138th Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention
St. Mary Church – New Haven, Connecticut
Aug. 5, 2020
A Fraternity of Time and Eternity
At this Memorial Mass, we remember Father McGivney with special love and devotion, and entrust to his intercession our beloved fellow Knights and family members who have preceded us in death, marked by the sign of faith.
In keeping with our Convention theme, “Knights of Fraternity,” let us turn to today’s Gospel episode of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. This is the road we too must travel, the road which leads to Eucharistic fellowship, a Eucharistic fraternity spanning heaven and earth. As we follow behind those early disciples, Father McGivney will walk with us, as once he accompanied his parishioners along the way of communion with the Risen Lord.
Joined by the Risen Lord
Come with me, then, as we accompany those early disciples on the way to Emmaus. As we join them, we find they are deeply discouraged. They had pinned their hopes on Jesus, seeing him as the one who would deliver Israel from its oppressors. Instead, Jesus was put to death, like a criminal, and several days later, there were confusing reports that he had risen from the dead.
Those disciples no longer knew what to think or whom to believe. Amid their bewilderment, the Risen Lord joins them along the way. Although they do not recognize him, they instinctively trust him, sensing an immediate bond of fellowship with him, and so they pour out their hearts to this “perfect stranger”.
Well behind those disciples on the Road to Emmaus are parishioners from this parish of St. Mary, parishioners hailing from the late 19th century. Not limited by time or space, the Risen Lord is walking alongside them as well,
but those parishioners are joined also by their new assistant pastor, Father McGivney. They do not know Fr. McGivney well, but almost immediately, they sense in him a capacity for friendship and fellowship that endears him to them.
Here is that priest who will unite the parish in solidarity; that priest in whom they can confide their troubles and anxieties – the loss of loved ones, illness, financial instability, and that prejudice which was part of their daily experience.
This priest is no showman; he is not in it for himself; rather, he is there to point out the Risen Lord who walks with them on their journey toward Eucharistic fellowship. In that same spirit of solidarity, this young priest founds the Knights of Columbus, so that, along the way, none of his brothers or their families will be left behind.
Farther back still along the Road to Emmaus are the likes of us, Father McGivney’s 21st century Knights, together with our families and friends. As the Cause of Father McGivney has proceeded and devotion to him increased, we, like those 19th century parishioners here at St. Mary’s, rediscovered in Father McGivney a priest in whom we can confide our troubles and our needs, including the many challenges facing our families, our Church and our society,
as well as the loss of fellow Knights and their loved ones to death.
In Father McGivney, we too have a priest who takes a deep interest in us. In him, we have a priest who intercedes for us and for our families and loved ones. None of us had the privilege of knowing Father McGivney personally
but we now recognize him as the parish priest of our souls, that priest who opens the way for us to the Eucharistic Lord and our fellowship in the Risen Lord.
The Understanding of Scripture
But now, let us race ahead along the Road to Emmaus, placing ourselves once again in first century Palestine as those early disciples pour out their hearts to the still-unrecognized Risen Lord. In response to their confusion and bewilderment, the Risen Lord chides those disciples for their lack of faith, but then he opens their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures, showing how Moses and the prophets pointed to his Death and Resurrection.
As he does so, those disciples leap for joy. Later on, they would say, “Were not our hearts burning as he opened the Scriptures for us?”
Dropping back to the 1880s, we hear Father McGivney’s beautiful voice filling the interior of this Church of St. Mary, as he preaches the Gospel gently and persuasively, opening the Holy Scriptures for his congregation.
An eminently practical priest, he teaches them to apply Scripture and Church teaching to the everyday problems of life while keeping their eyes fixed on the life to come. A born teacher and leader, Father McGivney unfolds the Gospels for the Knights by teaching them the principles of charity, unity, and fraternity … inducting them into a Eucharistic fraternity that unites them in a divine charity that flows straight from the heart of the Risen Lord.
In our own journey of faith, Father McGivney’s voice continues to echo and re-echo as the Knights of Columbus of today helps husbands, spouses, and their families to embrace the faith with confidence and love in these challenging times. The principles of the Order are like keys that unlock the Scriptures, helping us not only to take comfort in the Catholic Faith that we share but also helping us to practice that Faith proactively, with enthusiasm and zeal.
The Breaking of Bread
At length, those first disciples arrive at Emmaus and find themselves seated at table with the still-unrecognized Risen Lord. Whereupon the Lord took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. In the words of the Pange Lingua, ‘Jesus gave himself to them with his own hand.’
With that, their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus in the Breaking of Bread, that is to say, they recognized Jesus in the Eucharist.
That experience of communion with the Risen Lord dispelled their confusion and gloom, united them in hope, and spurred them to return to the brethren in Jerusalem, where they recounted how they had recognized Jesus in the Breaking of Bread.
So too, here at St. Mary’s in the 1880s, we find a vibrant parish family gathered round the altar for the Banquet of Christ’s Sacrifice, gathered for the Breaking of Bread at the hands of Father McGivney, a parish priest whose life and ministry were centered on the Eucharist.
Like those earliest disciples, that later generation of Christians also recognize Jesus in the celebration of Holy Mass, in the Breaking of Bread.
In their communion with the Risen Lord, parishioners unite in mutual solidarity, thus supporting one another in time of trouble and in living the Faith. Simultaneously, Father McGivney is leading his brother Knights to a deeper love and understanding of the Eucharist as the source of a fraternity whose bonds are unbroken by death. From the beginning, the Knights of Columbus has prayed for its deceased members, even as the Knights cared for their wives and children who remained.
All of which brings us to this Holy Mass in which we, like those who went ahead of us, also recognize the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. It is from our communion with Christ that we find the source of our fraternity as Knights, our solidarity with one another.
Our fellowship in Christ impels us to seek the other’s good, to help one another along the path of virtue, Christian manhood, and discipleship, to support one another in living the vocation of marriage and family life, to support brother priests in being true to their vocation.
In this Eucharistic fellowship, our care and concern for brother knights and family members extends beyond the confines of this world as today we commend them, with the help of Father McGivney’s intercession, to the Risen and Exalted Lord.
May our beloved dead recognize the Risen Lord, no longer in the Breaking of Bread but rather face to face, in the Kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.