I. Introduction: Honoring the Knights // Honoring Bishop Loverde
A. Archbishop Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Loverde, brother priests, President Mount and all who with you carry forward the mission of CDU, Worthy Supreme Knight and Mrs. Anderson, brother knights and ladies, friends and benefactors of CDU, all dear friends in Christ:
B. Let me join with Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in thanking CDU for the honor you are bestowing tonight, not so much on two individuals but rather on the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic lay organization in the world, an organization founded by a devoted parish priest, Father McGivney, for whose canonization we earnestly pray – an organization rooted in the Gospel principles of charity, unity, and fraternity, coupled with patriotism, a genuine love of country that impels us to help build a civilization of truth and love. Thank you, in a word, for honoring the Knights of Columbus.
C. Before I go further, let me say a word about Bishop Loverde, whom I privileged to call a friend and acknowledge as a co-worker. There is not a bishop in the Church who is more devoted than Bishop Loverde, not a bishop in the Church who works harder than he does, and what a friend he has been to the Catholic Distance University. As you complete your service as Bishop of Arlington, dear friend, we prayerfully wish you, health, happiness, and continued fruitfulness in ministry. Ad multos annos!
II. The Mission of CDU Re-Visited
A. Thank you also for the privilege of preaching at Mass this evening – that means I’ve already had, as they say, ‘a bite at the apple’ – so as this Year of Mercy draws to a close, I’ll be mercifully brief. And hopefully my remarks will comport well with those of the Supreme Knight because, to tell you the truth, I really like being the Supreme Chaplain!
B. At Mass I spoke about the mission of CDU – I spoke of how CDU equips its graduates for the work of evangelization and for the work of bringing Catholic truths and values into the cultural mainstream, confident that the Church’s social teaching offers both a basis for dialogue and ways of humanizing society and culture.
C. One important way CDU and its graduates can do this is in the defending, fostering, and using the gift of religious freedom well and wisely. When Pope Francis visited the United States, a little more than a year ago, he spoke often about the gift of religious freedom as experienced in the United States. He urged us not to take this blessing for granted, not to let it slip away, and to use it to build a society that is ‘truly tolerant and inclusive’, a society that rejects ‘every form of unjust discrimination.’ And in seeking justice and tolerance, the Pope supported people of faith who are concerned that society “respect their deepest concerns and their rights to religious liberty.” Standing in front of Independence Hall the Pope stated that religious institutions have the right to “serve society primarily by the message they proclaim” and warned against an overarching secularism that tries “to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity” – and in saying this he put his finger on many of the religious freedom challenges that we experience not only in the United States but throughout the Western world.
D. The formation which CDU offers prepares dedicated Catholic men and women to know and understand the Church’s teaching on religious freedom, on the principles of the Church’s social teaching, especially human dignity. And even more importantly, it helps its graduates prepare to share this with fellow Catholics in a variety of ministries, especially in our parishes, and to bring these truths and values into dialogue with the culture all around us, including opinion leaders, political leaders, business leaders, and others, remembering that it is principally the role of the laity to evangelize the culture and principally the role of the laity to create a just and peaceful society.
E. As we survey the election cycle which will come to an end in a few days, we recognize that very little was said about religious freedom yet this is one of the most critical issues facing our world and our nation as we look to the future. Bishops have the responsibility to lead and to teach to enter into dialogue but it is a well formed laity that will help transform the culture from within. A few days ago, in the Office of Readings, there was a passage from the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World that goes to the heart of the mission of CDU to help build a world that better reflects the joy and peace of God’s Kingdom – let me leave you with this: “Those engaged in education, especially among young people, and those who influence public opinion, should consider it a very serious responsibility to work for the re-education of mankind to a new attitude toward peace. We must all undergo a change of heart. We must look out on the whole world and see the tasks that we can all do together to promote the well-being of the family of man.”
F. My warmest thanks to all at CDU for taking up this Council mandate and may God bless and sustain the mission of CDU for many, many years to come! And may God bless us and keep us always in his love!