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Conference helps Catholic men be better husbands, fathers, ‘men of Christ’
PHOENIX (CNS) — The crisis in the church today is one of evangelization, or rather, one of a failure to evangelize, especially to and within the Catholic family, said Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus.
He made the comments in Phoenix at the 2020 Catholic Men’s Conference, which drew 1,100 men from throughout the Diocese of Phoenix and beyond to at Xavier College Preparatory. The aim of the conference was to better equip them to be stronger husbands, fathers and men of Christ.
Although Anderson acknowledged the recent sexual abuse scandals in the church have contributed to the trend of Catholics no longer attending Mass, the rate has been declining for decades, he noted in his Feb. 1 address.
The supreme knight offered several statistics saying that in the past 50 years, more than 26 million Americans have left the Catholic faith, Baptisms have fallen by more than 40 percent, sacramental marriages have plummeted by two thirds, and the number of Catholics who attend Mass every week has fallen by more than half.
This year also marks the first time that a majority of Hispanics in the U.S. said they no longer identify as Catholic, he added.
“We cannot expect someone else to come in and make everything right. The challenges we face are too great. All of us have a responsibility,” Anderson said. “As Catholic men we must step up. We must act now.”
Anderson has headed the Knights of Columbus — the world’s largest international Catholic fraternal organization for laymen with 1.9 million members worldwide, including 17,200 in Arizona — since 2000.
He praised the apostolic exhortations “Into the Breach” and “Complete My Joy” by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted as “wonderful” introductions to a Catholic spirituality for men and for married couples, respectively.
At the conference, the Knights showed a trailer for a new video series being done in conjunction with the diocese based on “Into the Breach.” The series is set to formally launch on Ash Wednesday, which is Feb. 26 this year.
During Anderson’s tenure, the Knights have taken on the cause of supporting persecuted Christians, especially in the Middle East.
“I have met with priests who have been tortured and who have had their churches desecrated and destroyed,” Anderson told the men of the diocese. “For these brothers and sisters in the faith, there is no easy day to be a follower of Jesus Christ. They have no First Amendment protection for their free exercise of religion. Every day they face a hostile — even a life-threatening — environment with courage, determination and faith.”
After adding that the witness of these Christians tells the world that they “are willing to give up everything we have except our faith in Jesus Christ,” he asked if Catholics in the West had that devotion.
He then challenged the men to read sacred Scripture, attend Mass more often, be more involved in their children’s spiritual and religious formation, and to contribute more actively to their parish communities.
Transmitting the faith to children is more than reading a textbook or sacramental participation, he said.
“We have the responsibility not only to transmit to our children truths about the nature of God and the human person and standards of right and wrong,” Anderson said. “We also have the responsibility to transmit to our children what it means to live a life in Christ.”
Citing the example of the Knights’ founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, Anderson said that the organization’s principles of charity, unity and fraternity provide an enduring path of Christian discipleship.
Father McGivney, a candidate for sainthood who has been declared “Venerable,” saw that Catholic men united in charity could form a brotherhood that would enable them to fulfill their mission — a mission to manifest Christ to others by their witness and in that way contribute to the sanctification of the world,” Anderson said.
He challenged the men to examine the principles “that you stand for, that you live by and that you will fight for — for your family, your community and your church. … Together we can become the men that God has called us to be — men of faith and men of action.”
Other speakers included Alexandre Havard, who is known for his “Virtuous Leadership” program, and Herm Edwards, former NFL player and coach and current head football coach at Arizona State University.
Havard discussed magnanimity, the virtue of being great of mind and heart, noting how it goes hand in hand with humility. True humility, he said, is having self-knowledge.
“True humility is the truth about who you are,” Havard said. “It is the naturalness with which you can speak about your sins in two hours of confession, and the naturalness in which you can speak two hours about your gifts and talents with your friends, without boasting, just with realism.”
Magnanimity is the striving of the soul, the will and the intellect toward great things and the desire for greatness, excellence and, for Christians, for holiness.
In his address, Edwards discussed leadership, saying it isn’t about directing people, but rather, a way of being.
“When you’re a coach or a player, people judge you by wins and losses,” he said. “But when you step out there and you say you’re a man of faith, they judge you by your actions.”
The No. 1 thing leaders do, said Edwards, who attends Mass regularly at ASU’s All Saints Newman Center, is provide hope, adding that hope gives us energy, vision and opportunity.
“If we are truly men of faith, that’s what we provide because people watch you and everything you do.”