Two cardinals addressed the Knights of Columbus’ States Dinner in Orlando on Tuesday, exhorting them to practice Catholic fraternity and to continue their charitable work.
“Do not wait just to do great things, spectacular events that are noteworthy. Love as Jesus did, every moment of every day. Love every person that you encounter on your path,” Cardinal Gerald Lacroix of Quebec said in his keynote address at the Aug. 5 event.
“That is how the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. That is how we will become missionary disciples. And let us never forget that with Jesus Christ, spring is always around the corner.”
The States Dinner is a highlight of the Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention, which took place Aug. 5-7. Though the event takes place in formal dress, attendees celebrate their home states and countries in a festive manner, waving flags and singing songs from their homelands.
Cardinal Lacroix reflected on the convention theme: “You will all be brothers: our vocation to fraternity.” He said Christ regenerated fraternity through his death and resurrection.
“But how can we truly promote fraternity in today’s world? How can we bring these life-giving principles to our everyday lives and help change the world we live in?”
“You and I are filled with good intentions, beautiful desires to do a lot of good,” the cardinal said. “But the only way to accomplish all of this is by being rooted in faith, in Christ. He is the One who sends us the Spirit, who continuously renews us and gives us the perseverance, the generosity, the love to build the Kingdom of God in today’s world through charity, unity and fraternity. We can’t do this by ourselves, counting only on our human strength.”
He stressed that rootedness in God and the Holy Eucharist are necessary to avoid self-centeredness.
Cardinal Lacroix cited the words of Pope Francis: “Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed to. But only love, bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity.”
The cardinal acknowledged the trials, tribulations, weaknesses, and sins of members of the Knights of Columbus, comparing these failings to trees that lose their leaves.
“But if we are deeply rooted in Christ, our faith will allow us to experience a new spring, where life once again triumphs after a long winter.”
He encouraged the Knights to remember that every act of fraternity can “produce a lot of good fruits.”
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato brought fraternal greetings from the Church in the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, where there are more than 200,000 Knights of Columbus.
He praised the Catholic fraternity’s ability to mobilize in times of disaster, as in response to humanitarian disasters due to the intermittent armed conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippines government that has killed over 150,000 people over 40 years.
“In genuine fraternity and with the deepest compassion, the Knights of Columbus reach out to victims, whether Muslims, Christians, indigenous peoples,” he said. “We are one people, we are brothers and sisters, we are one family under God.”
The cardinal said that the Knights of Columbus from around the world have sent more than $750,000 to help thousands of Filipinos who lost their loved ones and their homes in Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The fraternal order has hired builders to build boats for fishermen whose crafts have been destroyed. Knights of Columbus councils in the Philippines have helped provide food, shelter, clothes, cooking utensils, water and medicines, while also helping to repair and rebuild churches.
The organization also continues relief efforts to respond to the major earthquake which struck Bohol in October 2013.
“This is global and local mobilization of fraternity at its best,” Cardinal Quevedo said.
“Fraternity has to be born of love, the love of the God of compassion in Jesus, the God-made-poor for our sake in order that out of his poverty we might be enriched, enriched by the grace of salvation.”
He stressed that humanitarian assistance must be motivated by “a heart that beats in unison with the hearts of the poor, the marginalized, the victims of injustice.”
The cardinal also noted the great need for peace, which he deemed “the fruit of fraternity.”
The peace agreement in Southern Mindanao cannot guarantee peace when war’s causes are aggravated by centuries-old “cultural and religious biases and prejudices” that can “explode” into active conflict.
Cardinal Quevedo stressed the need for mutual understanding and love, saying, “genuine fraternity is rooted in charity. It is in the heart. It begets peace.”
He urged the Knights to let their fraternity spread through their societies, neighborhoods, the Church and wider society.
Bishop John Noonan of Orlando delivered a personal greeting to the States Dinner, thanking the Knights for their support of the Church, the bishops, their local communities, and those in need.
“After natural disasters: fires, floods, tornados, and hurricanes — you are there to lend a helping hand,” he said. “Here in the United States, on the national and state level, you have supported the Church’s teaching on life and marriage.”
Bishop Noonan praised the Knights’ support for religious vocations. He said the Knights’ involvement in the Fortnight for Freedom helped defend the Catholic Church’s religious freedom to continue its religious and social ministries.
The bishop also made a special request for knights’ prayers and support for immigration and the treatment of children, alluding to the border crisis as tens of thousands of children and unaccompanied minors from Central America have sought entry into the U.S. Many are now detained by U.S. authorities.
“They are children, not criminals; they are not political agendas they are human beings and we need to make sure they are treated with respect and dignity,” Bishop Noonan said.
Warning against exploiting their situation for political reasons, he lamented that many of the migrant children have been processed through the U.S. legal system without being interviewed or questioned while lacking legal representation.
“Let us not forget Jesus’ words, ‘Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'”