Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever! 

2017 October  Message of the State Chaplain

 Dear Brother Knights,

I understand that a person has a right to their opinion when it come to the new attire for the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. Yet someone also has a duty and the authority to make this decision and it has been done. It with mercy that we a sense of mercy that I share the following. 

I am a bishop whether I am wearing a collar, vestments or not. I would like to think that 'who I am' and my actions are not crucially dependent on what I am wearing, whether I am relaxing, golfing, doing charitable work, at a meeting, celebrating at a service, or whatever. 

Yes, attire has a lot to say about what you believe in and is an expression of your identity. Neatness, modesty, perhaps readiness to defend or a show of casual disposition are all important at different times.  However, the tone of some emails I have read recently seem to suggest that the new official attire for a 4th degree member of the Knights is a detriment to the charity, fraternity, unity and patriotism of a man. Contrarily, I can think of no one more noble, when it comes to sacrifice, than a soldier. One who loves their family and is ready to defend them and protect them, even to the point of laying down their lives is very virtuous. One who is ready to defend their brother, their family, their country and the dignity of those in their country is a matter of perception. Admittedly, we have Hollywood images of soldiers that simply are mercenaries and lack moral virtues, but at the same time there are soldiers that we highly honour every year in November for the highest valour and values we can bring to mind. It is about perspective. 

It is the same response that I have heard from people who see a stern face of Jesus in an icon. Some really don’t like it. I ask them,  "When you see that stern face, is it judging you or defending you against evil”?    It is about perspective.

What is my perspective? Well, I am responsible for my perspective and can change my perspective.

If someone in a uniform approaches me, say a policeman, I can choose to feel guilty about something or I can feel safe. I have a choice. I can change my perception since it is in my mind and heart. Granted, it is not always easy.  Yes, I might have memories that influence my perspective both ways, but I can choose to say what I want to say with how I dress. I have been judged for what I wear when in fact I am not saying what a person is actually perceiving when I wear it. For instance, I have been asked not to wear clerical attire when meeting with a victim who was once abused by a priest. That is a sensitivity that needs some reflection. 

I often travel in my clerics so that if someone sees me, they may consider a priest as someone who is approachable, laughs, is relaxed, has feelings, is serious or not, is basically a human being. Some clergy choose not to wear a habit or clerical attire because of an expectation or expectations they don’t have the energy to deal with today, at this moment, or whatever their reason. Some clergy, like myself, wear it so that people can see a priest is a trustworthy normal human being.  I am definitely a sinner and not perfect. I may not always be the best ambassador for clergy to laity, or of men to women, of middle age people to elderly, of a white person to one of colour, of a Ukrainian Canadian to an indigenous person, an adult to a child or a Catholic Christian to an atheist. But never is any one person necessarily the best representative of any category to which they might belong. Culturally, eye contact during a conversation in some cultures does not have the same meaning in other cultures. Even in our own society in Canada, sometimes a wink, a smile, or any general gesture can be misinterpreted. 

So I urge all Knights of Columbus to search their hearts to see what God has placed in them. Then, wear those sacred values on your face, on your body and in all the ways you conduct yourself.  Give the attire you wear the perspective you want it to have and the one God wants it to have, regardless of the possible misinterpretation others may have of it.  

Let us be thankful to God for our country where we can freely share our opinions. It is not allowed in all countries.