Father Dennis Meinen, a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City, serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Calix; and is Faithful Friar of the Garrigan Fourth Degree Assembly. He was the honoree for the Fourth Degree Exemplification held in Sioux City on 12 April 2014. This column, which appeared in The Catholic Globe, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City, on 10 July 2014 is based on the remarks Father made at the exemplification's banquet.
Recently, we welcomed new members of the Fourth (or Patriotic) Degree. The primary purpose of this degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism in its members and the community and encourage active Catholic citizenship. As of the last count taken in 2013, there are more than 335,000 Fourth Degree Knights in our country; in Iowa alone there are 4,585 Fourth Degree Knights within 41 assemblies.
I want to tell you a story about a postman, who was also a Fourth Degree Garrigan Knight. On his route one day, he picked up a letter in a mailbox. It was addressed to God. The postman, seeing that the letter was not sealed and had no postage, opened and read it. It was from a man who was down on his luck and was asking God for help. The letter asked for $50 to get his family through the next week. He had written his address at the end of the letter.
So, the postman/Fourth Degree Knight took the letter to me, the Faithful Friar of the Garrigan Assembly, who read it and said I would ask for donations at the next Fourth Degree dinner meeting, just before each person paid a few bucks to buy tickets for the drawing, hoping to receive one of the cash prizes. We garnered $50 in donations for the unfortunate fellow. I placed the cash in an envelope and gave it to the postman/Knight to deliver the following day, which he did.
Another day passed and the postman/Fourth Degree Knight found yet another unsealed letter in the mailbox. It was also addressed to God. Again, he opened and read the letter, which thanked God for the money, but it said he only received $45. According to the man, the Faithful Friar had had an emergency and needed $5 for fuel for his scooter.
One of the Fourth Degree Knights from Mapleton, a farmer, said, “I didn’t have to take Farming 101 to know that your scooter doesn’t use fuel. It’s electric!”
“It runs on blood, sweat and tears!” I pointed out.
The last part of this talk is SO different from the first part in that it’s mostly true, at least over 50 percent true. I’ll explain what it means to run on “blood, sweat and tears.”
The sacristy, where I put on my vestments for Mass at Holy Spirit, is small. Picture a scooter in a “sardine can.” Kind people come and help me put my vestments on for Mass. I have run over the feet of Bishop Lawrence Soens, one or more of our six sisters from India (“Ouch!” sounds the same in any language) and those of an 88-year-old farmer’s wife. Anyway, that’s where the term “blood” came in.
The first time I ran over a bishop’s foot introduced the term “sweat” into the mix. And, when I ran over one (or more) feet of the Indian sisters, you can see how the term “tears” applied not only to them, but also to me.
Now, here is my proposal. Why not add a wrinkle to the Fourth Degree exemplification? Each new Fourth Degree Knight will simply step forward, and I will run over his foot. Whenever I’ve done that in the past, I always say, “I only run over the feet of the people I love.”
By the way, if you notice the golf ball on the joystick of my scooter, you might know that I often yelled, “Fore!” in high school, when my ball was about to hit someone. So beware. Also, on the back of my scooter you’ll notice that the sign says “Scooter Chaplain.” It’s a misnomer. It should say “Power Chair Chaplain,” because I’ve upgraded.
I could even see myself with a sign indicating that I’m the Faithful Friar of the Garrigan Assembly. (Hint! Hint!) And, remember, I only run over the feet of the people I love.