The witness of Knights during the persecution of the Church in Mexico provides lessons as we defend religious freedom today
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
During my recent trip to Korea, I had the opportunity to pray at the Jeoldusan Martyrs’ Shrine overlooking the Han River in Seoul. On that site, as many as 10,000 Korean Catholics were martyred in the 1860s, nearly two decades before the founding of the Knights of Columbus. These ordinary men and women of extraordinary faith were tortured and decapitated, and their bodies were then thrown over the cliff into the river. Catholics in Korea will tell you that this is one of the most sacred places in their country. I believe it is one of the most sacred places in the world.
Today, South Korea has one of the fastest growing Catholic populations, with thousands of converts to the faith each year. We see there once again the mystery of salvation. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
It was an especially moving experience for me to be there since I had arrived in Seoul from Washington, D.C., after delivering an address at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on the new threats to religious liberty in the United States.
My visit to the Jeoldusan Shrine brought home the truth of what our bishops have recently written: “Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans.”
The U.S. bishops have sounded a warning of emerging threats to religious liberty, threats to the integrity and continued existence of many Catholic institutions. The bishops ask, “Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do without having to compromise that very same faith?” This question must be of utmost concern to every Catholic and especially to the Knights of Columbus.
The bishops have directed a clear call to action: “Once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense … and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.”
As Knights of Columbus, we are proud of our reputation as “the strong right arm of the Church.” In 130 years, that arm has never tired, nor has it wavered. I am confident that in the days ahead we will increase our efforts to shield the Church and her institutions from the heavy hand of those who now seek to restrict what Pope Benedict XVI has called “that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
I urge every brother Knight and every state and local council to participate in the upcoming “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 to July 4 by contacting their local parish and diocese in support of this program.
And I ask every K of C family to take part in a novena for religious liberty beginning June 21, using the prayer that our bishops have asked us to pray:
Almighty God, Father of all nations, for freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1). We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty, the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties; By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Together we can safeguard our most cherished freedom.