Any student of American history will recognize that some our nation’s most significant changes have come about as the fruit of religious revival, and that these “awakenings,” which erupted every few decades or so, play a key role in renewing and sustaining our national life. In this vein, the current head of the Knights of Columbus recently issued an interesting summons :
At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast on April 19, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called for a new Great Awakening in America, in which Catholics play a greater role than ever before.
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Although the struggle will be difficult, we have a reason for hope based on past successes, even in the face of established power structures, he added.
Every great religious renewal in America has led to an advance in civil rights, he said, recalling the contribution of religious efforts to the founding of America, the abolition of slavery and the push for racial equality.
Now, Anderson said, Catholics must come together and make their voices heard in order to keep open the doors of religious liberty.
It’s not clear what (if anything) will come out of Anderson’s call, but at the very least the rhetoric is interesting, appropriating what was once a heavily Reformist theme but calling for a Catholic continuation of it. Given the withering of mainline Protestantism and the growing incursions of the state into religious affairs, might we be finally approaching the “Catholic moment” Fr. Neuhaus (and others like Tocqueville) imagined would eventually become inevitable in the United States?