Earlier this month, the board of directors of the Knights of Columbus voted for a radical and welcome change to the uniform of the Fourth Degree (the patriotic degree of the Order).
As a member of the Knights of Columbus and its Fourth Degree in his forties, let me tell you why I applaud this long-overdue decision, which is notably based on:
“[…] consistent reports that the old regalia presented a barrier to Fourth Degree membership, especially among younger men.”
I’m one of those people who felt uncomfortable – and let’s admit it – very unhappy with the old regalia. I use the word “old” on purpose.
Historically, Knights of the Patriotic Degree wore their regalia with great pride and purpose. I will always remember with great joy those occasions when my father got ready to dress up with his cape, his beautiful hat and his sword. Ah, the sword, that’s what made us all Catholic boys dream of becoming members of the Fourth Degree when we got older.
But you see, times change. And people too. I became a proud member of the Third Degree right after I turned 18. I got involved, walking in the footsteps of my father. But I always felt itchy about taking the next step. Dressing up like my father no longer appealed to me, because I found it too folkloric and not very humble. How many parish priests did I hear complain the color guard was just too much? How many Brothers of the Third Degree felt uncomfortable to the point of not joining? I know, because I was one of those.
Make no mistake. I have absolutely nothing against history and traditions. As a historian and military buff, I’d be the last guy on the surface of the planet to criticize any form of belonging reflected in uniforms, regalia, medals, etc. The same understanding makes me observe that, over time, uniforms and outfits have changed in different organisations. For example, the British soldiers are no longer dressed as they were during the Seven Years War or the Napoleonic period. The infantrymen of the Civil War era certainly would not recognize the current uniforms of the US servicemen and servicewomen. The same applies to Canadian soldiers, who abandoned the soup bowl looking helmet since World War II.
Of course, there are some who run to the barricades to condemn that change and threaten to quit the ranks. That’s very unfortunate. I don’t need a colourful uniform to show my patriotism. What I need is to be proud, vigorous and consequent with my beliefs. In a true spirit of humility and service. In other words, I don’t need to be dressed like my father was to be committed to the Church, my fellowmen and my country. Such is the true sense of being a member of the Fourth Degree.
Besides, don’t you think that a beret conveys more patriotism than an old fashioned chapeau?
Forgive me saying so in a blunt way, but if you want to quit the ranks because you are unhappy with a decision taken by the chain of command, you might reflect on why is it you joined first?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody changed the basic principles of the Patriotic Degree. They just said “OK, guys, now’s the time to think about the future and the best ways to engage the new generations.”
That’s why I’m comfortable pursuing my involvement in a changing world while always being animated by the same core values. The values my father taught me, those I’m teaching my sons.
Over time, the vast majority of members will salute the visionary leadership of the board of directors’ decision.
Give it time. Blessings are often disguised as wrong turns.