The early days of this month I had the honor and joy of attending the International convention of the Knights of Columbus, this year in Denver. Close to 3,000 knights and their wives crowded the “mile high city” for meetings, camaraderie, business, prayer, and festive celebration. It was a grand time.
Among the conventioneers were dozens of my brother-knights from New York, and I was delighted to be among them. Our time together allowed me to let them know once again how very much I admire and appreciate the efforts of this sterling fraternal organization.
My great-uncle, Ed Troy, was a knight, and managed their popular bowling alley in Webster Groves, Missouri, when I was a kid, so I have long been fascinated by them. While a graduate student in American Church history at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., I was invited to become a knight by Mr. Ed Malloy, the father of the retired president of the University of Notre Dame, Father “Monk” Malloy, and, at the subsequent meetings, socials, and apostolic efforts, as I made my way up to Fourth Degree, my respect for them deepened.
In the meantime, I found Faith and Fraternalism, the scholarly history of the Knights of Columbus by Christopher Kaufman, one of my university professors, issued for the centennial of the Knights of Columbus in 1982, to be illuminating reading. As you probably are aware, they were founded in 1882 by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney – - who, please God, will one day be a saint – - in neighboring Connecticut. Men in those days were attracted to popular secret fraternal societies, which provided elementary insurance benefits at a time when there was no “social safety net,” a chance for socializing, and a network of friendship and support. Unfortunately, most such fraternal societies in the America of that era (e.g., the Masons) did not at all welcome Catholics, and were, in fact, suspicious of them. Thoughtful bishops and pastors urged their men to avoid such organizations, but it was the resourceful Father McGivney who said, “Let’s start our own.”
Today, of course, the Knights of Columbus is the largest volunteer organization in the world, a tremendous credit to the Church, and an acclaimed resource to our country. All of that vitality, pride, and faith was colorfully evident in Denver, and I was happy to be part of it. Anybody who thinks the Catholic Church in America is “on-the-run,” in retreat, or listless, should attend a Knights of Columbus convention! They are joyfully confident in their Church!
I am so grateful for the dynamic presence of the Knights of Columbus in our Archdiocese of New York. They often graciously provide an honor guard for me at liturgies throughout our counties, and I never pass up the opportunity to thank them for their commitment.
Especially do I appreciate their efforts in four areas. First is their unflagging pro-life effort. A goal of the Knights for 129 years has been to bring the values of the gospel and the Church to the public square. While the Knights firmly believe in the American tradition of the separation of Church and state, they have never fallen for the fallacy of a separation of morality and politics. Thus, they have been an unswerving force in defense of the life of the unborn baby. In fact, at the Denver meeting, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called upon Catholic politicians to be people of integrity and courage in allowing the clear teachings of the Church to affect their decisions. They also “put their money where their mouth is” as they work hard to provide care and support for God’s special children and their parents who are faced with mental and physical challenges, children some members of the “culture of death” claim should never be born.
Two, they are heroic in their support of Catholic education. Hundreds of students in the archdiocese are able to attend Catholic schools because of scholarships from the Knights. Annually, the Knights of the archdiocese present me with a generous check to support some of our struggling schools. They are indeed “regents” of our blessed Catholic schools.
Three, I applaud their promotion of vocations. Yes, they are vigorous in their defense of marriage and family. But they are also indefatigable in their push for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. Once again, they annually present me a gift to support our seminary, vocation office, and programs to help women and men discern a vocation to serve Jesus and His Church as a sister, brother, or priest.
Four, they have been bold in their defense of the Catholic faith. In a positive way, they have long offered attractive explanations of our beliefs to a culture at times nervous about the wisdom of the Church. But they have never shied away from loyalty to the Church when its freedom is threatened. In Denver, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson was particularly eloquent in his expression of concern about contemporary attacks on religious liberty, especially regarding our beliefs in the true nature of marriage, the rights of the unborn baby, conscience protection for our healthcare workers and institutions, and parental choice in education.
Alleluia! My brother knights, I thank you for your vigorous, unapologetic Catholic faith, your active charity and compassion, your devotion to God, Church, country, faith, and family, your love of the Holy Father, of bishops and priests (hard to find at times these days!), your joy and your hard work. I’m proud to be one of you! May your members only increase!
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