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Catholic Life Features

K of C supreme knight speaks on need for fathers with Eucharistic hearts


(Part two of a five part series on the New York State Eucharistic Congress)

The Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, had a strong presence at the New York State Eucharistic Congress in late October. It’s been said no other organization does more to help Catholic men to be men of God, men of character, family men, and salt-like brethren for our country than the Knights of Columbus.

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus, speaks on the “Eucharistic Heart of a Father” at the New York State Eucharistic Congress on Oct. 21. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly, spoke to the men attending the congress about having a “Eucharistic Heart of a Father.” He added that women have a profound stake in what he has to say as well.

Kelly first spoke of what he called the “crisis of fatherhood” and its consequences for society and the Church.

“To put it simply, we are living amid a crisis of fatherhood,” Kelly said from atop a fort-like structure in the center of the Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine Coliseum in Auriesville. “The lack of strong, principled Catholic men is undermining marriages and driving children away from the faith. To be blunt, the family is faltering and society is feeling the effects. For the sake of the Church and our culture, we must confront and overcome this crisis. The times cry out for Catholic men, for faithful husbands and devoted fathers. And if we hope to raise up a new generation of Christ-centered men, we must renew our love for Christ in the Eucharist.”

Kelly said few things matter more to him and his wife, Vanessa, than nourishing and protecting the eternal souls of their three daughters.

“Much of modern culture is pushing our children in the wrong direction,” he said. “Vanessa and I struggle every day to give our girls the tools they need to resist the pressure and to push back in a positive and healthy way. In my experience, the only way to succeed is to have the Eucharistic heart of a father. The more we turn to our Lord in the Eucharist, the more we can teach our children to value their relationship with Christ above anything else the world may offer.”

Kelly sees young men increasingly isolated, alienated and angry. Recent polls state more than a quarter of millennials in the United States say they have no close friends, and 22 percent say they have no friends at all. Younger generations are struggling with depression at a rate that is at least three times higher than it is for older generations. At least nine out of 10 young men under 24 view pornography at least monthly. And the rates of substance abuse and overdose are skyrocketing, along with suicide.

“It has been said that young men are dying deaths of despair, and this is true. Despair is perhaps the defining characteristic of the 21st century manhood. But it’s why Christ’s message of hope is needed all the more,” Kelly said.

The Rosary Garden is one of the attractions at Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

Kelly said even he finds himself buried in the distractions of his phone.

“My daughter Caroline will actually grab my face and literally turn it to hers. She forces me to focus my attention where it belongs,” he said.

Without good fathers and strong families, children will be searching for meaning in all the wrong places, from chemical dependency to sexual license, Kelly explained, calling for more community and strong family bonds.

“The intimate connection between family and faith may be surprising to many people, but it shouldn’t be. The family is at the heart of our faith. It’s essential to our understanding of God. Think about the language we use as Catholics. God is our Father. Christ is His Son. The most important event in all of history, the Incarnation, took place in a family. And Christ himself not only had a mother, Mary, but also an adoptive father, St. Joseph. In the Holy Family, which is an earthly reflection of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and Savior was raised to human maturity. The Holy Family is the model of all families, showing us the path to holiness by introducing us to both divine and truly human love.”

He asked the questions “How can we know the love of our Heavenly Father if we haven’t known the love of our earthly Father? How can we follow the path to holiness without a father who points us in the right direction? While fathers can’t do it alone, studies show that they play the single most important role in shaping their children’s long-term beliefs. Without our example as Christian fathers, our sons and daughters are far less likely to believe Christ. If they don’t see faith, they won’t keep the faith. And it pains me to say that a great many of our children are proving me right.”

The Eucharist, Kelly explained, is the source of strength to right the course of the future. 

“We must love the Lord so that we show our children how to love Him too. And we must imitate Christ as Paul tells us. Why? Because then our children, who imitate us, will learn to imitate Christ. This is how we make disciples. This is how we fulfill our mission.”

In conclusion, Kelly said, “We cannot understate the challenges we face. Yet, we cannot overstate the power of the Eucharist. Yes, the crisis of fatherhood is big and getting bigger. But Christ in the Eucharist is so much more powerful. Only He can save our families and society. And all we need to do, as men and as fathers, is to say yes to our Heavenly Father, and make His heart our own.”


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