Saturday, April 28, 2018

May 2018: Building the Domestic Church: The Family Fully Alive

Lead article from the May 2018 bulletin, online now.

By Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

In founding the Knights of Columbus, Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney sought to respond to the crisis in family life affecting Catholics in 19th-century America. As a young man he witnessed firsthand the challenges his widowed mother faced with seven children at home. Later, as a priest, he confronted on a daily basis the problems affecting the families of his parish community due to poverty, violence, alcoholism, immigration, anti-Catholic prejudice and discrimination.

Father McGivney’s vision for family life was not only that each family might find financial and material aid. He understood that holiness is the calling of all baptized Christians. And considering that two brothers followed him into the priesthood, we can understand how truly important the sanctuary of the home was to the McGivney family.

His family was a living example of what the second Vatican Council later taught: each man, woman and child is called to holiness through proclaiming the Gospel and communicating the divine gift of love in the activities of their daily lives.

When Christian families respond in this way to the design of the Creator, they become a “domestic church” that, as Pope Paul VI explained, mirrors “the various aspects of the entire Church.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 71).

The modern family recently has been a topic of particular focus for the Church, with the two-year synod on the family and the post-synodal exhortation by Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). During this time, the Knights of Columbus has been involved in supporting families in their Christian vocation through our new Building the Domestic Church While Strengthening our Parish initiative. This initiative, which includes The Family Fully Alive program, is designed to help families become more centered on their task of serving God, neighbor and parish.

Since the second Vatican Council, and especially during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, it has become clear that the family is “the way of the Church.” In one sense, this obviously means that the family is the object of the Church’s evangelization efforts.

But the Christian family too has its own indispensable mission. As St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio, “The family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love.” This mission is at the heart of the “community of life and love” that begins with the married couple in the sacrament of matrimony.

To lead us in that mission we are fortunate to have a guidebook — Pope Francis’ exhortation Amoris Laetitia— to help us build the Catholic family as a domestic church. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis describes the Church as “a family of families.” He reminds us to view the family as the sanctuary of life and love that is at the heart of the domestic church. Our Knights’ families can take special guidance from Pope Francis as he calls us to a new “family apostolate” based upon “joy-filled witness as domestic churches.” Our parish-based councils also have a role in connecting men and their families with the parish.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter. … It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul.” In other words, sacramental marriage involves not just an agreement between the spouses but a radical transformation of the spouses.

As Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Deus Caritas Est, “Marriage based on an exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love.”

In this way, the witness of husband and wife within the daily life of the family can guard, reveal and communicate love as they make their own the gifts of marriage — unity, indissolubility, faithfulness and openness to new life.

A Vatican document on the role and mission of the family states, “The family needs to be rediscovered as the essential agent in the work of evangelization” (Instrumentum Laboris, 103). It also points to the necessity to better understand the “missionary dimension of the family as a domestic church” (Instrumentum Laboris, 48).

These observations echo those of St. John Paul II, who said, during a meeting with the Latin American bishops in 1979, that “in the future, evangelization will depend largely on the domestic church.” (Pope John Paul II, Address to the Third General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate).

Clearly, the role of the family in the work of evangelization is not primarily a matter of programs, projects or strategies. These all have their place, but they are secondary. Their place is to be at the service of what is essential — the love between a husband and wife that, sanctified through the love of Christ, radiates to each member of their family.

The family as domestic church is a place of encounter with Christ within the community of a particular Christian family — a place where each member of the family has an important role.

The “mission” of the family in the task of evangelization is to be what it is called to be — that is, to live its daily life as a Christian family. As St. John Paul II said so often, “families, become what you are!”

The family’s mission to “guard, reveal and communicate love”— like the parish community — does not exist in an ideal place. The truth and beauty of the family must be communicated to every Christian family, even those that are fragile, wounded or broken. These families too may read the words of St. Paul with confidence: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom 8:35). And they may find in that confidence a path of hope and healing.

During his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis cited the need for “holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be an example for other families” (Pope Francis, Address to Families at the Mall of Asia Arena. Our Building the Domestic Church initiative and The Family Fully Alive monthly devotions are concrete ways that Knights of Columbus, in solidarity with Pope Francis, can offer holy and loving families for the Church’s mission of evangelization in our time.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

April 2018 Bulletin: Easter Vigil

Lead article from the April 2018 bulletin, online now.

For the first forty-nine years of my life, the Easter Vigil meant nothing to me. That all changed at the Easter Vigil 2009 when Fr. Gregory Abbott and Fr. Michael Becker led me into the water as a Catechumen as I welcomed the light of Christ. I found myself immersed in the same baptismal font that my youngest daughter Anna was baptized in five years earlier. I had literally followed all three of my girls into the faith. The occurrence would not have taken place without them.

God set me on my path in February 1986 aged twenty six years. The journey was started as a result of my signature on a document that clearly explained my commitment to raise my future children in the Catholic faith. Father Joe at St. Gerard's Catholic church would not marry us without it. After all, I was being honest when I informed him of my agnostic beliefs. We hoped to have a bunch of kids, but they did not come.

The next 14 years were filled with infertility, doctors and frustration. As a Catholic, my wife Gina prayed on it. I also offered prayers that followed within my agnostic parameters, you know, "If you are up there please present us with children" type of prayer. Those prayers were answered in 2001- 2003 when we journeyed to the Russian Republic on four occasions and gained our daughters through adoption. We moved to Albertville between daughters and set up shop. We were reminded of our commitment to raise our daughters Catholic and began to attend Mass on Sundays. Father Siebenaler then baptized Marina in 2003 and Father Michael Becker baptized Anna in the new church in 2005.

For the next five years I attended Mass with my family on a weekly basis. I behaved myself as a non-Catholic and stayed in my seat during communion while paying close attention to that which was going on around me. I asked Gina many questions about the Mass: the stand-up-sit-down-stand-up-sit-down, the doing of the dishes, and such. 

What I witnessed also was a lot of men bringing their families to church, and leading them to faith filled lives. This began to chip away at my uncertain position about Christ and God. I began to watch the EWTN network and studied Pope John Paul to some extent due to his huge cultural impact in the Christian world. My wife asked me if I was stalking the Catholic church. I guess I was and we placed both girls on the list to attend the Catholic school and continued attending Mass.

One day I found my way to Father Abbott's office discussing the RCIA program. I joined and spent the next year pouring over the Catechism. The long, 49-year, meandering path then ended in 2009 at the Easter Vigil where Fr. Abbott and Fr. Becker led me into that same baptismal font that my daughter was led into five years earlier. The congregation that night could not have made me feel more welcome. I was bathed in Christ's light for the first time in my life, delivered there in no small part due to my three girls. 

So when you are thinking about which Easter service to attend, please consider the wonderful Easter Vigil. Where else can you witness a large group of people coming into the light of Jesus and embraced by his welcoming arms?

God bless,

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight

Sunday, February 25, 2018

March 2018 Bulletin: Ice Cream

Lead article from the March 2018 bulletin, online now.

I tend to struggle with the Lenten tradition of giving up some perceived vice or indulgence in order to suffer to some extent as we consider the profound suffering of Christ in the time leading up to His passion. I will of course follow all the Lenten rules. I also have much admiration for those who give up significant habits and routines so as to draw them closer to our Savior's suffering.

I have given up things in past Lenten seasons only to feel underwhelmed about my sacrifice as I resume them after Easter Sunday.  Did I suffer much?  Nope.  Did it bring me closer to understanding His suffering? Not really. So what should I do?

I may have had some small revelation in this regard on our recent trip to Florida. We were staying at a Daytona beach hotel.  Hotel guests were venturing out to the beach to see the strange family who were swimming alone in 65-degree cloudy-skies weather.  They came wearing parkas and took our pictures and asked us where we came from that we would be swimming on this day.  We told them and a look of "Oh, I get it now" came over their faces.  We hit the hot tub for a bit then decided to walk downtown where we could see a boardwalk and amusement park waiting for our arrival.

There were some Hurricane Irma-ravaged hotels along the beach as we made our way, a few lined with fence and under repair and others seemingly abandoned. We noticed that the homeless were taking up residence in some of the lower floors of the abandoned buildings. Makeshift homes consisting of wood, cardboard, worn mattresses and the like. A young couple caught our attention as they moved a mattress out of the chill drizzle that was falling at the time. They were in the middle of a heated, obscenity-laced exchange about some grievance between them. There were many homeless along our way. Their deeply lined faces spoke to the nature of the untold witness they held from us. We made it downtown, and the homeless quickly slipped from our minds.

We had much fun looking at shops, walked the pier and listened to the Atlantic. We had a great meal and started back. My youngest noticed a Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream shop and grabbed my arm. We made progress across the street via skyway where a vagrant was taking some rest.  As we approached our destination, a tall, thin, elderly, homeless black man was speaking to each passerby with his head down. I grabbed my eldest daughter and shifted her to my left as we neared the tall man on my right.  I could barely hear him speak as we passed: "Could you please buy me some food, good sir?"  We hustled our step as we passed him a glance.

My eldest told me that he looked hungry. I mentioned some nonsense about his life choices, and we joined the line at Baskin-Robbins. We were waiting about a minute for our 1,000-calorie indulgence when the brick fell upon my head. I looked at Marina and told her that she was spot on. He did look hungry. We bolted out and found the same tall black homeless man making his way down the sidewalk. When the distance was made up my daughter ask him if he was hungry still.  He affirmed this, and we crossed the street to the Burger King restaurant.

Marina then bought him a meal with a $20 bill and gave him the change. We could barely hear him say as we left, "God bless you." I think it's more likely that God dropped the brick on my head than blessed me. What value was the cash to me? Very likely much less than it was to him. What did he give up for Lent? What did the homeless couple moving the mattress out of the rain give up for Lent?  Unknowable. Here is what I am going to give up for this Lent.  I am going to give up making assumptions about homeless folks.  I am going to give up judging them.  I am going to give up donating nothing to their empty pockets.  Hopefully it will continue long past Easter.

I will end by quoting our new homeless and hungry friend: God Bless.

Gary Frandsen
Grand Knight