WE CAN OVERCOME DISAGREEMENTS THROUGH, AND FOR THE SAKE OF, OUR SHARED CHARITY, UNITY AND FRATERNITY
ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER, the authoritative playbook on how to run a meeting, stipulates that meetings should include a segment called the “Good of the Order.” This is time that is reserved for participants to offer comments or observations about the organization and its work. It is also time set aside for disciplinary matters involving fellow members.
That’s what the phrase “the good of the order” means to those who are skilled parliamentarians. But when I hear this phrase, I also think about the Knights of Columbus. I think about the good of our Order, founded in 1882 by Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney. Not even he could have imagined how his beloved Order would grow and the world of good it would do for its members, their families, the Church, and communities all over the world.
I think about who makes up the Knights of Columbus and all that it does in service of others, and I ask myself, “How can I promote the good of the Order?”
Left to my own resources, I can’t adequately answer that question, for the good of the Order cannot be reduced merely to my opinions. The same is true of every Knight of Columbus. The Order we joined is not a debating society, nor is it an arena where we play out a contest of wills. Rather, it is an organization rooted in charity, which expresses itself in genuine unity of mind and heart and in a brotherhood of service. In fact, our ability to do great good for our members, our Church and our world depends on our willingness to preserve and strengthen this solidarity.
Time and again, I have experienced the great dedication of many brother Knights. In their commitment to the Order, they are passionate about the principles upon which the Knights of Columbus was founded, about the brotherhood we share, and about the good works that we do. Such commitment and passion sometimes lead to strong opinions, and experience teaches that these opinions can differ. At times, we may disagree with a decision made by our local or state council, or with a decision that comes from Supreme. After we’ve expressed our opinion respectfully and cogently, we may be upset that our view did not prevail. When that happens, it’s easy to throw our unity and charity under the proverbial bus. Sadly, some brother Knights may even decide to walk away.
If and when we reach such a crossroads, I firmly believe that we need to stop, look, and listen. We have to stop being angry, look at what the Order is really all about, and listen to the voice of the Lord.
SOLIDARITY IN CHRIST
The first step is quelling our anger. There is such a thing as just anger when we see injustice or corruption. However, that is not the same as harboring enmity, grudges, rivalries or even thoughts of vengeance against a person who gets under our skin. When we nurture our anger against leaders or other members of the Order, we chip away at the unity and fraternity that makes the Knights of Columbus distinctive and great.
Second is the need to look carefully at what is central in the life of the Order. The charity we share is not merely our good will but the charity of Christ. The unity we share is not merely a human consensus but rather the unity of the Holy Trinity. And the brotherhood we share is that of the Son of God who became one of us and united himself to us. If you think this sounds a bit inflated, please reconsider! Our Order was founded as a Catholic organization by a parish priest to draw us closer to Christ and to the Church. Our principles come from the Gospel and lead us deeper into the Gospel.
Our solidarity in Christ, for example, is more than agreement based on common interests. It is a moral virtue and a God-given power to band together to do enormous good. Our fraternity is, to be sure, a path to great friendships that extend to our families and a source of real support in living our faith, especially in times of trouble. But in our solidarity, we are not confined to our individual interests and opinions. Rather, we participate in something much greater than ourselves and accomplish things we could never do alone. We share profoundly in one another’s faith and humanity, and together we open ourselves to God’s grace.
So, while it is natural to get upset when we don’t get our way and our views are overridden, we must not stay angry and forget to look at the bigger picture.
Finally, we need to listen – first to the voice of the Lord and of the Church, then to our loved ones, and then to our brother Knights. From time to time, our strong opinions can make it difficult to pray so as to discern the will of God and to hear what the Church or others are telling us. Therefore, we need to keep things in perspective by developing our life of prayer – listening to the voice of the Lord and seeking his will in our lives. Then, when we speak, even if we disagree, our words will have the ring of wisdom and authenticity.
With this in mind, let us all devote ourselves anew to the good of the Order!