This column will be casual in nature, but I will provide factual information. I will try to start at the beginning and work my way up to our current Fourth Degree Operations here in New Jersey. I would like to hear from you if you have any questions about Fourth Degree History. If you have material that I may have missed please feel free to share it with me.
Before we get started, I want to let you know that there are several K of C sources that I will use for my stories. They are available for download from our website.
Here is my first installment which covers the early history of the Fourth Degree.
Around 1886 the officers of the Knights were considering adding a “Patriotic” Degree to the existing degrees of Charity Unity and Fraternity. In 1899 Edward L. Hern was elected Supreme Knight and he immediately assigned a committee to address this matter. The committee acted promptly.
The First Fourth Degree Exemplification was held in New York city at the Lenox Lyceum in New York City. The Honoree for this degree was George Washington and it was held on the anniversary of his birthday, February 22, 1900. At the first exemplification, 1,000 candidates stood to take their Fourth Degree. With a choir of 283 and 100 New York City police acting as section guides, the total number taking their degree on that day was 1,383.
The Fourth Degree emblem of the Order and the ceremonial and music for the exemplification were established for the 2/22/1900 degree. The emblem consists of the cross, the dove and the globe. The dove is the classic symbol of the Holy Spirit and of peace and is shown hovering over the earth. Both are mounted together on a variation of the Crusader’s Cross, often referred to as the Cross of Isabel. The spiritual and sacred symbols exemplify the union of the Three Divine Persons in one God, the most Holy Blessed Trinity.
The colors of the symbols are significant: a red cross represents the stouthearted courage of the valiant knight; its gold knobs represent the eight beatitudes which aid him in his quest. The white dove signifies truth and purity and is representative of God’s gift of freedom to mankind. The blue of the earth represents the eternal hope provided by God the Father.
There were no Fourth Degree Assemblies at that time, so the Sir Knights went back to their Councils and had Patriotic Degree Committees until the hierarchy of the Fourth Degree was established and the Assemblies were formed. The Color Corps began to form during this period when the Sir Knights were part of the Council. Needless to say, there was no uniformity at that time. The Committee at Supreme had to quickly develop the laws and rules of the Fourth Degree
Next month we will go through the structure of the Fourth Degree.
Former Master Joseph Olivo