THIS MONTH marks my final Columbia column as supreme knight. For 20 years I have shared my thoughts on the challenges of the day and the good work of our Order. As I conclude my service as supreme knight, I would like to reflect on an important source of guidance and inspiration during this time.
In February 2001, I brought the supreme directors to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the installation of new Supreme Officers and to place our Order under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. That pilgrimage was influenced by St. John Paul II, whose first international journey included a visit to the same basilica. Years later, he would write, “To some degree, this pilgrimage inspired and shaped all the succeeding years of my pontificate.” Today, I would say the same of my tenure as supreme knight.
In his 1999 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, John Paul II set out a blueprint for greater communion and solidarity among Catholics in our hemisphere. Our Lady of Guadalupe, star of the new evangelization and the sign of a perfectly inculturated Christianity, was vital to this initiative. As leader of the preeminent Catholic organization throughout North America and the Philippines, I considered her key to our role in this great mission and for our own development.
The first step was the renewal of the Order in Mexico — moving from one nationwide jurisdiction to the current five state jurisdictions, with revitalized charitable and fraternal initiatives throughout the country.
‘Holy Mary’s message of hope, healing and reconciliation among peoples was not only a historic event but continues to be fully relevant to today’s global, and often violent, clash of civilizations and cultures.’
Later, with Msgr. Eduardo Chávez, postulator of the cause for canonization of St. Juan Diego, I would write a groundbreaking book titled Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love. In that book, we explain how Holy Mary’s message of hope, healing and reconciliation among peoples was not only a historic event but continues to be fully relevant to today’s global, and often violent, clash of civilizations and cultures. At a time when our Church’s saving message is criticized as the imposition of European imperialism, Mary’s message in the language and symbols of an Indigenous people reaffirms the power of the Gospel to lift up every people. And the fact that she chose a layman as her messenger emphasizes the essential role of the laity in evangelization.
During my tenure as supreme knight, the Knights of Columbus sponsored Guadalupe festivals that brought together tens of thousands of people in Phoenix and Los Angeles. Millions participated in our Guadalupe prayer programs and a national tour of a relic of the tilma. These events helped spread and deepen devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, as did our close collaboration with the Pontifical Commission for Latin America to organize a series of international conferences at the Vatican and in Latin America with the participation of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
St. John Paul II had also placed all unborn children threatened by abortion under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, making her patroness of the pro-life movement. Surely her motherly care has led to the success of so many of our pro-life efforts during the past 20 years — especially the extraordinary success of our Ultrasound Initiative.
Looking to the future, may we recall the advice of St. Maximilian Kolbe: “Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much; you can never love her more than Jesus did.” So, too, we recall the confidence we express during our Exemplification of Charity, Unity and Fraternity: “Mary, to whom her Son would refuse nothing, with her Knights, for justice and compassion for the downtrodden and all those who suffer. Her holy rosary in our hands going where we go. The salutation ‘Hail Mary’ on our lips. What challenge can we not face? What victories can we not achieve?”
Throughout my 35-year journey as a Knight of Columbus, Mary has been a guiding star. To travel this road together with so many great men has been my greatest privilege, and one for which I will always be grateful.
Logos & Emblems
Fraternal Leader Advisory
Knights in Action
Share your Knights in Action News
Please contact the
Knights of Columbus News Bureau