“I don’t know how to ask you this,” said our K of C contact in a hurried Monday morning phone call, “but are you dressed up?”
What was initially expected to be an informal tour and visit with old friends David Naglieri and Michèle Nuzzo-Naglieri (S+L alumni who are now the newest additions to the K of C staff) quickly turned into a whirlwind tour and a privileged private meeting with Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson. We were more than delighted to find out that the one day S+L decided to visit the headquarters, the Knights were celebrating the 128th anniversary of their foundation!
The day with the Knights of Columbus in New Haven began with Mass celebrated by the Most Reverend William E. Lori, K of C chaplain and Bishop of Bridgeport, at St. Mary’s Church. The significance of the celebration was deepened with the bishop’s reminder that 128 years ago in the basement of the very church where we sat, the first meeting (and resulting incorporation) took place of what is today the world largest Catholic organization.
In his homily (see full text and video HERE
), the bishop recalled the many Holy Week liturgies that their founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, would have celebrated within the walls of St. Mary’s Church.
“Truly we cannot understand Father McGivney’s determined, effective leadership to establish the Knights of Columbus apart from his burning desire to help men and their families be reconciled to God and to the Church, to partake worthily of the Eucharist, and thus to embrace their faith wholeheartedly,” Bishop Lori reflected.
“And so on this Founder’s Day, let us invoke the intercession of Father McGivney for our beloved Holy Father and let us also ask him to pray with us, and for us, that we may defend our Holy Father well and wisely even as we seek the grace to be renewed in the ideals of the Order for glory of God, for the good of the Church, and for the salvation of our souls. May God bless and keep us always in His love!”
After grabbing lunch with our gracious hosts, we were whisked away to the K of C headquarters for the Supreme Knight’s Founder’s Day address. It was here, in the Knights of Columbus chapel, that Carl Anderson gave an unscripted, highly inspiring talk on the vision he has for the Knights of Columbus, stating that the Knights are poised to have a great impact on the face of the Church in the world.
“The Knights of Columbus is a mechanism by which the Church can be renewed and enlivened. If we do this right in the next 10 years,” he said, “we can help to renew parish life.”
Before visiting the impressive (both architecturally and corporately) Knights of Columbus headquarters, we had no idea of the magnitude of the operation. Boasting of approximately 800 employees (and an impressive ranking on Fortune 1000 list), the Knights of Columbus are at once a multi-million dollar fraternal insurance enterprise as well as a highly-respected (and many would say indispensable) global Catholic charity and fraternity.
The Knights certainly proved to us (to the ladies in particular) that they are shining examples and beacons of hope for the Church at this crucial time in her history.
One small anecdote to illustrate my point: when we arrived for the Foundation Day address, the women in our party admitted to feeling a bit more feminine than usual -- partially because we were surrounded by suits on all sides, but mostly because of how we were treated by the Knights in the building. Our observation was confirmed by our host, who explained that there are actually unwritten rules at the Knight’s headquarters concerning women. For example, he said that a man should never enter or exit an elevator before a woman. We were all appreciative of this seemingly anachronistic practice, especially because for the rest of our trip it became the status quo among our male counterparts!
Before we left, we were privileged to have an unplanned private audience with Mr. Carl Anderson. This was the icing on the cake. Mr. Anderson candidly shared his hopes and aspirations for the Church and, as if to keep on the theme from the Sisters of Life retreat, he reminded us that we need not be afraid to speak the language of the world to a generation gravely deprived of hope. Just a day earlier, the retreat’s keynote speaker, our very own Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, preached the very same message.
“Today there is a choice to be made: the options are to either flee to safety on the Ark in order to escape this ‘twisted and depraved’ generation or to stay and offer hope to those in darkness. The choice is yours.”
The whole weekend, beginning with the Palm Sunday retreat at the Sisters of Life retreat house and ending with our time spent with the Knights of Columbus, brought the reality and urgency of this choice to the surface.
After the retreat, I felt convicted that our generation must reclaim the assertiveness that has temporarily been veiled by relativism. The enemy of our souls would have it that we live our lives distractedly, flailing this way and that with every gust of wind, without focus or a vision for the future.
But the era of indecision must come to an end. We have seen Him with our own eyes and we will never be the same. We must be the generation that sends one resounding “Yes” rising like incense into heaven. Yes to truth. Yes to beauty. Yes to goodness. Yes to building a civilization of love.