During last month’s Mid-Year Meeting in Florida, Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William Lori spoke to state deputies about the connection between evangelization and catechesis, and emphasized the need for “radical solidarity” with women facing crisis pregnancies. His full address, delivered remotely from Baltimore on Nov. 19, is below.
This morning, I would like to suggest two points for your consideration: First, I would like to discuss what the Church calls an “evangelizing catechesis.” Second, I would like to address the Order’s pro-life efforts in the current context. Third, a very short note on the National Eucharistic Revival.
When you heard the words “evangelizing catechesis,” perhaps you found it difficult to contain your enthusiasm. More likely, you asked yourself, “What in the world is he talking about?” Most all of us know what catechesis is — it’s instruction in the faith. Those of you who are my age may remember studying the Baltimore Catechism, a project that was begun in the late 19th century in the very house in which I live. Those of you who are younger than me (probably most of you!) may have had varying experiences in faith formation.
Since most of us are intimately involved in the of the Church, we have come across the word “evangelization” with some frequency. But it seems to me that no matter how much this word crops up, it isn’t particularly well understood, even by practicing Catholics. It has to do with encountering the person of Christ, stirring up in us the Holy Spirit received in baptism and confirmation, and opening our minds and hearts to the heart of the Gospel, so much so that we will want to share it with those around us.
Now, let’s put the pieces together to understand what evangelizing catechesis is. It’s sort of like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. You gotta have the chocolate and peanut butter together. Two important elements need to come together and be integrated with each other. Let me explain this as clearly as I can.
Evangelization has to do with falling in love. But as St. John says in his First Letter, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:10). So before we fall in love with God, God has loved us with an infinite, everlasting, self-giving love. It was in love that we were created and in love that we were redeemed, and it is God’s intention that we share in his love fully in the life to come. When this really dawns on us, thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are amazed, or as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it in his translation of Adoro te devote, “all lost in wonder.”.
When our hearts are open to this amazing love that comes to us in word and sacrament and more generally through the Church, we cannot help but fall in love ourselves with the God who loves us so. Falling in love with God, as Father Pedro Arrupe reminds us, is life-changing, and I quote: “Nothing is more practical than finding God and falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
But falling in love with God is not merely a personal decision. When our hearts are filled with God’s love, we want to share it. Love naturally diffuses itself. By its nature, it spreads. And if we are deeply in love with the God who has revealed himself fully in Christ, then we will want to be his instruments in sharing the good news, the good news that God is love and that God loves us everlastingly. This is a message, a truth, a reality the world needs more than ever.
Now we turn to catechesis, to instruction, to knowledge. And here I would invite you to think back to when you first met your wife and realized that you were falling in love with her. You may have known her for a long time, or you may have just met her. Either way, you wanted to know as much about your beloved as possible. It might be that you knew her before you loved her — just as many Catholics know about Christ and their faith but have not yet fallen in love with God. It might be that you fell in love with your future wife almost instantly, and once you did, you wanted to know everything about her because you care for her, just as some discover the Catholic faith because they have felt tug of God’s love on their hearts. In any case, it’s not enough to be in love with a God whom we really don’t know, and it’s not enough to know a God whom we really don’t love. We can’t be all chocolate and no peanut butter or all peanut butter and no chocolate. Hence, the words “evangelizing catechesis.”
And why do I bring this up this morning? Because as Knights, job one is forming men to be followers of Christ. This means that the principle of charity doesn’t remain an abstraction, nor is it simply reduced to volunteering to help others, important as that is. Charity, in the first instance, means allowing Christ’s love, Christ’s charity, to inflame us and then to engage in the most loving thing any one of us can do — namely, to share our faith with our families and loved ones and co-workers and friends. When Father McGivney founded the Knights, he did not use the words “evangelizing catechesis,” but he was concerned that his Knights would know and love Jesus Christ, would find him in the Church, would share him with their families, and reflect the rays of truth and love in the wider society. Those of you who studied the Baltimore Catechism will remember these words: “God made us know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” We can imagine Father McGivney saying exactly that to his Knights. In our contemporary context, this is how we need to form ourselves, our brother Knights, and those who hope to attract to the Order.
Let’s shift gears. Since we were together at the Supreme Convention in Nashville, we have seen how the Dobbs decision has played out. The Supreme Court did the country a great service in returning the question of abortion to the people’s elected representatives. This decision, however, met with fierce opposition, and sadly, the state referenda in Kansas, Michigan, California and Kentucky were unsuccessful. In some states, laws have been proposed or enacted that would permit abortion right up to the moment of birth. Many people do not understand how extreme these abortion laws really are. We also know that fellow Catholics and many others feel that the Church’s teaching is harsh and lacking in compassion. You may have encountered this personally.
How, then, can we share the Gospel of Life convincingly? How can we break through all the disinformation that’s out there? Let me suggest that our principle of fraternity is key. Fraternity means that we are bound to one another. We are brothers to one another, and that brotherhood extends to our families. In a certain sense, we belong to one another as members of the Knights of Columbus. This principle of our Order reflects an even broader truth taught by our faith. If God is our father, then we are sisters and brothers to one another. Each human person made in God’s image and likeness belongs to a broader human family. Recently, in my prior service as chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, I called for a response of “radical solidarity” with women facing difficult pregnancy. We cannot pretend to understand all the factors that prompt women to seek an abortion. Often, it is poverty. Often, they are alone. Often, they don’t know where to turn. But this much we do know: They are our sisters, and we are their brothers. They are our neighbors, and we are their neighbors. Their distress is our distress. Their struggle is our struggle. Their lives and the lives of their children are precious in our sight, and hopefully in the sight of all our brother Knights and their families. In the words of St. Teresa of Calcutta, “We belong to one another.”
Abortion is a gruesome sign that we have forgotten that we belong to one another. Mother and child are not strangers. The child in the womb is already bound by flesh and kinship to the mother. The life developing under the mother’s heart is situated in a network of relations, including family, neighbors and fellow citizens. Abortion destroys innocent human life. It weakens the fabric of society. It weakens the sense that we are all brothers and sisters. As Knights we have long championed the cause of life and acted in practical ways to defend innocent human life and to support mothers in need. Most recently, the Supreme Council has initiated the ASAP program — providing Aid and Support After Pregnancy — as a way of loving and supporting both mother and child. As you know, for every $500 a council or assembly donates to a pregnancy resource center or maternity home, up to $2,000, the Supreme Council will donate $100. This is a very practical way to meet a very real need and to express our solidarity with these moms in need. Our solidarity is radical because it is rooted in our common humanity. It is radical, but it is not complicated. And when we act in accord with our radical solidarity, we help to open the minds and hearts of fellow Catholics to the truth of the Church’s teaching that innocent human life is always to be protected and cherished from the moment of conception until natural death and at every stage in between.
National Eucharistic Revival
An evangelizing catechesis, radical solidarity — these are not as complicated as they sound, but experience teaches that they are very hard to put into practice. On our own strength, we can only get so far, but filled with the strength that comes from God, all things are possible. For us as Knights, we know that the greatest source of this strength is found in the Eucharist, the celebration of holy Mass, the most holy sacrament of the altar. For that reason alone, I want to conclude by encouraging you to lead your jurisdictions to a renewed appreciation of the holy Eucharist, especially participation in Sunday Mass by every Knight and his family. In the United States, the bishops have launched a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that includes a National Eucharistic Congress in the summer of 2024. This is a ready-made opportunity for us to be and to become “Knights of the Eucharist” — to see how our principles are rooted in the Eucharist and to lead the way in encouraging our fellow Catholics, especially those who have fallen away, to return home to the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.
Thanks for listening, dear brothers! Vivat Jesus!