Following the lead of Pope Francis, the Order’s works of charity extend to those who may feel estranged from the Church
by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Carl A. Anderson
Following the election of Pope Francis, I made two observations regarding our new Holy Father. The first was a comparison with Blessed John Paul II. I suggested that just as the first pope from Poland had led a mobilization of Catholics behind the Iron Curtain, the first pope from Latin America has a similar opportunity to encourage a great renewal of the Church in Latin America.
The second observation was that the conclave of cardinals, in electing Pope Francis, had seemingly taken to heart the message of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his encyclicals on charity, since Pope Francis has shown throughout his ministry extraordinary solidarity with the poor.
Both themes were evident this past July during World Youth Day 2013, which took place in Rio de Janeiro.
Of course, there were many unforgettable events during the pope’s visit, such as the 3 million pilgrims who attended the papal Mass on the beach. But I found one of the most important events to be Pope Francis’ July 27 address to bishops. On that occasion, the Holy Father said, “Dear brothers, the results of our pastoral work do not depend on a wealth of resources, but on the creativity of love.”
These words brought to mind the many ways that Knights of Columbus express “the creativity of love” in millions of different acts of charity each year.
I thought, for instance, of brother Knights in Charlotte, N.C., who washed the feet of homeless men and provided them with new shoes on Holy Thursday of this year; of Knights in Chicopee, Mass., who provided meals for more than 3,500 people last Thanksgiving; and of Knights in Warrenton, Va., who raised and then delivered more than 20 tons of food and supplies to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
During his homily at World Youth Day’s Sunday Mass, Pope Francis spoke of a Church willing and capable of going to “the fringes of society,” and here, too, the work of our councils came to mind.
I could not help but think of our councils in Canada that brought wheelchairs to Vietnam or that support Catholic schools in the Holy Land; or of Knights in the Philippines who went into a remote village to build a chapel, bringing with them materials to evangelize those who were not Christian. In Mexico, brother Knights visited the villages of native people and replaced the dirt floors of homes with concrete. Knights in Poland, meanwhile, collected and repaired 400 sewing machines, which were then sent to women in Zambia so that they could support their families with meaningful work.
In his July 27 address to bishops, Pope Francis also reiterated the need for a new evangelization.
“We have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church,” he said. “Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.”
The pope then concluded: “We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way.”
This is a challenge that confronts not only bishops and priests. It confronts all Catholics and especially the Knights of Columbus. Pope Francis is calling for a new global solidarity among Catholics and those who are in need.
Thousands of Knights respond to this challenge every day by living our principles of charity, unity and fraternity with “the creativity of love.” But we cannot be content with what we have done in the past. Now is the time to do even more. Surely the Knights of Columbus is “capable of meeting them on their way.”