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"You Are Following in the Footsteps of Your Founder"


NASHVILLE, Tennessee, AUG. 19, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the text of Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's Aug. 7 homily at the opening Mass at the annual convention of the Knights of Columbus.

The text is provided by the Knights of Columbus.

* * *

August 7, 2007
This is the official English translation of the homily delivered in Italian by His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, S.D.B.
Secretary of State

Your Eminences,
My Brothers in the Episcopate and in the priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am pleased to extend warm greetings to Mr. Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, and to the Knights of Columbus and their families, and to all of you present at this eucharistic celebration marking the solemn inauguration of the 125th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. It gives me great pleasure to convey to all of you the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. Please be assured of the Holy Father's spiritual closeness and of a special remembrance in his prayers at this time. During this celebration of the eucharistic Sacrifice let us join our intentions to those of His Holiness, in prayerful gratitude for the good works carried out by the Knights of Columbus and in humble supplication for the success of your Convention and the fruitfulness of your apostolate.

On August 14, 1890, Father Michael J. McGivney, a priest of the Diocese of Hartford who was just 38 years old, passed from this life to eternity. An obituary notice quoted from the Book of Wisdom, "Being perfected in a short time, they fulfilled long years; for their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them quickly from the midst of wickedness" (Wis 4:13-14). The crowds who turned out for his funeral bore eloquent witness to the power of his example, rooted in personal holiness. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints, as you know, is currently studying the life of this Servant of God, with a view to recognizing his sanctity and presenting him to the faithful as a model Christian, worthy of imitation. In the light of today's Gospel, I would like to dwell briefly on some aspects of the life of this holy parish priest, founder of your association.

The Gospel we have just heard provides us with the image of Peter walking on the water towards Christ. Peter is uncertain, buffeted by the waves and the intensity of the storm, but with his gaze fixed upon Christ he finds the faith and the courage to withstand all the forces working against him and to move forward. Only when his faith momentarily deserts him, does he begin to sink, and then it is the hand of Christ that holds him up. In many respects the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee seems an apt image for the situation of the local Church at the time of Father McGivney, when the plight of Catholics in America was far from easy. This holy priest, however, like Peter in the Gospel story, found the faith and the courage to walk steadfastly towards Christ, and to inspire others by his leadership. Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Father McGivney was impressed by the dynamism of his personality and his pastoral zeal. He guided the organization he founded with prudence and wisdom, firmly trusting in Christ. He recognized the need to promote the mutual support and solidarity of the Catholic community, and nothing would deter him from pursuing this noble goal. May your founder's faith and courage serve as an inspiration to all of you as you devote yourselves to the pursuit of your own apostolate.

When they saw Jesus walking across the water, the disciples were terrified. But when he encouraged them not to be afraid, Peter called out: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." And Jesus said, "Come." It was in response to that call that Peter set out towards him. Likewise, Father McGivney, when he set out upon the path to priesthood, did so in response to a call from Christ, and he spent his remaining years faithfully living out that vocation. He also helped others to recognize the call that Christ addressed to them, and to respond generously. This was the key to his apostolic vision in founding the Knights. He recognized the material and spiritual poverty of so many members of the Catholic community, and he understood that it was part of the lay vocation to become actively involved in offering assistance to brothers and sisters in need. He knew that it is not only priests and religious who have a vocation, but that every Christian is called by Christ to carry out a particular mission in the Church. He left a lasting legacy in the organization that he founded which has continued to provide opportunities for countless lay Catholics to play their part in building up the Kingdom of God.

At the end of today's Gospel passage, we hear that the people from the surrounding country brought to Jesus all those who were sick, and begged to be able to touch even just the tassel on his cloak, so that they could be healed. Christ's care for the sick and the suffering was an inspiration to Father McGivney who, as a priest, sought to be a living sign of Christ for the people he served. The parishioners in New Haven and Thomaston were attracted to this kind and gentle priest, who ministered to them with Christ-like compassion. Through the organization that he founded he reached out beyond the boundaries of his parishes to members of the Catholic community throughout America, many of whom were in great need. Widows and orphans who might otherwise have suffered destitution have been offered charitable assistance and fraternal support. Those afflicted by alcoholism have been helped through this association to overcome their loneliness and to make a courageous choice to fight against their dependency. Like the Good Samaritan, you bind the wounds of those you discover lying by the wayside and help restore them to health and strength. In so doing you are following in the footsteps of your founder, and with him imitating Christ, who came that we might have life in abundance.

The celebration of the Eucharist raises our thoughts to God the Father, who through Jesus Christ, gives us the Holy Spirit and nourishes us with the Bread of Life. Today we remember with gratitude the life of Father McGivney, the talents and graces which he received. We thank the Lord for the good works that are carried out in the Catholic community through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus. Let us learn from Mary to grow in contemplation of the great things that the Almighty has done for us. Finally, let us place confidently in her hands, as Mother of the Church, the intentions and hopes of this 125th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.

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Cardinal Bertone, Knights of Columbus, Homily, Mass

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