KNIGHTHOOD IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Chinaka Justin Mbaeri
Lately, I received questions from four friends asking me to clarify them on “The Knighthood in the Church”. Below is one of the questions:
“Hello Chinaka, please, enlighten me on Catholic knighthood. Non-Catholic and even some Catholics believe they are Secret Cult group only meant to gain powers and to enhance their status in the society”
It is so unfortunate that the noble society (the Knighthood) formed in the Catholic Church centuries ago, has received a negative connotation by many, and is often regarded as a secret society among non-Catholics and even some Catholics. Before clarifying this erroneous mentality, it is pertinent to state clearly, the Orders and duties of the Knighthood in the Catholic Church.
The institution of knighthood has a rich and sacramental root. It stems from the Holy Orders. It was established in the Medieval Era (Middle Ages) in the Catholic Church. The word order (from the Latin Ordo) then meant a closed circle, the members of which were bound by certain obligations and swore to observe a set of rules. During the crusades, the rules governing monastic orders were extended to the soldiers who, once in the Holy Land, established various religious-military orders to ensure the safety of pilgrims and the sick and to further the battle for Christianity. Some of the most renowned medieval orders of knighthood were the Templars (1118), the Hospitallers (1113) and the Order of Teutonic Knights (1198).
Religious (regular) orders of knighthood were brotherhoods that combined the insignia of knighthood with the privileges of monks and received this recognition from both Church and State.
Secular orders were fraternities of lay knights patterned on the regular orders of knighthood.
Also, it is apposite to know that Pontifical knighthoods are honours conferred by the papal court on laymen who are of irreproachable character, who have promoted the welfare of society, the Church, and the Holy See. The Papal orders of knighthood are: 1. Supreme Order of Christ; 2. Order of Pius IX; 3. Order of St. Gregory the Great; 4. Order of St. Sylvester; 5. Order of the Golden Militia or Spur; 6. Order of the Holy Sepulchre. The last may be conferred on clerics and women.
FUNCTIONS OF THE KNIGHTHOOD TODAY
1. The Heartbeat of the Knighthood is Service:
The Knighthood is one of the largest charitable organizations in the world. Through a variety of fundraisers throughout the year, the Knights raise financial support for many charities. The service aspect of the Knights encompasses the Church, Community, Council, Family, Pro-Life, and Youth.
- The Knights Support the Catholic Church:
This is because they have been a foundation of support for the Catholic Church since the middle ages and down to this present day. In recent years, the Knights of Columbus have performed a variety of projects for the Universal Church as well as worked with Bishops of the particular churches in countries where the Knights currently reside.
- The Knights of Columbus are Pro-Family:
Since the traditional family is composed of the husband, wife, and children, the Knights see them as the core, foundation, and fabric for all of the society. Although the council meetings are for the members, many councils sponsor activities with the family in mind. It’s a great time to gather together as Catholic Christians and members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Realizing that the youth are an integral part of society, the Knights seek to foster the development of the child from adolescence to adulthood. Asking for the intercession of the Holy Family is at the center of prayer for the Knights when it comes to family life.
- The Knights of Columbus are strongly and devoutly Pro-Life: Following the teachings of the Catholic Church, they believe that Life begins at conception and ends in natural death. While the Knights are in involved in a plethora of activities locally that foster the Pro-Life movement.
- The Knights are Faithful to the Catholic Church: by being obedient to the teachings of the Church, its Bishops, and Priests, and showing fidelity to the See of Peter. As faithful Catholics, the Knights foster and develop Vocations to the Priesthood, Religious Life, and Holy Matrimony. Standing with the Catholic Church, the Knights also fight for Religious Liberty, which is being threatened across the globe still to this day.
RESPONDING TO THE POPULAR MISCONCEPTION
Having said these, let me respond to the popular erroneous claim that the kinghood is often associated with the Secret societies. Having consulted a friend (a Knight in the U.K) “Biose Ifechukwude Joachim”, I have the following to say:
“The Knighthood is open to all practicing Catholics who are either married or single (depending on the Order of Knighthood and their regulations). Hence, single students can become members of the Knight (if the order permits single Catholics). I am aware that most (if not all orders of Knighthood) in Nigeria do not admit single persons. However, that is not to say that single persons cannot become members of certain Knighthood. Interestingly, some Nigerians have associated the Catholic Knighthood with secret activities. Let me state here and that it is not implausible that some Knights belong to some secret societies. That is, it is possible that a member of the Catholic Knight may secretly belong to a secret society and still be a knight. Just as some Christians profess Christ and go behind the scene to secret cults or gets involved in pagan worship. Having said this, the Catholic Knight has nothing to do with being a secret society, for it is against its aims and objectives. The problem lies on the individual knight who may misbehave. In cases like this, we would not be surprised to see the presence of secret cults at such individuals’ burial rites.
Some orders of Knighthood carry out security and background checks to ascertain that potential members are free from activities that are in conflict with their Christian faith.”
Therefore, Catholic Knighthood is free from secret activities and is open to “all Catholics”.
Kindly share with your friends to correct the erroneous mentality…
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