Saturday, September 26, 2020
Cristina Cabrera Jarro
MIAMI | Archbishop Thomas Wenski rode his Harley Davidson down to Florida City Sept. 17, 2020 to meet up with Knights on Bikes taking part in the First Amendment Freedom Ride 2020.
Knights on Bikes are motorcycle-riding Knights of Columbus. The ride is aimed at raising awareness of the rights enumerated in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: freedom of religion, speech, and press; the right to peaceably assemble; and the right to petition the government.
Knights on Bikes member Lance Maki, a doctor currently working in Key West, spearheaded the effort after witnessing how Catholics were unable to safely and openly express their views during recent protests. Even as a doctor, he said he has faced problems for standing up for his religious beliefs.
He brought his idea for a motorcycle ride to Knights on Bikes USA President Bob Ace Bagley.
“No politics. Just strictly freedom of religion — that’s my thing. Then freedom of speech, protest, and all the rest,” said Maki.
Bagley approved and promoted the event on Facebook.
“As faithful Catholics, members of the Knights of Columbus, and members of the Knights on Bikes, we are compelled by the Holy Spirit to publicly remind all Americans that we have the right to freedom of religion and speech. We need not be silent in this time of turmoil, but we need to show this country what the First Amendment is all about. Our ride will be rich in symbolism and led by the Holy Spirit,” Bagley wrote.
Unable to travel out of Michigan, he turned the effort over to Maki.
The ride took place September 17-19, starting at Mile Marker 0 in Key West and heading north on U.S. 1 throughout Florida. It was kept slightly undercover until the end for fear of protestors.
“But it all just sort of came together. Archbishop and all of these things were just miraculous. The power of the Holy Spirit. It all comes from there,” said Maki.
Archbishop Wenski led the Knights for over 40 miles of their journey, from Florida City to the archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Miami Shores, where he celebrated Mass with the group.
“We got a nice blessing from the sky with a rain shower, but that did not stop us,” wrote George Gutierrez, Miami archdiocesan chairman of Knights on Bikes, in a Facebook post. “By the time we made it to the Archdiocese of Miami we were dry and ready for Mass offered by the archbishop himself. If this was not enough, he invited us all to a pizza lunch, which came in perfect after a great morning adventure through Miami traffic.”
During his homily at the Mass, celebrated at St. Martha Church next door to the Pastoral Center, Archbishop Wenski discussed the stress of an election year compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s easy for people to lash out in anger or frustrations at others. It’s harder for people to sit down and talk and exchange opinions,” said the archbishop.
Noting the day’s reading from the Gospel of Luke (7:36-50), where a Pharisee dines with Jesus and a sinful woman washes and anoints his feet, the archbishop reminded his listeners that Jesus instructed us not to judge others.
“Only God knows the heart of the human person,” said Archbishop Wenski.
He then blessed the Knights on Bikes before they continued their journey.
“We wish them Godspeed as they continue their journey from the southern points of the United States to places north,” he said.