Sometimes we tend to think that holiness is something we can work on when we’re older, far off in the indeterminate future. After all, right now we’re so busy, endlessly occupied with the pressing demands of our professional lives or the day-to-day responsibilities of our priestly ministry.
But when we start to think that way, we should remember holy men and women in the Church’s history. For instance, Anthony of Padua, died when he was only 35. Father Michael McGivney died at 38, having founded our Order when he was just 29. The saint whose feast we celebrate today, Elizabeth of Hungary, died (as did Saint Therese of the Child Jesus) at the young age of 24.
II. God Calls Me Now
This suggests to us just a few points for us to consider. The first is, in the famous words of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, “God calls me now. Tomorrow will be too late!” Growing in friendship with Christ and growing in holiness is not something that can be put off for a more convenient time. That time may never come. “Someday,” as it is said, “is not a day of the week.”
“God calls me now. Tomorrow will be too late!”
And what does God call us to? He calls us primarily to conversion – to a continual change of mind and heart that re-arranges our priorities and breaks us out of the cycle of selfishness. God calls us to focus on reaching out in self-giving love to respond to the needs of others, and to alleviate their pain.
When Blessed John Paul the Second gave us the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, he determined that the third Luminous Mystery would be the call to conversion and the proclamation of the coming of the Kingdom of God. In other words, this conversion of mind and heart is linked with and is the prerequisite for the coming of God’s Kingdom, first in us, and only then, in the world around us. This is something of such urgency that we can’t put it off for “someday.”
“God calls me now. Tomorrow will be too late!”
III. The Charity of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary
Even though she lived only 24 short years, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was heroic in her charity. Here again are the words of the Collect we prayed just moments ago: “O God, by whose gift Saint Elizabeth of Hungary recognized Christ in the poor, grant, through her intercession, that we may serve with unfailing charity the needy and those afflicted.” … words that apply to us as the family of the Knights of Columbus in the Year of Faith!
A daughter of Hungarian nobility, Elizabeth’s family was immensely wealthy. Yet Christ awakened in her a particular charism of seeing Him in the poor. While she was still a young wife (and sometimes to the displeasure of her pious but worldly husband) she distributed what she had to those who were most in need, in order to bring them relief and comfort – with a smile – for the sake of Christ.
She was widowed at the age of 20. Rather than letting sudden tragedy discourage her, her charity increased all the more. She saw to the construction of a hospital for the sick poor built with her own wealth. She died at only 24 years of age, an age when many young adults are just beginning their families & professional lives, likely of something she caught from the sick to whom she tended. Fittingly, her goodness and charity are remembered and celebrated by the whole Church today, nearly eight centuries after her death.
IV. The Church Is Alive, and the Church Is Young
This says something else very important to us. It says that the young are capable of great things – they are capable of great self-giving, of great charity. Didn’t Blessed John Paul the Second teach us this again and again? “A young heart,” he said, “can understand the reckless love that is needed for total self-giving.” [repeat]
As Knights of Columbus, we know how much good that can be done through strong, vibrant, and active college councils. Building up college councils is certainly among our highest priorities. At our Supreme Convention in Anaheim last summer, then-Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila spoke of his experience as a Knight: how, as a Squire, he first became active in the life of the Church and began to discern a priestly vocation & was supported in his vocation by the Order. So growing the membership of our College Councils today builds up the future of our Catholic leaders of tomorrow –
… the future husbands and fathers who will defend family life and build a culture of life and love in an increasingly hostile climate –
… along with future priests and bishops,
… and even – to allude to something our Gaudium et Spes honoree said last evening –
… even future Supreme Knights who are in our college councils today, or who are waiting to be asked to join a council.
“The Church is alive, and the Church is young!” said our Holy Father as he was installed seven years ago. There is truly no limit to the good that the Providence of God has in store for our young Catholic men through membership in the Knights of Columbus. Let us do everything in our power to build our College Councils, and to involve young husbands and fathers in the councils in our parishes. We will not be able to see, until we are in eternity, how much good the grace of God, working through our Order, can do.
V. “Punctuality … the Graceful Courtesy of Princes”
So much good, so much potential, and so many graces, are offered to us by our loving God at this challenging but exhilarating moment in the history of our nation and of the Church. Let us not wait to seize the moment, but through a life of holiness and charity, let us become the instruments which God intends us to be.
The 19th century British novelist and historian Edward Bulwer-Lytton memorably wrote that “punctuality is the graceful courtesy of princes.” In promptly and decisively responding to the many particular graces God offers to us during this Year of Faith, may punctuality be the graceful courtesy of knights and ladies as well – the family of the Knights of Columbus.