Archbishop William E. Lori delivered the closing benediction during the Knights of Columbus' States Dinner at their 130th Supreme Convention Aug. 7 in Anaheim, Calif. (Courtesy Knights of Columbus)
Knights’ Supreme Convention celebrates faith, patriotism
By Elisabeth Deffner
Special to the Review
ANAHEIM, Calif. – From around the world, more than 2,000 Knights of Columbus, many of them with their wives and children, along with 12 cardinals and more than 70 bishops, attended the Knights’ 130th Supreme Convention Aug. 6-8 in Anaheim, Calif.
Those numbers are “a testament to the growth and development of the Knights of Columbus,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson at the States Dinner, a high point of the convention that brings Knights together in a celebration of patriotism.
The dozens of bishops, archbishops – including Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori – and cardinals attending the dinner processed through a massive exhibit hall in the Anaheim Convention Center, each waving a flag and smiling at the Knights cheering from either side of the aisle. After the clergy reached their seats on the dais, the assembly joined in the national anthems of countries in which the Knights are represented. Later, as dinner was served, an orchestra performed the anthems of each state of the Union, as well as in Canada.
The celebratory tone carried through the keynote speech of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York – a member of the Knights of Columbus for more than 30 years – who got a big laugh after thanking Anderson for booking him into the honeymoon suite of the hotel where the convention took place.
He went on to say he wanted to turn his audience’s attention away from “the crimson tide” of bishops and cardinals seated before them – and focus instead on the Knights and their wives, and the sacrament of marriage.
“We Catholics are hopeless romantics, you know, when it comes to married love,” he said, recalling something a staff member had said to him when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee. In striving to increase vocations to the priesthood and religious life, Jan Ruidl told him, he was not thinking along the right lines.
“The greatest vocation crisis today is (getting people to commit) to lifelong, loving, faithful, life-giving marriage,” she said. “You take care of that one, and you’ll have all the priests and sisters you need.”
“‘For an increase in vocations to the priesthood, consecrated life, and the sacrament of marriage’ should perhaps become the new phrasing for a prayer of the faithful at every Mass,” Cardinal Dolan went on, referring not to high divorce rates – but to low sacramental marriage rates.
Archbishop Lori, supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, delivered the benediction at the dinner.
Other speakers focused on the issue of religious liberty – a hot topic indeed at a convention with “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land” as its theme.
Pointing out that the clergy and the faithful of the United States had launched a robust defense of the fundamental right of religious freedom, Archbishop Richard W. Smith of Edmonton – the newly elected president of the Canadian Catholic Conference – noted that our neighbors to the north are also facing many challenges to their religious freedom.
“Freedom of religion is not merely the right to freedom of worship – it’s the right to live out our beliefs in the public square,” he said.
“On an issue of such fundamental importance, we must be vocal.”
In his homily during the opening Mass, celebrated earlier that day, Orange Bishop Tod Brown also touched on the issue of religious liberty.
“We face a growing secularism, attacks on the value and gift of human life, attempts to redefine traditional marriage, and serious curtailment of our religious rights,” said Bishop Brown, a Knight of Columbus for 40 years. “Certainly, there is a clear and demanding need today for the New Evangelization called for by Blessed John Paul II and, now, Pope Benedict XVI.”
These are difficult times – just as St. Juan Diego lived in difficult times, he said. “In those tumultuous times in Mexico, Our Lady [of Guadalupe] brought a message of love and peace. Millions of native peoples embraced Christianity in the years that followed,” Bishop Brown said.
As the patroness of the Americas, and of the Knights of Columbus, the Blessed Mother provides a model of how to respond to the Lord’s call – a model that will be all the more important as clergy and laypeople around the world begin to respond to the call to the New Evangelization.
“I’m confident,” Bishop Brown said, “the members of our Order will be in the front ranks of the evangelizers.”