20July Address Organizational Meeting
I bring you greetings from the Supreme Master Dennis Stoddard, our Vice Supreme Master Patrick O’Keefe, and the Sir Knights of the Iowa District. I want you to know that your 4th degree in Iowa is doing well and moving forward.
All Knights of Iowa can be proud of our involvement with Terrain Therapy Garden at the Veterans Hospital in Des Moines. Through the efforts of Sir Knights Robert Ukena, Mark Lyle, and countless others this vital project will provide our veterans a safe environment to enjoy the outdoors while gaining confidence in traversing various terrains like what they will encounter when returning home. Our wounded warriors deserve the best we can offer them.
Last year I challenged assemblies and knights to donate significantly to this project. I thank all of you for the effort to surpass our $50K challenge goal making the Knights as a group one of the single largest donors to this effort. Remember this is an ongoing project and donations are still needed. Friends of the Terrain Therapy Garden is a 501(c)3 organization so your donation can also be a tax benefit. Donations of $250 or more can acquire a personalized paving brick for the Garden.
Iowa Assemblies also contributed to our order’s successful $2 million dollars military scholarship fund for Chaplains training for our military men and women.
George Weigel whom I follow regularly believes that we are living in apostolic times—times that require every Catholic to be an evangelist—rather than Christendom times: times in which the ambient public culture transmits the faith. I think he may be correct. I also believe that a Knight involved with Leave No Neighbor Behind, Faith in Action, or some other of our valuable outreach programs evangelizes thru his willing charity. This is what Knights have always done and still hold has our core principle.
Membership in the Knights of Columbus and by extension the 4th degree is visibly performative – that is we are known by what we do so to speak. A deeper reality is that being a Knight is firstly formative. By that I mean when we embrace the charitable activities of our councils and assemblies our membership in the Knights conforms us to the core principles set down by the Venerable Fr McGivney and reinforced by generations of Knights. Remember Good Men become Better Men transformed by engaging in the Corporal & Spiritual Works of Mercy witnessing to God’s love. These men are the evangelists of our times. This is the brotherhood of Catholic men – the order of the Knights of Columbus.
A contemporary of Fr McGivney, Pope Leo XIII said that “Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is.” His teaching which was further developed by Pope Pius XI established that there are three necessary societies for the flourishing of all people: Family, Civil, and Church. Knights are clear-eyed that these societies are vital to our flourishing as human beings and need our support and protection to remain healthy. Our various programs address all three.
Your fourth degree of the Knights is chiefly concerned with the civil and ecclesial societies. We proudly put our country first before all others except God and right. Our founders and many after them were not perfect moral agents but theses flawed men did set us on a path that has allowed civil society to be continually improved and thereby benefited many. We are not unlike them, flawed men striving to be better, to do more for charity, to be more faithful Catholics, and more principled patriots.
For those of you who are not yet a member of the Fourth Degree, consider the benefits of joining the Patriotic Degree. You may only know us from what you’ve seen when we are visibly present as an honor guard during a liturgical event or Color Corps in a community parade. But that is only the surface of who we are and what we do.
Assemblies get involved in supporting veterans, patriotic celebrations, getting out the vote, supporting religious freedom, and educating ourselves on the issues of today from a patriotic Catholic perspective. We are proud of our Catholic heritage in this land and strive to make this history known. Sir Knights keep foremost in our lives the high ideals of patriotism and religious involvement. Standing together we encourage loyalty to the Constitution, conscientious performance of the duties of citizenship and steadfast adherence to Catholic principles.
Speaking of getting out the vote I encourage assemblies and councils to conduct Voter Registration Drives in this an election year. Regardless of national divisions, all politics is more importantly local, and our influence as informed concerned citizens will be most felt close to home.
In these days of uncertainty, our country needs loyal sons of church and state willing to live for our country’s founding ideals as so many patriots before us have done. Become a Sir Knight, be faithful to our patriotic ideals and you can proudly continue this legacy of the Catholic contribution to our country.
This pandemic has not slowed 4th-degree recruitment, growth, or service. Exemplifications are available (temporarily at least) on-line virtually. These have proven very successful in teaching our principles conveniently and cost-effectively. We expect to resume in-person exemplifications when social distancing measures are no longer warranted.
Information regarding upcoming Fourth Degree Exemplifications can be found on the Iowa State K of C website (www.iowakofc.org) under the Fourth Degree. The next schedule is Wednesday, July 29th. You will also find an outline of how to process applications for virtual exemplification. For those of you that are already Sir Knights, I speak from experience that my understanding and appreciation of patriotic principles have increased with every exemplification I’ve attended.
Consider observing the next virtual exemplification and so gain greater insight of Catholic citizenship for yourself.
To return to our first principle of Charity, we must speak out courageously for what we know to be true about marriage & family, about religious freedom & faith, about patriotism. It is not charitable to be silent when the truth needs to be defended; neither is it charitable to exhibit incivility as you do so. Use moderation in your exchanges. Listen often and respectfully. Make space to lift every voice. Most importantly, through your actions preach the Gospel first.
And finally, when you meet someone who has served our country please take the opportunity to express your gratitude for their sacrifice. A simple thank-you will be appreciated. Then honor their sacrifice by living a life worthy of the price they paid to give us this gift of freedom.