its ‘not yet.’”
He continued: “Faith is the appropriation of the past history, which finds itself transposed through love into the present and so becomes once more hope for the future. Salvation history is, therefore, not merely the past. It is also the present and the future as we continue on our pilgrimage till the Lord’s return.”
In other words, each day of our own spiritual journey and that of the Church should witness to the significance of Christ’s life and death for both our present lives and our future hope.
In my remarks to those gathered for the pilgrimage in Poland, I recalled that the Second Vatican Council called the lay faithful to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. Lay people “are called by God so that they, led by the spirit of the Gospel, might contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties. Thus, especially by the witness of their life, resplendent in faith, hope and charity they must manifest Christ to others” (Christifideles Laici, 15; cf. Lumen Gentium, 31).
For Knights of Columbus, this means two things: First, we must witness to the love of Jesus Christ whether in private or in public, at home, at work or in the public square. This means witnessing to charity for all, to unity with all people (especially with our fellow Christians), and to a sense of fraternity with our brother Knights with whom we work together to better our communities and the world.
Second, as we enter “into solidarity” with salvation history, in the words of Pope Benedict, we should also take up Pope John Paul II’s challenge of solidarity – a communion among Catholics that is based upon a common tradition and a common heritage, and unity based in the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist.
This solidarity ought to transcend political boundaries, cultural differences and economic interests. And in keeping with the Order’s first principle of charity, it should be based on the ancient and enduring wisdom of our faith – that we are our brother’s keeper.
If we can witness to our faith daily, especially by living out Christ’s commandment to love one another, then we will be living witnesses to Christ’s love for us along the way and will find ourselves at the end of life’s journey ready for our eternal destination.