Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian

Preaching at “Virginia Vespers: Evening Prayer for the Commonwealth,” Bishop Barry C. Knestout said despite differences, all must “ensure and protect the common good,” but that it must be done in a civil, charitable manner.

“Even as we need to be truthful and honest about our differences and our sincerely held beliefs, even though we should be honest about our differences, we should do so in charity,” he said. “We should always be looking for areas of cooperation and agreement with everyone we encounter in the political, cultural and spiritual realm.”

The third annual event, sponsored by the Virginia Catholic Conference, drew more than 400 clergy and laity, including members of the state legislature, to the event at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond.

Bishop Knestout provided direction in how to work for the common good.

“Our advocacy for and engagement in the common good needs to be based on principals, not polls; on advocacy for the poor and vulnerable, not for the already influential; on the common good, not on particular parties or ideologies,” he said.

He added that the “primary task of the Church” was to educate and catechize people in those principals “to form disciples of Christ.”

The bishop highlighted the fruits of the Holy Spirit — compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, long-suffering and forgiveness — as key elements of advocacy.

“Humility is the recognition that we are part of a larger and very diverse community that does not always see the world as we do as Christians,” he said. “We need to be willing to propose our views, not impose them upon others.”

The bishop termed gentleness “a virtue disregarded in an aggressive and demanding culture,” but noted it was “integral” for those who wish to follow Christ.

Bishop Knestout encouraged the faithful to be at peace even when it is difficult to effect change. “Frustration at the damage done by a culture that often seems far from God and his grace is understandable,” he said. “But we should not respond with despair or anger.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who celebrated the event, opened it by asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“We pray for the victims, we pray for their families,” he said.