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Prayer Builds the Domestic Church

The 135th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus opened in the heartland of America with a display of the Order’s international character and the Church’s universal nature. More than 2,000 Knights and their family members from all parts of the globe assembled in America’s Center in downtown St. Louis, Missouri, for the Opening Mass as cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons from many countries and liturgical traditions processed through the large convention hall. To reflect the sacred nature of the occasion, the area around the altar was decorated with digital screens projecting images of mosaics from the city’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

The main celebrant and homilist for the Mass on Tuesday, August 1, was Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis. Concelebrating were 10 cardinals, 70 archbishops and bishops, and more than 100 priests. Archbishop Carlson has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 46 years, belonging to Bishops Council 10490 in St. Louis.

He began his homily by making a connection between Knights of Columbus founder, Venerable Father Michael McGivney, and St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast day was observed at the Mass. The archbishop noted that in 1871, when young Michael McGivney was a seminarian studying for the priesthood, Pope Pius IX declared St. Alphonsus to be a Doctor of the Church due to the 18th-century saint’s outstanding ability to teach the Catholic faith.

“Undoubtedly, such an occasion would have been noted in a seminary,” Archbishop Carlson said. “In fact, we are sure that the young seminarian from Waterbury, the man who a decade later would found the Knights of Columbus, benefited from reflecting on the extraordinary life and teaching of the Church’s newest doctor.” Among the items known to have been used by Father McGivney is an 1875 copy of The Guide for Confessors by St. Alphonsus Liguori, the archbishop said. He added, “St. Alphonsus’ life and writings continue to offer inspiration for the members of this great organization founded by Father McGivney.”

Like St. Alphonsus and Father McGivney, all Christians are “called to lives of zealous proclamation of the kingdom of God,” the archbishop said. “Every Christian, and in a particular way you Knights and ladies, have been sent to be light to the world. St. Alphonsus was light in 18th-century Italy. Father McGivney was light in 19th-century New England, as he sought to bring the people of New Haven and beyond to a deeper love of God and of neighbor. And you are called to be light” in the 21st century, he told the congregation. “There is a need for zealous Catholics, men and women on fire with the love of Christ and the desire for souls.”

The archbishop underscored the need for daily prayer and encouraged Knights and councils to participate in the Order’s Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening Our Parish initiative.

“Without prayer, we will not be able to accomplish the mission that God has given to us,” he said. “Without prayer, the Knights of Columbus will bear no lasting fruit. Without prayer we cannot and will not find the life that Jesus so desires to give to us.”

Prayer, he continued, “is so important and is at the heart of the life of the domestic church, the most fundamental cell of society and the Church. The new initiative you launched in 2015 to build the domestic church is filled with great promise and has already borne great fruit around the country. As you continue this crucial work, it must always remain grounded and nourished by prayer - both individual and communal.”

Music for the Mass was provided by the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., which each year travels to the Supreme Convention. Among the musical highlights was the Festival Alleluia that was composed for the 1999 apostolic visit of Pope John Paul II to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which is still considered a high point in the city’s history.