My son Bobby and I became members of the Knights of Columbus this week. Our parish is forming its own Council after many years of St. Raphael Knights belonging to Councils at other nearby parishes.
Bobby did not put up much of a fight, even though we had to wear coat and tie. At first he did think we were going to KFC--he does love their mac and cheese.
Is the Knights of Columbus still relevant? There are something like 1.8 million members throughout the world, so the numbers are there. And there certainly is a need for an organization that calls Catholic men to clean Catholic living and spiritual leadership. So yeah, I think it's relevant and I'm happy that my 19-year-old son is getting in on the ground floor (you have to be 18 to join).
My experience with the Knights begins with my father, who was a member his entire life but, to my knowledge, never attended a meeting. Growing up in Ohio, the K of C halls that seemed to be the social center of some communities conjured up images of all-night smokers and card parties. My dad wasn't into that, and he didn't spend much time on the type of service projects that the Knights are more appropriately associated with. For him charity always began at home or was conducted quietly, in the background.
When he died in 2007, he had a small K of C life insurance policy worth a few thousand dollars. We filled out the forms and they sent us a check. I noticed on his paperwork, which included his original application, that he joined at age 18. Probably a rite of passage back then.
A couple of years ago I read a book called Parish Priest about Fr. Michael McGivney, who formed the order in the late 1800s as a fraternal organization dedicated to the care of widows and orphans of poor Catholic immigrant Americans. Like the Elks and the Moose and the Masons, it grew as men bound together for fellowship and service. The Catholic component is intrinsic and runs deep.
So at age 47 I think I'm old enough to finally join. And my boy is old enough to start learning about how Catholic men conduct themselves in the real world.