Just about ten days ago I was honored to join our worthy state deputy Jon Aldrich, our worthy state warden Paul Lee, and our state worthy membership director Michael Gaspers, in addition to about a dozen other knights, at an event in Des Moines. We joined a consortium of over thirty pro-life and respect life organizations at the rotunda of the Iowa Capitol.
In the center of the capitol rotunda was a large baby crib. In it were hundreds of baby shoes, each shoe representing a life lost to abortion. Attendees had been asked to bring baby shoes to the event, and to add them to the already massive pile. Many did, with as much care and consideration as though they were placing a flower at the site where a celebrity had died.
Standing at either end of the large crib was an American flag. And on either end of the flag was a Knight of Columbus honor guard member, in fourth degree regalia, muscles tightening from the motionless stance, feet aching on the hard floor of the rotunda, and heart swelling with pride to be standing guard at such an awesome event. A Knight of Columbus giving a silent witness to the sanctity of unborn life. This is what Knights do.
As a man, as a Catholic, as a Knight of Columbus, as a priest, and as your state chaplain, I was so proud to be in the company of our state KC leadership at this event. I didn’t get to speak, but I was so proud to be there. Pictures were taken and later that day shared. I and some others posted some pictures on FaceBook, and offered comments about how proud and pleased we were to be there.
A lady unknown to me posted a rather snarky comment on the order of, “Well, sure, you are there to oppose abortion, but what will you do after the child is born?” I was perturbed to read that. I later tried to find it to compose a response, but could not again find that comment.
So I will share a response with you about where the Knights of Columbus are.
The Knights are teaching the second graders in the parish about the holy eucharist in preparation for their first holy communion, and the Knights are pleased to provide each child with his or her own rosary, with the hope that the children will learn to love and pray the rosary and grow closer to our Blessed Mother. A few Knights will also stay after the first communion reception to clean the church hall so that the younger families can go and be with their guests who have come for the first communion. That’s what Knights do.
On a Sunday afternoon some Knights will take a boy fishing. His father was killed in the mid-east conflict, and there are not many males in the family to do this sort of thing for the young boy. But that is where the Knights are.
On a hot day in the summer Knights in full fourth degree regalia gather to honor veterans boarding a plane for an honor flight to visit the monuments in Washington, D.C. That’s where the Knights are.
After the parish Sunday Mass the Knights serve a delicious pancake breakfast and raise funds to support the Vacation Bible School for the children in the parish. That’s where the Knights are.
On an early Saturday morning in April the knights gather at the church for the annual spring clean-up, picking up the sticks and raking the grounds in anticipation of the mowing. And they take their turn to sign-up for mowing and trimming; that’s where the Knights are.
On his knees before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance on the altar in his parish church, a Knight prays to his blessed Jesus. Soon he feels some tears welling in his eyes, and a few tears move from his eyes, down his cheeks, and reach his lips. The taste of the salt of the tears reminds him of the sweat pouring off the body of Jesus as he carried his cross at Calvary. He decides that he can in fact stay for ten more minutes in solemn prayer, and this he does. This is what Knights do.
Knights gather annually in Ames to give witness to the sanctity of life of special needs athletes at the Iowa Special Olympics. The Knights are there to encourage the special needs children and adults of our state. That’s where the Knights of Columbus are.
On Sunday night a Knight slips away from his family and goes to the church, retrieves the eucharist, and takes not only the eucharist but also his caring and gentle heart as he goes to a prison and teaches inmates abut the beauty of the Catholic faith, and offers them a communion service, so that they too can be nourished by weekly eucharist. That is what Knights do.
A group of Knights gather on the weekend to build a ramp for woman who must now use a walker to enter or exit her home. She is not a Catholic, but she is a needy woman in the community, and the Knights will help her. That’s what Knights do.
Every spring two knights pick up a six-pack and when Father is away they sweep and clean the rectory garage. Father has four parishes to care for, and some people are unhappy that he spends such little time in their parish. He has to drive on gravel roads to care for his parishes and parishioners, and at the end of winter these Knights come to clean the muck and mud which have accumulated in the garage. It doesn’t matter that some people are loud in their dislike of Father. He is our priest, and we are his Knights. This is what we will do. This is what Knights do.
Knights organize their members to give tootsie rolls to raise money for special needs individuals.
Hats and coats and gloves are delivered to school children as winter approaches. This is what Knights do.
Knights clean the parish cemetery before Memorial Day, and put up the flags on veterans’ graves. This is what Knights do.
Knights keep Christ in Christmas in their own homes, and encourage other family members and friends to be similarly inclined. This is what Knights do.
Knights raise both money for and awareness of the local crisis pregnancy center, so that a struggling mom to be can get help in her pregnancy and get help with her young child. That is what Knights do.
Knights come together to have a fundraiser for a family in the parish who is facing serious health issues. Some will allow their heads to be shaved to raise extra money. This is what Knights do.
Knights sponsor bingo for the community; a nice social event for many who otherwise do not get out much in the colder months. The hope of winning a turkey or ham brings joy to many in the weeks before the bingo. This is what Knights do.
The proceeds of the bingo will go to the youth in the parish. This is just what Knights do.
Knights raise money to purchase an ultra-sound machine, so that a young and confused woman might be encouraged not to destroy the young life growing within her. That is what Knights do.
Knights stand in honor at the foot and head of the casket of a brother Knight. This is to honor a brother Knight and to comfort to his family. This is what Knights do.
On Fridays of Lent the Knights serve a wonderful fish fry to an appreciative community. Working together as Knights they grow in their bonds of unity, charity, fraternity and patriotism, and provide the community a greatly anticipated meal. And of course, the proceeds go to charity. That’s what Knights do.
Knights march in the Memorial Day parade, or perhaps provide a float, as they want the community to be aware of the good work of the Knights in serving the needs of the civil and the religious community. That’s what Knights do.
Knights stand in honor by the Altar of Repose on Holy Thursday Evening, giving witness of the supreme importance of the Holy Eucharist in the lives of the Catholic faithful.
Knights encourage children in school to do well in their studies, and to bring their proficiencies to the annual Knights Spelling Bee. In a similar way Knights sponsor the free-throw contest, and in both activities bring joy and delight to the eyes and hearts of children. That’s what Knights do.
Knights gather on an occasional weekend to clean a stretch of highway near their community. Young people join them and learn the value of community service. That’s what Knights do.
Knights support the altar servers by taking them to an Iowa Cubs game as a token of appreciation for those who will assist and serve our priests and Lord during Holy Mass. That’s what Knights do.
This litany of our legacy could go on and on. But I cannot. We must tend to other things today too.
Knights offer hope and witness to a disheartened world. Knights offer their hearts, and souls, and strong bodies for others to lean on in times of crisis, sorrow, and pain. Knights offer their presence as pillars of the Church in what they say and do, and in what they do not say and do not do.
I daresay that FaceBook would not have allowed me to write all this in response to the woman who questioned where the Knights are following the birth of the child. But this is what we are. This is who we are. This is why we are. We are the Knights. We are the strong right arm of the Church. We are the protector of the innocent and most vulnerable among us. We do this with pride, with vigor and honor, and we do this without hesitation, as our Worthy State Deputy has challenged us to “Be Courageous.”
We are thankful for the opportunity to be together this weekend to renew our friendship, to strengthen our resolve, to remove the tarnish from our souls and our swords, and to re-commit ourselves once again to the unity, charity, fraternity, and patriotism that mark us as Knights of Columbus.
Thank-you Knights for all of this. Vivat Jesus!