I recently attended the 136th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, which took place in Baltimore. The Knights of Columbus was founded by the Venerable Michael McGivney in 1882. Father McGivney was a parish priest in Connecticut whose concern for the economic, spiritual and human conditions of the men in his parish led him to create a fraternal organization. From its humble beginnings their numbers have soared to 2 million members. It has spread throughout the world and continues to grow. In 2017 the charitable contributions of the Knights totaled about 186 million dollars in addition to more than 75 million hours of community service.
In our diocese, the Knights are very active in their parishes and are supportive of and generous to the Church. They sponsor a variety of charities, family-centered programs and pro-life activities. They assist our seminarians with financial aid. The Color Guards of the different Councils accompany me to most public events, such as Confirmation. I always enjoy watching the reaction of our Confirmandi when the Color Guard processes into the Church with their clanging sabers and colorful plumed chapeaus. The Knights are always welcoming to new members and recently have made it easier for men to join the brotherhood through their website, www.knightsofcolumbus.org.
As is his annual custom at the National Convention, the Supreme Knight, Carl Anderson, delivered a report on the activities of the organization and introduced new family-centered parish-based, domestic church programs. He also spoke about the assistance the Knights of Columbus are providing to persecuted Christians around the world. (See page 7.) In recent times, hateful vicious attacks against Christians and their Churches have occurred.
The Knights commissioned an icon, titled Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians, as a way to encourage a prayerful response to those areas in the world where it is not safe to be a Christian. There have been horrific attacks against Christians and Christian Churches in countries such as Nigeria, Syria, China and many others. Persecution of the Church and Christians is not past history such as the persecution of the young Christian community in Jerusalem and the persecution sponsored by the Roman Empire.
The icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians depicts a rather sad and somber looking Blessed Mother draped in a blue/green mantle under which are depicted contemporary victims of persecution. To the viewer, her eyes are piercing. She will keep her children protected from the hate mongers and evil doers, some of whom act in the name of God. Can you imagine such blasphemy? At the conclusion of Mass on the second day of the convention each State Deputy of the Knights carried a copy of the beautiful icon which was blessed by the Supreme Chaplain. That icon will visit each state to invite prayer from the faithful and to help raise consciousness of this serious issue — the persecution of Christians.
The persecution of Christians demands a response from people of faith and good will, and from governments. Beheadings, burning of churches, terrorizing of Christians must stop. Prayer and human response are needed to end this ongoing genocide. The Knights of Columbus have taken the lead on doing something about this horrific suffering. Let us pray to Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians that she take to her divine Son the sufferings endured by some just because they are Christians.