Carl Anderson: Our Lady of Guadalupe paves a path for the Americas

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Supreme Knight Dr. Carl A. Anderson address the 129th Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention during the States Dinner. Credit: Peter Zelasko/CNA

Our Lady of Guadalupe is the model for how Christian works of mercy can cross cultural divides in the Americas, Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson told a major Catholic gathering in Colombia on Monday.

Anderson recounted the story of the appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, an indigenous man living in early colonial Mexico in 1531.

When Our Lady of Guadalupe healed Juan Diego’s uncle, she “transcended cultures and welcomed everyone, while leading them to Christ,” Anderson said Aug. 29.

He voiced hope that the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic laity in the Americas, and the entire Church would continue the Virgin Mary’s witness.

“When we act in witness to our faith through these corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we engage in a ‘charity that evangelizes’ across cultural and other divides,” he said.

Anderson's speech was delivered on his behalf at the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, held in Bogota, Colombia Aug. 27-30. Anderson himself was unable to attend. The event drew Catholic cardinals, bishops and other leaders from all the Americas and received a special video message from Pope Francis.

The celebration was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

Anderson told the gathering that the Western hemisphere has a unique collective history of Christianity.

He drew on Pope Francis’ statement that the proclamation of the Gospel should be the aspiration of all the laity, who are “called to evangelize by virtue of their baptism.”

These words of encouragement have a meaning for the laity who unite to serve God and neighbor.

“And such unity has also been seen as integral at the continental level as well,” he said.

Several Popes, including Pope Francis, have sought to describe the hemisphere as simply “America,” Anderson explained.

St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America” deliberately spoke of North, South and Central America as one “America.” In the Pope’s own words, this word choice aimed to express existing unity and also pointed to “a closer bond” possible for America’s people as the Church promotes “the communion of all in the Lord.”

Anderson reflected on the founding of the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to help Catholics, many of whom were immigrants, at a time when they faced suspicion and discrimination in employment and society. He cited a founding member of the Knights who said the organization was designed “to unify American Catholic citizens of every nation and origin … giving scope and purpose to their aims as Catholics and as Americans.”

“From almost the very beginning that unity was manifested as we counted membership that was not just Irish, but French-Canadian, Hispanic, Italian and African American,” Anderson said.

The Catholic fraternal organization now has 1.9 million members worldwide.

Anderson noted the Knights’ history of service for all races and ethnicities, its opposition to groups like the Ku Klux Klan, and its effort to promote the history of minorities in the U.S. including Jews, African-Americans and Germans.

“While reaching out the margins, we have worked to make sure that Catholics were not subject to exclusion as well,” he said.
 
The Knights provided humanitarian assistance and raised public awareness during anti-Catholic persecution in Mexico in the 1920s, and are doing the same for Middle East Christians today. The organization has aided earthquake relief in Haiti, flood relief in Louisiana, and helped support the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor against restrictive U.S. government mandates.

“This unified approach to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy has always informed our outlook,” Anderson said. “So where people are hungry, we feed them, where they are cold, we provide warm clothing, where their faith is wavering, we evangelize, where the lives of the innocent, the elderly and the unborn are not valued, we stand with them and serve as their voice. Where there is a mother in a crisis pregnancy, we are there to help her, and her child.”

He noted Pope Francis’ encouragement for people who give alms to interact with the poor and physically touch them.

“That sort of personal touch that goes to the margins and brings the mercy and love of God to those there through charity is central to the Knights of Columbus,” said Anderson.


 

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