Knights of Columbus | Caballeros de Colón (2024)

History and Description

The Knights of Columbus was founded by an Irish-American Catholic priest, The Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney in New Haven, Connecticut. He gathered a group of men from St. Mary's parish for an organizational meeting on October 2, 1881 and the Order was incorporated under the laws of the U.S. state of Connecticut on March 29, 1882. Though the first councils were all in that state, the Order spread throughout New England and the United States in subsequent years.

The primary motivation for the Order was to be a mutual benefit society. As a parish priest in an immigrant community, McGivney saw what could happen to a family when the breadwinner died, and wanted to provide insurance to care for the widows and orphans left behind. He had to temporarily leave his seminary studies to care for his family when his father died. In the late 19th century, Catholics were regularly excluded from labor unions and other organizations that provided social services. In addition, Catholics were either barred from many of the popular fraternal organizations, or, as in the case of Freemasonry, forbidden from joining by the Catholic Church itself. McGivney wished to provide them an alternative. He also believed that Catholicism and fraternalism were not incompatible and wished to found a society that would encourage men to be proud of their American-Catholic heritage.

McGivney traveled to Boston to examine the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters and to Brooklyn to learn about the recently established Catholic Benevolent League, both of which offered insurance benefits. He found the latter to be lacking the excitement he thought was needed if his organization were to compete with the secret societies of the day. He expressed an interest in establishing a New Haven Court of the Foresters, but the charter of Massachusetts Foresters prevented them from operating outside their Commonwealth. The committee of St. Mary's parishioners which McGivney had assembled then decided to form a club that was entirely original.

McGivney had originally conceived of the name "Sons of Columbus", but James T. Mullen, who would become the first Supreme Knight, successfully suggested that "Knights of Columbus" would better capture the ritualistic nature of the new organization. The Order was founded 10 years before the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, and in a time of renewed interest in him. Columbus was a hero to many American Catholics, and the naming him as patron was partly an attempt to bridge the division between the Irish-Catholic founders of the Order and Catholic immigrants of other nationalities living in Connecticut.

Christopher Columbus is the patron and namesake of the Knights. The Connecticut Catholic ran an editorial in 1878 that illustrated the esteem in which American Catholics held Columbus. "As American Catholics we do not know of anyone who more deserves our grateful remembrance than the great and noble man - the pious, zealous, faithful Catholic, the enterprising navigator, and the large-hearted and generous sailor: Christopher Columbus."

The name of Columbus was also partially intended as a mild rebuke to Anglo-Saxon Protestant leaders, who upheld the explorer (a Catholic Genovese Italian working for Catholic Spain) as an American hero, yet simultaneously sought to marginalize recent Catholic immigrants. In taking Columbus as their patron, they were sending the message that not only could Catholics be full members of American society, but were, in fact, instrumental in its foundation.

By the time of the first annual convention in 1884, the Order was prospering. In the five councils throughout Connecticut there were 459 members. Groups from other states were requesting information. The Charter of 1899 included four statements of purpose, including "to promote such social and intellectual intercourse among its members as shall be desirable and proper, and by such lawful means as to them shall seem best." The new charter showed members' desire to grow the organization beyond a simple mutual benefit insurance society.

The original insurance system devised by McGivney gave a deceased Knight's widow a $1,000 death benefit. Each member was assessed $1 upon a death, and when the number of Knights grew beyond 1,000 the assessment decreased according to the rate of increase. Each member, regardless of age, was assessed equally. As a result, younger, healthier members could expect to pay more over the course of their lifetimes than those men who joined when they were older. There was also a Sick Benefit Deposit for members who fell ill and could not work. Each sick Knight was entitled to draw up to $5 a week for 13 weeks (roughly equivalent to $125.75 in 2009 dollars). If he remained sick after that, the council to which he belonged regulated the sum of money given to him.

Around 1912 it was claimed that fourth degree Knights had to swear an oath to exterminate Freemasons and Protestants. Despite the fact that it was denied, and the real oath published, this was read into the congressional record by Thomas S. Butler. In the 1928 Presidential election a million copies were printed to hurt the campaign of the Catholic Democratic candidate Al Smith.

Today there are more than 15,000 councils around the world, and the Knights of Columbus is a multi-billion-dollar non-profit charitable organization. Knights distribute Tootsie Rolls to raise funds to fight developmental disabilities, volunteer for the Special Olympics and other charitable organizations, erect pro-life billboards and "Keep Christ in Christmas" signs, conduct blood drives and raise funds for disaster victims, and parade at patriotic events with their red capes, feathered chapeaux, and ceremonial swords.

In 2010, the cause for McGivney's canonization was before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. A guild had been formed to promote his cause. On March 15, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI approved a decree recognizing the heroic virtue of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. The pope's declaration significantly advances the priest's process toward sainthood, and gives the parish priest the distinction of "Venerable Servant of God." If the cause is successful, he will be the first priest born in the United States to be canonized as a Saint.

Knights of Columbus | Caballeros de Colón (2024)

FAQs

What are the 4 principles of the Knights of Columbus? ›

The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded 130 years ago by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney at St. Mary's parish in New Haven, CT, the Knights uphold four key principles as pillars of the order: Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism.

Can a non-Catholic join the Knights of Columbus? ›

What are the requirements to join the Knights of Columbus? Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to men 18 years of age or older who are practical (that is, practicing) Catholics in union with the Holy See.

Is Knight of Columbus a good insurance company? ›

Yes, Knights of Columbus Insurance has high ratings. It has an A+ rating from A. M. Best and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

What does the K of C logo mean? ›

The short sword or dagger, was a weapon used by Knights when engaged upon an errand of mercy. The sword symbolizes honor, distinction, bravery, and courage. Also mounted to this Shield and Cross is the letters "K of C", which represents the Knighthood of a Catholic man in our organization.

What is the motto of the Knights of Columbus? ›

The Knights of Columbus' fraternal motto is even more explicit: “Tempus Fugit, Memento Mori,” “Time Flies, Remember Death.” According to John P.

What does Vivat Jesus mean? ›

He adopted the saint's favorite prayer — “May Jesus Live,” in its Latin form “Vivat Jesus,” to use as the motto for his life and priesthood.

Are Knights of Columbus Republican or Democrat? ›

However, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson has said "One of our most important traditions throughout our 125-year history is that we do not, as an organization, become involved in partisan politics."

Can a divorced man be a member of the Knights of Columbus? ›

A man who, living in a valid marriage, obtains a civil divorce and remarries outside the Church ceases to be a practical Catholic and hence loses his right to join or continue in the Order of the Knights of Columbus.

Can you leave the Knights of Columbus? ›

If you choose not to pay dues at all for a variety of reasons (e.g. no longer want to be a member), you will need to do the following. 1) Inform the Faithful Comptroller you want to withdraw from the Fourth Degree. 2) Write a letter to Supreme Council that you want to withdraw from the Fourth Degree.

Can I cash out my Knights of Columbus life insurance? ›

Your policy's cash value can be used as cash, either through a partial loan or a full surrender of the policy*, or as collateral.

What is the credit rating of the Knights of Columbus? ›

A+ (Superior)

What is the Knights of Columbus member death benefit? ›

Member/Spouse Benefits

The Order will pay up to $2,500 upon the death of a member or his spouse occurring within 90 days as a result of an injury sustained in a covered accident.

What do the colors of the Knights of Columbus mean? ›

These three symbols remind the Knights that they have the faith and belief in the Trinity. Blue (azure) symbolic of innocence. White (silver) is the symbol of integrity. Yellow (gold) is intended as the symbol for the riches acquired through hard work.

What is the coat of arms of the Knights of Columbus? ›

This Cross and Shield represents the Catholic Spirit and Commitment of the "Knights of Columbus". Mounted to the shield are three objects; a medieval ax standing, an anchor and a sword. The ax represents strong leadership, authority and a efficiently operating organization.

What is the double C logo? ›

The Chanel logo was designed by Coco Chanel in 1925. It's composed of two bold interlaced “C”s that mirror each other.

What are the four virtues of the Knights of Columbus? ›

4 Principles of Knight's Of Columbus
  • Charity is the first principle of the Order. First Degree. ...
  • Unity is the second principle of the Order. Second Degree. ...
  • Fraternity is the third principle of the Order. Third Degree. ...
  • Patriotism is the fourth principle of the Order. Fourth Degree.

What are the 4 degrees of the Knights of Columbus? ›

There are four degrees within the Knights of Columbus. Each degree ceremony imparts a lesson on the Order's core virtues of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. In a degree ceremony you are introduced to one of four principles that the Knights of Columbus holds in high regard.

What are the Knights of Columbus main goals? ›

KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS IS A CATHOLIC FAMILY FRATERNAL SERVICE ORGANIZATION WITH OVER 2.0 MILLION MEMBERS, FOUNDED IN 1882 FOR THE FOLLOWING PURPOSES: (A) RENDERING AID TO ITS MEMBERS, THEIR FAMILIES AND BENEFICIARIES OF MEMBERS AND THEIR FAMILIES; (B) RENDERING MUTUAL AID AND ASSISTANCE TO ITS SICK, DISABLED AND NEEDY ...

What are the four ways knights are expected to behave? ›

A knight was supposed to show bravery, strength and skill in battle (this was called prowess), to respect women, to defend the weak and the poor, to be generous to others and loyal to his lord, his family and his friends.

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