"Big Four" Highlights


Forming Catholic Men Today

The challenges call for charity, unity and fraternity

The following text is excerpted from the closing address of Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore to the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention Aug. 8 in San Antonio, Texas, in which he confirms the Order’s commitment to forming Catholic men and holds up Fathers for Good as a valuable resource. Archbishop Lori is Supreme Chaplain for the Knights and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops.

Our convention has taken both its inspiration and its theme from Pope Francis. We have been inspired by his example of selfless charity – a priest, a religious, a bishop, and now a pope who lives evangelical poverty in a spirit of solidarity and deep love for the poor, the immigrant and the marginalized, a pope among whose first words were: Be protectors of God’s gifts! This is the theme for our convention.

Knights of Columbus are called to defend, to protect, and guard and to foster. I thank you for being protectors of God’s most precious gifts: the gift of life, the gift of human dignity, the gift of religious freedom, the gift of marriage and family, the gift of our faith which is best protected by sharing it. As Knights, we protect God’s gifts by a charity that is at once massive and personal. Thank you, brother Knights, for protecting God’s gifts!

While in Brazil for World Youth Day, Pope Francis met with the bishops of that country. In his talk to them, he laid out the pastoral challenges facing the Church not merely in that country but in all of America, including North America, as she goes about her mission of evangelization. Referring to the story of the disciples of the road to Emmaus, the pope said this:

“The two disciples left Jerusalem … they are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day. Here we have to face the difficult mystery of the people who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church – their Jerusalem – can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone with their disappointment . . . .”

Applying this story into the present, the pope continued:

“We need a Church unafraid of going forth into the night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on the way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation . . . able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning. . . .”

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain, spoke about the challenges men face today.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain, spoke about the challenges men face today.


Fathers for Good

At first glance the pope’s words may not seem to apply to our members. After all, the Knights of Columbus are by definition “practical Catholics” and we count among our ranks some of the Church’s most faithful members. Yet, we should not imagine them to be entirely insulated from the disappointment which so many have experienced, from the alienation which so many manifest, and from the sadness which accrues when people feel cut off and alone. Certainly many of their family members, including the young, experience this. Certainly the younger men we hope to recruit into the Order may have a tenuous relationship with Christ and with the Church; not because they are necessarily upset with the anything the Church says or does, but because they have not yet found in the Church the guidance they need as men, as husbands, and as fathers. Let’s dwell on this for a moment.

First, the men who are Knights or who would benefit from becoming Knights, live in a world where the role of men and of fathers is ambivalent at best. All we have to do is to look at how men and fathers are portrayed in popular entertainment and in so much of what passes for learned commentary. If you’ve ever tuned into to “Family Guy” or “American Dad” or “Two and a Half Men,” you know what I’m talking about. Today, men, in their role as husbands and fathers, are often portrayed as insensitive to their wives and the worst possible role model for their children.

And we should remind ourselves that it is often no longer the case that mom manages the home while dad is the breadwinner – the men who come to our council meetings make a lot of sacrifices to be there, giving up what little precious time is left over when the cooking is done, the diapers are changed, and the kids are delivered to school, sports events, and many other things besides.

Add to all of the above the sense of powerlessness so many faithful men feel today, whether it’s the deconstruction of marriage in so many parts of the world, or the ready availability of online pornography, or the H.H.S. mandate and eclipse of religious freedom, or the marginalization of manly virtues and values. These and other factors tend to make men feel powerless.

Yet, the Knights of Columbus can help them tap into a hidden source of strength found in our faith – Christ, especially Christ in the Eucharist, Confession in which we encounter a love more powerful than sin, the comradeship of like-minded men who are on the same journey. The Knights can remind men and help them to do what is in their power to do: to improve their marriages, to be better fathers, to grow in virtue, to serve the needs of others more generously, to be a better citizen.

We Knights have done this before. One of the reasons why Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus was to help the men of his parish to take ownership of their faith and to support them in their role as husbands and fathers. Indeed, Father McGivney was ahead of his time in many ways in his focus on evangelization and his work with the laity. He saw every aspect of the Knights of Columbus as contributing to the Church’s vitality and relevance, as a way of walking with disciples in their darkness, whether it was the death of a loved one or the hostility that Catholics often faced in those days. While the challenges faced in his day and in our day are somewhat different, our duty to follow in Father McGivney’s footsteps has not changed. How important that the Knights of Columbus continue to be a way in which men can not only hang on to their faith but find meaning in it for themselves and for their families.

We have to see the Knights of Columbus as a practical way of evangelizing husbands, fathers, and their families, of helping them to understand what the culture often rejects – how men and women should relate to one another in complementary ways and how important husbands and fathers are to children. The Knights also are a way of helping men embrace their manhood – not the culture of machismo but a solid, sturdy, secure manhood – which includes having the courage to defend life, to defend virtue, to defend authentic values. Men do not have a monopoly on this but they have a big role to play, a role which the culture would have them shy away from. Evangelization is not an abstract disembodied presentation of truths. It is helping people make a connection between themselves and Christ, between themselves and the Church’s teaching. In these terms, how can we make the Knights an instrument of the New Evangelization?

First, Pope Francis keeps reminding us that no one makes the journey alone. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were leaving Jerusalem were adrift, walking alone on the road, with only disappointment to share. Pope Francis told the young people in Rio and he told us that we do not follow Christ alone but as a community of disciples.

Second, outside this convention hall is a display advertising Fathers for Good. I would urge you to make full use of this very important K of C resource if you haven’t done so already, and make use of these resources that offer a renewed and healthy understanding of what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father – not to create some kind of a male sanctuary – but rather to equip ourselves and our brothers to relate well to women, to wives, to mothers, and to the world around us.

May you continue to be protectors of God’s gifts and may God bless you and your families; may he bless abundantly our beloved Order; and may he bless our native lands as we strive to replace a globalization of indifference with a civilization of love!

To view more coverage of the Supreme Convention, visit kofc.org.