NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CNS) — How to be true pastors in the world.
That was the message Bishop J. Mark Spalding shared with members of the Knights of Columbus from all over the world as they, along with their families, gathered for the Opening Mass of the 140th annual Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention Tuesday, Aug. 2, in the Delta Ballroom of the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.
Also in attendance at the Mass were dozens of bishops, priests, deacons and religious from around the world.
Bishop Spalding noted the significance of the gathering at the beginning of his homily as this year marks the first in-person convention since 2019. And it’s because of these past years, largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic, that it’s even more important to be a pastor in the world.
“We’re keeping in mind in a special way in this Mass, this priest, this pastor of people, Blessed Father Michael McGivney,” the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Spalding said. “We keep in mind his great example, and the readings and prayers today call us into what it means to be a pastor.
“Being a pastor … is a great life. It’s not an easy life, but it is a great life. We hear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:1-7, 11-13) this morning, what that life is about as pastor,” he continued. “We heard it being spoken to us as unity, oneness in Christ, the constant effort of a priest, of a pastor. The constant effort of Father Michael McGivney was to bring his flock together in Christ.”
As Knights, it is their responsibility to continue that, Bishop Spalding said.
“After the last couple of years, now we need to proclaim evermore that Christ is our light and our life. Go from this convention enthused, empowered to be evangelists in Jesus Christ. Our world is starving for the presence of Christ in their life, and you can be that and lead them even more profoundly as pastors to other souls through word and sacrament,” Bishop Spalding said, before posing a question to the congregation.
“What do we know as Roman Catholics?” he asked. “That Jesus Christ changes people’s lives for the better, that the more you come to know Jesus in word and sacrament, in his teachings, in his Church, the better off you are. You know how to live your life. You know how to be inspired in your life. You know what direction it is. This is the work of our pastors, our priests, but it is the work of all of us as disciples.”
It was the mission of Blessed Father McGivney, he said.
“Father McGivney, he wanted to bring these dear men together in his time, and his spirit in Christ still brings men together,” Bishop Spalding said. “He made sure that these knights would come together and do the good works in Jesus Christ, to learn how to be comfortable in the faith, and learn how to share the faith with others and tell their sons and their grandsons. It is the good, it is the beautiful, it is the truth to follow Jesus.
“We have so many things around us in which we have men who are lost and need to be found,” he said. “We the Knights, we can be part of that good father that runs to your sons, literally and figuratively, in their life and brings them into the banquet, the banquet of Jesus Christ, the banquet in which Father McGivney knew to bring people close to others and then go out into the world and change it for the better.”
With that, Bishop Spalding gave three pieces of instruction to the knights. First, support and encourage your pastors.
“Thank them for their ‘yes’ to their vocation. I know you do it already. I’m just affirming it and confirming it,” Bishop Spalding said. “A corollary to that … call out to men to look at the vocation of service in the Church, especially as priests, and I thank you for all the support you have given, you are giving and will give to that great calling.”
Second, never forget to say, “I love you.”
“When you say ‘I love you’ to your wife, your children, your grandchildren, understand this, I want you to likewise say, ‘I love my faith. I love my Church. I love Jesus Christ,’” he said. “‘And as much as I love you dear son, dear daughter, I want the best for you, and if you can come into the faith and know Jesus even better, you’ll know my love and how deep it is for you.’”
Finally, continue to serve.
“Continue to always go out to the margins, to those least among us, to those who need to be defended and protected from conception to natural death, from womb to tomb,” Bishop Spalding said. “That is a great and wonderful calling the Knights have had over the years, and even more so as the situation has changed. Let us make sure that change is for the better.
“All of us are preachers, proclaimers, defenders, protectors of life from conception to natural death and every step along the way,” he said. “We love our people, and we give dignity to every person no matter what color, no matter what culture, no matter what language. They’re ours in Christ Jesus. They’re sons and daughters of God. You’ve been there, done that. Keep doing it.
“If we make ourselves one in Christ, if we proclaim and preach those Beatitudes that we heard from Matthew’s Gospel, if we make ourselves disciples and proclaim how we love the faith to others and will live that faith accordingly in our lives, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities … we will be true pastors in our world.”
“Blessed Michael McGivney, pastor and priest, pray for us.”
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Peterson is on the staff of the Tennessee Register, newspaper of the Diocese of Nashville.