Are You Knight Enough?
Faith in action is the hallmark of a ‘practical Catholic’ today
Honor, service, chivalry, bravery. These are some terms associated with a knight. They are qualities you should seek to embrace in your own life as a member of the Knights of Columbus.
In becoming a Knight, you may think of the title as simply symbolic, with no connection to the armored men of legend. But your knighthood is as real as you make it in practicing the knightly virtues. Without horse or shield, you can be a knight in faith, action, attitude and charity. The Knights of Columbus provides the framework within which to define your knighthood as well as the inspiration and formation you need to live out these virtues of faith in action, and so become the man God calls you to be.
As a new Knight, you should seek to answer this question. Who am I called to be and what am I asked to do as a Knight of Columbus?
To discover the answers, we will explore the basics of our fraternal Order, starting with a term that you attested to when you joined: practical Catholic. What exactly does it mean?
The term goes back to the founding of the Knights of Columbus in 1882, with Father Michael McGivney and a handful of laymen he assembled in a church basement in New Haven, Conn. Many of these men were Civil War veterans who fought for a more perfect union, yet still faced bigotry in their day due to their status as Catholic immigrants. They were hardworking, ambitious and practical men who knew they could not make it alone in a hostile world. At a time when “Irish need not apply” appeared in job postings, they needed a society of Catholic men to provide fraternal support, faith formation and financial benefits to families of members who died young, as many did from working in mines, railroads and construction.
Today, we say that “practical Catholic” is related to the more familiar “practicing Catholic” in that both terms describe a person who is in union with the Holy See, accepts the teaching authority of the Church, and aspires to live by the Church’s precepts. Although the older term is likely to be met with quizzical looks and the question, “Do you mean practicing Catholic,” our Order has retained “practical Catholic” for good reason. It gives a sense of tradition and provides an opportunity for a deeper discussion of the “practical” aspects of the Catholic faith, especially as they relate to men.
What is “practical” about our faith? Although we have our eyes on eternal life with Christ, Catholicism is not an abstract theory that ignores the workings of the world or the plight of our fellow men. The attitude of Catholics was summed up nicely by an early Christian writer who wrote that we should be “in the world but not of the world.” More recently, the Second Vatican Council expressed a similar view, stating:
“The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.”
These words from the document Gaudium et Spes (“Joy and Hope”) are at the heart of our knighthood today. In fact, the highest honor bestowed by the Knights of Columbus is the Gaudium et Spes Award, given to those who embody the virtue of faith in action. The first recipient in 1992 was Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life caring for the “poorest of the poor” around the world.
This is an example of the “practical” Catholicism we knights are called to. A life of both faith and works, loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. We need not go to the ends of the earth to serve others like Mother Teresa, but we need to get up and go. Jesus said that whatever we do for our neighbor we do for him, such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick and visiting the imprisoned (see Matt 25:31-46). These are the kind of works Knights do everyday in selfless service. You are called to support or join in these good works.
It is a challenge but also a privilege to live our faith this way. In doing so, we are carrying out the vision and mission of Father McGivney, whose cause for sainthood is active at the Vatican and who was declared Venerable in 2008 in recognition of his heroic virtue.
But you may say, “I am not a saint.” Your fellow Knights would answer, “Neither are we, so let’s walk together the road to holiness.”
We will continue to walk that road, exploring who you are as a Knight and what you are called to do.
- Consider why you decided to join the Knights of Columbus and how that decision has affected the way you think about being a Catholic man.
- Review the precepts of the Church and how you are fulfilling them or falling short in any way. (You can find the precepts on the Join Page.)
- Make a list of charitable causes you may want to support in the coming months with monetary donations or hands-on assistance. Click here for examples of what today’s Knights are doing.