The theme of the gospel lesson for today is the importance of vigilance. The watchfulness of the faithful cannot be passive; it must be proactive and constant. The Church emphasizes that a primary way for us to be diligent is by our good works, by reaching out to those in need and by loving God and neighbors as our selves.
Often it’s difficult to maintain this vigilance individually. That’s why it is most effectively done in groups and there is one group in the Church that is sworn to maintain this diligence and I’d like to comment on this organization now.
Some time back I told my very Protestant brother-in-law that I had become a member of the Knights of Columbus. His response surprised me. He said, “The Knights of Columbus are a bunch of stand-up guys.” As I thought about it, he was absolutely right. The Knights of Columbus are a bunch of ‘stand-up guys,’ guys who prayerfully put their time and their talent and their money to the service Christ and his Church. They defend the poor and oppressed and especially those most vulnerable in our society—unborn babies. The Knights are a bunch of stand-up guys and I’m blessed to be one of them.
Let me give you some numbers. In 2015, the Knights of Columbus gave over $175 million directly to charity and performed 73.5 million hours of voluntary service. In 2010, knights donated 413,000 pints of blood. Pope St. John Paul II once referred to the Knights of Columbus as “the strong right arm of the Church.” It’s a bunch of stand-up guys.
Founded in 1882 in New Haven, Ct. by Fr. Michael McGivney, the Knights are a fraternal order originally established to address the needs of Catholic immigrants who were struggling in their new home. Named in honor of Christopher Columbus, the Knights came together as faithful Catholic men to support their families, their community and the Church.
There are four degrees or levels and each degree has a particular focus. The first degree emphasizes charity, the second unity, the third fraternity and the 4th degree, patriotism which we will look at especially because of Veteran’s day and those Knights who recently advanced to the rank of 4th degree.
I borrow much of the following from Bishop William Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Order. He wrote:
Since our founding, the members of the Knights of Columbus have been patriots. In all the countries where the Knights are active, its members have fought to turn back the rule of modern-day tyrants and terrorists, and to defend human dignity, freedom, and rights. We continue to express our love of country by being active in the political process, by our strong defense of innocent human life and the role of the family, by doing our daily work as well as we can for the sake of our homelands, and by seeking to rid our countries of all that departs from their most sacred values. Through the Fourth Degree of the Order, we highlight the commitment of the Knights of Columbus to the love of God and country.
Bishop Lori continues:
Our Order was born in a period of intense, even overt bigotry against the Catholic Church, a bigotry that persists in various forms today, at the least in some parts of these United States. Nonetheless, we are persistent in our patriotism not because we imagine our [country and culture] to be perfect – but because we are confident that God’s truth and love, working through us and our fellow citizens can help mend our native [land], prompting [this land] we call home to live up to [our] founding ideals, to embrace that which is coherent, true, good, and beautiful in our native culture. Patriotism, my dear friends, is a virtue not for the faint of heart.
Bishop Lori also pointed out that to help us in our piety and patriotism, we Knights have special devotion to our Blessed Mother. Mary teaches us about the presence of Christ, true God and true man, and in his light, she enables us to discern those elements in our culture which accord with human dignity and those which do not, those which help communicate the faith, and those which do not. As we look toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, toward complete communion with the Triune God and with one another, our longing is not an escape from the world: its tragedies, dilemmas, and problems.
Rather, like our Lady, we seek to cooperate in bringing the communion of God’s own life and love right here to the heart of our country, right here to the confusion, the tragedy, the mischance that always characterize human endeavor and the history we write by our lives. No matter how evil and shocking the events, whether it be a crazed killer shooting up a worship service in rural Texas, or the obscene slaughter of unborn children in an abortion mill in Glenwood, Oregon, we Knights will not flinch in the face of evil. We honor Christ’s call to be vigilant.
We look forward to the Celestial City, our true home with the Triune God, together with Mary and all the saints and angels. The beauty of this new and eternal Jerusalem has been shown to us by the Daughter of Zion, by Mary, the woman arrayed with the sun and the stars. As that beauty takes hold of our souls, then we are equipped to be true patriots, true citizens of the earthly city which we are to transform into a true civilization of love. The Blessed Virgin did not come to create an earthly utopia but she did plant the seeds of a culture in which human life and dignity is respected, in which caring for one another and the needs of others is the norm, and in which peace and justice is consistently sought. This all is embraced and defended faithfully by a bunch of stand up guys.
Let us now join with Knights everywhere and close with this brief prayer honoring and commemorating the past and present members of our armed forces:
Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Our Mother, please pray to your Son, Our Lord,
for our warriors and our veterans, for our country and our continued freedom. Amen.