I. Introduction – Our Eyes Have Not Seen
A. Each year at our Supreme Convention, the privilege falls to me to celebrate this Mass for the eternal salvation of all our brother Knights who have gone before us into eternity. This Mass, of course, reminds us that this life is short, and the life to come is eternal. But before looking to the end of our earthly lives, let’s start out at the other end, at the beginning.
B. For just a moment, imagine what it would be like if an unborn child – while still in the womb – could conceptualize what life would be like outside the womb, after his or her birth. If that unborn child could formulate such thoughts, he or she might wonder: “What could be better than this? I have everything I need, right here in the womb! I’m never hungry or thirsty, it’s safe and comfortable… What could be better than this?
C. And yet, within a few weeks or months, that child will be born into the world of vibrant colors, and sunlight, and music, and human love. Perhaps this is what St. Paul speaks of when he writes that our eyes have not seen, our ears have not heard, nor has it even entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him, namely, the inexpressible joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.
II. The Great Cloud of Witnesses
A. The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of the “great cloud of witnesses,” that is, the saints. These brothers and sisters who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and now -- we know with certainty -- have achieved the goal
for which they, and we, were created. The saints are the ones who have lived and loved in such a way that the grace of God was able to transform them inwardly so as to make them capable of eternally receiving the love of the living God.
B. From their place in eternity the saints support us, and protect us, and pray that you and I will be given the grace
to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to keep the faith. Where they have gone, there do we hope to follow.
III. Heavenly Intercessors on Our Pilgrim Way
A. Here in San Antonio, the façade of the Mission San José is truly a ‘catechism in stone’ depicting this great cloud of witnesses -- in sculpture. Images from that great façade are projected here in our sanctuary. In the center, we see SAINT JOSEPH, Patron of the Universal Church and patron of a happy death. In conveying the greetings of the Holy Father to this Convention, the Holy Father’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Bertone, wrote:
“As protector of the Holy Family, the humble carpenter of Nazareth is a model
of the manly virtues of quiet strength, integrity and fidelity
which the Knights of Columbus have sought to preserve, cultivate,
and pass on to new generations of Catholic men.”
B. He added:
“Among the first acts of his pontificate, the Holy Father
wished to add the name of Saint Joseph to each of the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass. It is his hope that the Knights, in venerating the memory of this great Saint,
will beg his intercession for the protection of the many blessings
which the Lord has poured out upon them and their families,
and work with ever greater commitment for the spread of the Gospel,
the conversion of hearts, and the renewal of the temporal order in Christ.”
C. To St. Joseph’s right and our left, we see SAINT DOMINIC, whose feast the Church celebrates today. Born in Spain in the 12th century, he burned with a passion for truth and for charity. In his apostolic zeal, he founded the Order of Friars Preachers, the Dominicans. He was an extraordinarily effective evangelizer, both because of his intense study of the faith and the holiness of his life. So we ask his prayers today for us, the family of the Knights of Columbus, that we may be united with one another in living the principle of a charity, a charity that bears witness to the truth of the faith, a charity that evangelizes.
D. On the other side of Saint Joseph is SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI. His radical following of Christ has received new attention in recent months following the election of the Pope who has taken his name. Here we see him holding the Cross, the instrument of our salvation. He also holds a skull, reminding us that life is short, that death is certain, and that the world to come is everlasting. This combination reminds us powerfully that, as Saint Theresa once said, “If I am not becoming a saint, I am doing nothing.”
E. Finally, at the far left and far right of the sanctuary are SAINT JOACHIM, the father of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her mother, SAINT ANNE. On one level, it must have been very easy for them to raise a child who was completely untainted by sin. But Mary’s sinlessness did not absolve them of their obligations as parents. Instead, they fulfilled that role to a heroic degree. By providing an atmosphere of faith, order, and peace, in which the gifts and the love of their child could develop and flourish for the glory of God, they are a model for Knights of Columbus and their wives called to the vocation of marriage and family life.
IV. Blessed John Paul II: “Let Me Go to the House of My Father!”
A. Soon before he passed from this life into eternity, Blessed John Paul II whispered into the ear of one of the Sisters in his household, “Let me go to the house of the Father.” In the entire history of the Church, few people have done more to energize the apostolate of the laity, or to develop the theology of marriage and family, or to inspire and strengthen priestly vocations, than he.
B. We are privileged to have with us today the reliquary containing the blood of Blessed John Paul II, given to the Knights of Columbus by Stanis?aw Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, and longtime personal secretary to the beloved Pontiff. During this Mass for the eternal salvation of all deceased Knights of Columbus, we ask Blessed John Paul II, by his prayers, to conduct them – and us – into the house of the Father. We look forward to the remarks of Archbishop Mokrzycki at the end of Mass; His Excellency also served as secretary to the Blessed Pope John Paul II and he will offer us insight into the precious relic, this magnificent Pontiff, who witnessed to Jesus Christ and the Gospel all over the world and who is now part of that great cloud of witnesses whose company we hope to join.
V. Conclusion: Prayer of Blessed John Henry Newman
A. Spurred on by this great cloud of witnesses, and supported by their prayers, let us remember that that our eyes have not seen, and our ears have not heard, nor has it even entered the human heart what God has prepared for those who love him.
B. And filled with this hope, and this faith, and this charity, let us pray in these words of Blessed John Henry Newman:
Oh, my Lord and Savior, support me in that hour
in the strong arms of Your Sacraments,
and by the fresh fragrance of Your consolations.
Let the absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me,
and Your own Body be my food, and Your Blood my sprinkling;
and let my sweet Mother, Mary, breathe on me, and my Angel whisper peace to me, and my glorious Saints smile upon me; that in them all, and through them all,
I may receive the gift of perseverance, and die, as I desire to live,
in Your faith, in Your Church, in Your service, and in Your love. Amen.