The Knights of Columbus serve a higher calling, committed to the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
We hold four core principles at heart, which are designed to correspond and demonstrate the cornerstones of our Order. It’s these principles, that shape our organization, give us focus & allow us to be the strong right arm of the Church.
Those four principles, celebrated as Degrees, are:
- 1st Degree – Charity
- 2nd Degree – Unity
- 3rd Degree – Fraternity
- 4th Degree – Patriotism
Traditionally separate ceremonies were held for each Degree, to confer upon the Knights seeking advancement in their local council. Today, a single ceremony is held for new Knights, which instills upon them the First, Second and Third Degree. A Knight’s desire to progress to the Fourth Degree is optional, but highly recommended.
The 1st Degree is CHARITY
[This is the Degree of Exemplification]
Our Catholic faith teaches us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Members of the Knights of Columbus show love for their neighbors by conducting food drives, donating to local soup kitchens and food pantries, volunteering at Special Olympics, and by supporting their local parish and surrounding community whenever possible.
Knights recognize that our mission, and our faith in God, compels us to action.
There is no better way to experience love and compassion than by helping those in need, a call we answer every day.
The 2nd Degree is UNITY
[This is the Degree of Admission]
Unity means none of us is as good as all of us.
This principle helps Knights realize their true potential as Christian brothers and the sacred power of unity.
Members of the Knights of Columbus all know that – together – we can accomplish far more than any of us could individually. So we stick together & support one another. That doesn’t mean that we always agree or that there is never a difference of opinion.
But it does mean that, as part of the Knight of Columbus, you can count on the support and encouragement of your brother Knights as you work to make life better in your parish and community.
Members of the Knights of Columbus are united in the body of Christ, ritualized and embodied in their full participation in the Catholic Church.
Their loyalty to Christ and the unity which He encompasses, is realized through their commitment to one another and their local, regional, and global church.
The 3rd Degree is FRATERNITY
[This is the Degree of Formation]
The Knights of Columbus was founded by Fr. Michael J. McGivney, in large part, to provide assistance to the widows and children left behind when the family breadwinner died – often prematurely.
The Order’s top-rated insurance program continues to do this today, as do individual Knights, who year after year given 10’s of million hours of their time to assist sick and/or disabled members and their families.
In the Knights of Columbus, we watch out for and take care of one another.
Knights that have attained the 3rd degree enjoy privileges that include ability to serve as a local council officer, and admission to state and Supreme Council business meetings.
The 4th Degree is PATRIOTISM
[This is the Degree of Knighthood]
Each Degree of the Knights of Columbus is associated with a particular virtue, with the 4th Degree being know as ‘The Patriotic Degree’.
It was established in New York on February 22nd, 1900. The requirements for joining the Fourth Degree are that a brother Knight must have been a Third Degree member in good standing for at least one year, be an exemplary Catholic, and be of sound citizenship of his country.
The Fourth Degree is frequently regarded as an honorary title with it’s regalia of tuxedos, capes, chapeaux and swords, but should rather be thought of in terms of service to church and country, and the goals of the Fourth Degree may be summarized as the promotion of the ideals of Catholicism and Patriotism side by side.
In more detail, these goals may be stated as:
- To promote and strengthen the patriotic spirit of the civic community.
- To educate its members & others, both in teachings of the Church and history of our nation.
- To promote by example the highest type of citizenship so necessary for the preservation and perpetuation of Republican form of government, and its democratic institutions.
- To oppose dissemination and spread of doctrine dangerous to our form of government, and to the Divine law of faith and morality.
- To support by word and deed, the duly constituted authorities of local, state and national government, and to recognize excellence in public life.
Therefore, it is not unusual to find Fourth Degree Knights participating visibly in church events, such as Eucharistic processions, and others, and in the community, and commemorating the sacrifices of previous generations on Remembrance Day.