Yesterday (Oct. 13), I was exemplified into the 4th degree of the Knights of Columbus. It was a moving experience and while I cannot divulge the ceremony itself, nor would I want to, I can reflect upon the exemplification and what it meant to me, as a Catholic and a Knight. Archbishop John Ireland made the following remarks in 1907, at a Knights gathering,
"The layman must give his strength, his time, and his energies to advance and promote the honor of the Church." His Excellency went on, "...one of the most unfortunate things for the Catholic Church in America has been the tendency of its members to to hold aloof from non-sectarian movements for the general good. Take an active interest in the general affairs. Do not give the impression that Catholics are a separate body -- that we seek to isolate ourselves. We have done this too much and too long." He continued to the Knights, "...not to wait for your bishop and your priest to take the initiative, to do things yourself, as you have done but do them in greater measures." Archbishop Ireland concluded with a reference to the Knights of Columbus as "the elite Catholic laymen," who should be models of citizen activism and leadership in the "good works of the private soldiers of the Holy Church."
As I was going through the process yesterday, I was reminded about what it means to be a faithful American citizen. That I should hold certain truths to be self-evident. That I should promote and support religious liberty and proper religious tolerance. These attitudes were manifest in 1907 and they have been perpetuated until today. I think that His Excellency's words are important. We must take the lead in promoting patriotism and Catholicism. There is no disconnect if done properly. We must be Catholics in America, but we are in America. We must promote Catholic thought as it applies to our great country. We are part of the "great secular experiment." As Catholics we have the ability to bring our views to the forefront, just as the Protestant does. As Catholics, we have the ability to protect the freedoms which we have, in a totally unique way, because they don't exist anywhere else in the world. As Archbishop Ireland requests, we can be models for good citizenship.
As I think about the Declaration of Independence, I do know and I do accept that there are certain things which are truths held to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Those things apply to a Catholic as much as they do to a Protestant or a non-Christian or the Orthodox.
As a 4th degree Knight, I know that I can be a Catholic in America. I can understand that my faith and patriotism are not at odds, but when approached correctly make me a stronger person.
To the Sir Knights exemplified yesterday, CONGRATULATIONS!
To the Sir Knights who exemplified us yesterday, THANK YOU!
To the Sir Knights whose ranks I have joined, IT IS AN HONOR!