The Knights of Columbus: A Band of Brothers Going Into the Breach

Recently, as in the past couple of years, I have become more active with the Knights of Columbus at my parish (Council 13779). In the past month, I was appointed by the Grand Knight to be the council’s new Lecturer. The position speaks about the good of the order and encourages the men to live good lives and to practice their faith well on a variety of fronts, since we all need that encouragement from time to time.

I have also taken the initiative to get more involved with the Fourth Degree Assembly and will participate, as my schedule permits, with the Honor Guard. Last Thursday, for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, was the first time I wore the Knights of Columbus Regalia in nearly 10 years. I was incredibly blessed to be a part of it. It brought reverence and respect to an already solemn and sacred Mass (see pictures).

Processing into the Holy Thursday Mass – April 2017.

Me dressed in my regalia.

For the past twenty-four years, since I was nineteen years of age, I have been a member in the Knights of Columbus. It was my Dad who first joined the Knights, and then a few months later, I followed his example and joined. We were both charter members of Council 11007. During my junior year of college, I served as the Grand Knight and Membership Director at the University of San Francisco College Council.

While a Theology teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic High School in Phoenix in 2006, I was a part of the Fourth Degree Assembly that help found the Columbian Squires Circle #5000. It was a great honor being part of this endeavor! Currently, there are two young men studying in seminary for the Diocese of Phoenix that were members of Circle #5000.

There is so much that the Knights of Columbus engage in, it would be impossible to tell you everything in this one article, however, I want to briefly explain the 4 Principles of the Order – Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism.

In Charity, members of the Knights of Columbus are called to love their neighbors. Through our faith in God, and from our Baptismal call, we are to do the mission of Christ today by serving those in need. The Knights do this by having food drives, clothing drives, and giving food to local soup kitchens/food pantries. We are involved with the Special Olympics, Culture of Life Fund, Coats for Kids, Christian Refugee Relief, Food for Families, and many others. The Knights are one of the largest charitable organizations in the world today.

In Unity, we remain together in a brotherhood, a “band of brothers”, focusing on our roles and duties as Catholic men. We all struggle at different times in our lives, being united as this “band of brothers” gives us strength in numbers, because together we can accomplish more than being alone. We will disagree and have different opinions, but in this “band of brothers,” we will always have each other’s back. One of the great aspects of this is always asking for prayers and sending out messages when a brother or family member needs prayers (my council does this often).

In Fraternity, the Knights of Columbus provides assistance to the individual Knight as well as his family. The founding of the Knights, by Venerable Michael J. McGivney, found in its cornerstone this very element – to assist widows and children that were left struggling when the head of the family died, most often prematurely. The insurance program provides such assistance to this day. Through fraternity, the Knights serve millions of service hours a year in order to provide mercy and compassion to those most in need.

In Patriotism, we in the Knights are composed of many heritage backgrounds. We are Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Cubans, Filipinos, Poles, and Dominicans – all patriotic members of society. Our devotion for God and country allows us to profess the importance for religious freedoms for everyone. We serve our Veterans and seek to care for them when needed. Whatever sector we work in, public or private, as Catholic men, it is our duty to serve our countries and be counted among the best citizens possible.

In the end, the Knights of Columbus are a Band of Brothers Going Into the Breach!

Fourth Degree Assembly #3327 in regalia.

To conclude, here are the words of the great Polish Pope, St. John Paul II, from a letter to the Knights of Columbus he penned in 2002,

“For this reason [blossoming of the New Evangelization], I am most pleased that the Knights have continued to emphasize the need for profound spiritual renewal as the basis for the many and varied initiatives undertaken in support of the Church’s mission…As the Church in America seeks to move forward with sincere faith and confidence in the Lord’s sustaining grace, I urge all the Knights and their families to intensify their prayers for the authentic renewal of ecclesial life and the preservation of “that unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force” (Eph 4:3)…I express once more my gratitude for the Knights’ unfailing commitment to promoting vocations to the priesthood and the religious life…I pray that the Knights of Columbus, in full fidelity to the vision of Father Michael McGivney, will make every effort to draw young people to Jesus Christ and help them to understand that the true meaning and value of life is found in the generous gift of self to God and to others.”

If you are a Catholic male over the age of 18 (or know of one) and not in the Knights of Columbus, I would highly encourage you to join and get involved with the Knights of Columbus. Catholic men need to stand up and join the fight of this post-secular culture – the Knights of Columbus is a great way to engage in that battle (and yes, we carry swords!)

To join, ask any Knight of Columbus or contact your local parish Membership Chair.

Venerable Michael J. McGivney…Pray for Us.

Postscript: Please – any comments made should be done with charity and respect. Any comments attacking the author (me), the ceremonials of the Knights of Columbus, or each other will not be approved. Just because the ceremonials are not public, doesn’t mean they contradict Church teachings. I am sorry and apologize if someone in the Order offended you, hurt you, or caused you pain in the past. We should not put blame on the entire Order because of individual members. All comments are read by me and only approved with my discretion. Thank you. He is Risen! Happy Easter!

“A Call to Battle”

On September 30, 2015, I wrote about the newly minted Apostolic Exhortation written by my Bishop, Thomas J. Olmsted titled, Into the Breach. It is a call to all Catholic Men to be what God has designed us to be – leaders and soldiers for our families and to our culture. To read my post, check it out here.

My fellow men: we have been sold a box of dung that looks like roses but smells like garbage. We have been deceived to believe that the tenets of Maxim magazine and things of this nature is what we should strive for in our daily lives. We must regain our masculinity, which has been stolen from us, and we must do this through one person – Jesus Christ. Our Lord is the perfect and most true example of masculinity for all men in all times.

To compliment the aforementioned document, the first ever documentary-style short film has just been released by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. It is titled – “A Call to Battle”. I just watched it and let me tell you – it’s inspiring! It makes me want to be better in every aspect of my life.

This video must be shared with every Catholic man that you know. This video must be given a wide breach. Please do me a favor and share it on your Facebook walls, your LinkedIn accounts, your Twitter pages, and every other social media outlet you personally hold. If you don’t have social media, then email it to your friends and family. But whatever you do – Share it today!

Pray that the letter, Into the Breach and this documentary, “A Call to Battle” are well received here in the Diocese of Phoenix and that Catholic men will have the courage to subtract the things in their lives leading them away from Jesus, and add those things that will bring them closer to Him. Pray for Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and all the Bishops of the Catholic Church. Amen.

“Mondays with Mary” – Pope St. John Paul II, Challenges of the Family, and Marian Prayer

Yesterday, the Synod on the Family began in Rome with a selection of Bishops from around the world to discuss the pastoral nature of the family in the 21st century. In my many years as a Catholic, I never seen a Synod gather the attention like this one has gathered. Beginning last year with the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, and now the current one, being held from October 4-25, 2015, it is my thoughts that we must pray, and pray hard, for the Bishops of this Synod that they remain faithful to the doctrines of the Catholic Church when it comes to marriage, divorce, and same-sex unions. The Devil is working overtime and seems to be forcing the hand of some in the hierarchy to make changes to teachings they cannot change.

During the next three weeks, our Bishops need our prayers and support. We especially need to pray for those Bishops that think the Church must align with the secular culture, such as many of the German Bishops. It seems to be that many of them have lost their way and are being influenced by a culture that wants to destroy the traditional family of man and woman.

As Catholic men and women, we combat this secular culture with evangelization, catechesis, and charity. If you have not read Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s Apostolic Exhortation, Into the Breach, which was published this past week, I would highly encourage you to read it as soon as possible. Although it was written to men, women should read it as well as they can share in assisting the men in their life to accomplish the goals set out by Bishop Olmsted.

For today’s “Mondays with Mary,” I would like to share with you the very prophetic words of Pope St. John Paul II. The reason why I am focusing on these words today specifically is because they mention the challenges facing Christian families, but also because the prayer that he speaks of is prayer rooted in the Marian devotion. These words come from his Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America (The Church in America), a document that was produced from the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops, which was held in the Vatican from November 16 to December 12, 1997.

Holy_Family_icon1

This document, written only 16 years ago, should be a reminder that even then the Bishops of the Americas and the Holy Father himself saw the great dangers that were occurring in the world to the traditional family at the time, and seem to be even greater today. The emphasized words below are mine. Facing the challenges of Christian families, The Great Polish Pope says,

“God the Creator, by forming the first man and woman and commanding them to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Gen 1:28), definitively established the family. In this sanctuary life is born and is welcomed as God’s gift. The word of God, faithfully read in the family, gradually builds it up as a domestic church and makes it fruitful in human and Christian virtues; it is there that the source of vocations is to be found. Marian devotion, nourished by prayer, will keep families united and prayerful with Mary, like the disciples of Jesus before Pentecost (cf. Acts 1:14)”. Many insidious forces are endangering the solidity of the institution of the family in most countries of America, and these represent so many challenges for Christians. Among them we should mention the increase in divorce, the spread of abortion, infanticide and the contraceptive mentality. Faced with this situation, we need to reaffirm “that the foundation of human life is the conjugal relationship between husband and wife, a relationship which, between Christians, is sacramental”.

Hence there is urgent need of a broad catechetical effort regarding the Christian ideal of conjugal communion and family life, including a spirituality of fatherhood and motherhood. Greater pastoral attention must be given to the role of men as husbands and fathers, as well as to the responsibility which they share with their wives for their marriage, the family and the raising of their children. Also required is a serious preparation of young people for marriage, one which clearly presents Catholic teaching on this sacrament at the theological, anthropological and spiritual levels. On a continent like America, characterized by significant population growth, there needs to be a constant increase of pastoral initiatives directed to families.

In order to be a true “domestic church” the Christian family needs to be a setting in which parents hand down the faith, since they are “for their children, by word and example, the first heralds of the faith”. Families should not fail to set time aside for prayer, in which spouses are united with each other and with their children. There is a need to encourage shared spiritual moments such as participating in the Eucharist on Sundays and Holy Days, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily prayer in the family and practical signs of charity. This will strengthen fidelity in marriage and unity in families. In such a family setting it will not be difficult for children to discover a vocation of service in the community and the Church, and to learn, especially by seeing the example of their parents, that family life is a way to realize the universal call to holiness.

The one thing that stands out for me is that a lot of what the Holy Father suggests in these three paragraphs is currently happening in the dioceses around the world. Although more is always needed, there is good fruit being produced, especially when it comes to the sacramental prep in marriage as well as helping men understand their role as men in the Church (see Bishop Olmsted’s letter). In my diocese and at my parish, we are doing what Pope St. John Paul II asked for in this document when it comes to marriage preparation, encouraging men to be active in the Church, and strengthening marriages and families.

Let us pray this week through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the entire Holy Family that dioceses in the Universal Church will heed this call by the Great Pope St. John Paul II to enrich Christian families through evangelization and catechesis. Let us also pray for Pope Francis and the Bishops of the Synod on the Family that they will stand firm with the doctrines of the Church, established by Jesus Christ, that teach about marriage and family. Mary, Jesus, and Joseph…Pray for Us. Amen.

575th Blog Post 

Into the Breach – Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s Letter to the Catholic Men in the Diocese of Phoenix

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…” is a line spoken by Henry V at the beginning of Act III from William Shakespeare’s aforementioned play. This was the first thing that entered my mind yesterday afternoon after seeing the title of the newly published Apostolic Exhortation, Into the Breach, written by the Most Reverend Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix. Just as King Henry V rallies his men to battle, so too has Bishop Olmsted sought to rally the Catholic Men of the Diocese of Phoenix with this letter.

Knowing that it was about to be released, I was excited to read it quickly, not realizing that I was going to read in within hours of its initial release for the simple reason – I could not put it down! As a Catholic man, this letter says to me that there is so much more that I should be doing in my daily life. It makes me realize that some of the decisions I chose in my youth were not the best for me. It helps me realize that I am not alone, that other men, “bands of brothers,” are fighting just as I am fighting. Finally, it makes me realize that even in dark times, the light of Christ’s hope shines for all to see.

This Apostolic Exhortation is truly a rallying call to not only the Catholic men of the Diocese of Phoenix, but to all Catholic men in every diocese in the Universal Church. The two words that came to mind when I read this letter are – Boldness and Fortitude. Bishop Olmsted speaks to his “spiritual sons” in the way that we need to hear it. Using analogies such as an athlete, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the British Spy Agent, James Bond, the Ordinary of Phoenix articulates what true and real masculinity should look like today.

Using the words of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Francis, and other Popes and Saints, Bishop Olmsted examines all aspects of the masculine nature. In a time when the culture is trying to destroy masculinity and femininity like never before, this letter stands as a direct order to the men of this diocese, and all dioceses, to stand up, to speak up, to be boldly Catholic, and to do battle against Satan and all his allies. The opening paragraph of the letter states,

“I begin this letter with a clarion call and clear charge to you, my sons and brothers in Christ: Men, do not hesitate to engage in the battle that is raging around you, the battle that is wounding our children and families, the battle that is distorting the dignity of both women and men. This battle is often hidden, but the battle is real. It is primarily spiritual, but it is progressively killing the remaining Christian ethos in our society and culture, and even in our own homes.”

This opening paragraph mirrors what I have been telling my now RCIA Catechumens and Candidates since the beginning of August. The Church has always been at war with spiritual forces, and at times, physical forces, but for us today in the early years of the 21st century, we are engaging in a specific battle that is part of the overall war. To place it in context of the Second World War, we are in the Battle of the Bulge. Just as the Battle of the Bulge was a German offensive, the battle we fight today finds its offense in the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s. As the Allies fought the offensive; so we must do the same today.

With this all being said, let me entice your spiritual appetite a little more to personally pick up and read this Apostolic Exhortation by quoting some points that stand out for me, although there are many more that I could share –

“A true Catholic man stakes his life on this proposition – that all is made new in Jesus Christ.”

“Be confident! Be bold! Forward, into the breach!

“We truly encounter Christ at Mass when we receive the very gift of Himself in the Eucharist. For this reason, I call upon my brother priests to awaken the sense of transcendence in the hearts of men through reverent and beautiful liturgy, helping men to rediscover Jesus in the Eucharist each and every Sunday…Teaching men to understand the fullness and power of the Mass must be a top priority.”

“Men, we must never believe that holiness and courage are things of the past! You and I are called to a holiness that shows Christ to the world as our forefathers have done countless times throughout history, following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“Do you, my sons, have true brothers in Christ in your life?”

“Next, let us seek to understand more deeply man’s calling to spousal love. Every man is made to live as a husband and a father in some way: “God assigns the dignity of every woman as a task to every man.” Each man is called to commit and give of himself completely.”

To read the Apostolic Exhortation, Into the Breach, click on the link and you will be brought to the main page where you find English and Spanish translations. I would also encourage you to watch the trailer as well. It looks like there is going to a video/film aspect of this letter. When I find out more about it, I will write about it on my blog.

Pray that this letter is well received here in the Diocese of Phoenix and that Catholic men will have the courage to subtract the things in their lives leading them away from Jesus, and add those things that will bring them closer to Him. Pray for Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and all the Bishops of the Catholic Church. Amen.

St. Jerome…Pray for Us.