Today was the first day of work at the Knights of Columbus Supreme Annual Convention in Washington D.C. Traditionally the convention kicks off with a concelebrated Mass at the conference venue. This year was a little different and whole lot more spectacular.
The opening Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Washington. The Basilica is one of, if not the
largest church in North America and is home to the largest collection of modern ecclesiastical art. That is not, however, the reason the Basilica is so dear to U.S. Catholics. Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States and this Basilica is dedicated to her in that context.
A Mass with the Knights is like no other. The entrance procession alone takes 10 minutes because of the honour guard that precedes the 80-plus concelebrants. This year the main celebrant was Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C. Several Canadian Bishops where among the concelebrants, as was Salt + Light's CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica.
In his homily
Archbishop Wuerl marveled at the work he has seen the Knights do in his 30 years involvement with the order. He also said that Mary, with her entire life, pointed humanity toward Jesus. The challenge today, he said, is for the faithful to do the same. The faithful have to encourage others to live out the Gospel through their very lives, all their actions words and deeds. Part of this means recognizing that we are not individuals and, yes, we are responsible for those around us; we are our brother's keeper, so to speak -- -- in fact the theme of this year's convention is I Am My Brother's Keeper
Looking out for the "next door neighbour" in need, is perhaps one of the things the Knights do best. In his annual report
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson revealed that immediately after the earthquake in Haiti, the Knights gave Catholic Relief Services (the equivalent of Canada's Development and Peace) $50,000 to provide immediate aid to victims of the quake. (Ultimately they've donated $600,000 to Haiti.) The Knights later followed that up with a special trip to Haiti during which they delivered wheelchairs to people who had been incapacitated due to injuries sustained in the earthquake. Anderson also announced that the Knights will provide prosthetic limbs for all children who have lost limbs because of the quake.
Another little known fact: the Knights have what they call a "round table" at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. A round table is when Knights who belong to different councils find themselves in the same community (i.e. a military airbase in Afghanistan) and join together to serve that community, even though they are all from different councils and cities.
As Carl Anderson said at the close of his address, the Knights are strong and vibrant. In fact they now number over one million eight hundred thousand.
The open day concluded with a colourful Knight's tradition, the States Dinner-- a white jacket formal dinner at which each "state" is represented. During dinner the delegation from each state is given a chance to sing their "state song" for their brother Knights, while waving their "state" flag. The state songs are popular traditional songs or church hymns that are modified to better represent the state in question. (British Columbia's "state" song is a shortened and slightly modified version of "Sing to the Mountains"). Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the granting of the Gaudium et Spes Award
to Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana, Cuba. You can read his remarks HERE
The evening wraps up early since tomorrow begins with morning Mass. You can catch that live on Salt + Light around 8am ET.
For more on our coverage of the 128th Supreme Convention, visit HERE
, and you can always learn more about the Knights on their official website HERE
Photos: Knights of Columbus