14507179057813It is rare to see a melding together of tradition and modernity as it is realized in the Papal Swiss Guards. The core mission is unchanged: since 1506 they protect the pope and his residence. What has changed are the methods and strategies, the guards that respond to the call and the environment in which they serve.

Clothed in each traditional renaissance uniform is a state-of-the-art trained Swiss security professional. They provide security services (visitors’ control, security duties, guard service and personal protection) as well as honorary services (at audiences, receptions, Holy Masses). The main task of the Corps is to "constantly watch over the safety of the Holy Father and his residence". Other obligations are:

  • to accompany the Holy Father on his travels,
  • to protect the College of Cardinals during papal transitions,
  • to guard the entrances to the Vatican City, and
  • to perform other security and honorary services.

The Swiss Guard have probably the most famous uniform in the entire world, the so-called “Gala Uniform” . The blue, red and yellow are the traditional colors of the Medici family.

14507179343961The “Exerzieruniform” is entirely blue. It is worn for training and night duties. In winter and when it rains, a jacket is worn to protect the uniform from the elements.

14507179167921At Easter, Christmas and at the swearing-in ceremonies an additional 17th century armor complements the Gala uniform. This includes a striking white collar, the white gloves and a silver helmet with a red feather for the halberdiers, a dark purple feather for the officers and a white feather for the commander and the sergeant. On both sides of the silver helmet depicts a relief of the founder’s Pope Julius II “della Rovere” family oak.

SwissGuardMP7What many people do not realize is that the Papal Swiss Guard in their function as bodyguards have an additional “uniform”: plain-clothes. They are equipped with the SIG P220 pistol and the SIG SG 550 rifle (or its SG 552 variant) which is also in use by the Swiss Army. As Swiss Guard recruits must have passed basic military training in Switzerland, they are already familiar with these weapons when they begin their service. The pepper spray used by the Swiss Army (RSG-2000) is also in use. The Swiss Guard at the right is carrying a Glock 19 pistol and Heckler & Koch MP7 submachine gun in their function as plainclothes bodyguards.

Regardless of his uniform – or his weapons – a Papal Swiss Guard stands ready to serve the pope - “if called for, even by giving one’s own life for him.”

We often hear that Pope John Paul II “spoke of the Knights of Columbus as a strong right arm of the Church.” We also know that the Patriotic Degree Color Corps is the “visible arm” of the Knights of Columbus. I suggest that everyone in the Patriotic Degree consider the variety of uniforms we can wear.

For civic projects such as cleaning a military cemetery, cooking duty at a fundraiser or attending a planning meeting, we wear appropriate pants and a shirt (or Knights of Columbus attire). We wear nametags whenever possible.

The new Fourth Degree uniform lends itself to several “new” applications. Consider it “the business suit for when we need to wear one.” There are times when wearing a short-sleeve Assembly shirt just will not do. The new uniform can – should - be worn when visiting legislators, marching in Pro Life occasions, chairing meetings and more. It may serve as a more effective means to solicit donations from private businesses. Consider wearing it to their workplace on occasion as well as to religious services. Even the most steadfast supporter of the “old regalia” can see the benefit of someone in their Assembly wearing this uniform while testifying at a state Senate hearing on a pro-life cause. I would.

The old regalia can - and should - still serve its traditional purpose for parades, funerals, weddings and other turnouts. People take comfort in tradition. Widows and family members of our brothers take comfort in our turn outs. We stood with pride during papal visits and formed wedding arches. I passed my sword regalia to my (now) son-in-law when he became a Faithful Navigator. If the Lord wills it, years from now I would love to have him pass them down to my future grandson, if we were so blessed.

Consider the Papal Swiss Guards. Their uniforms – and their weapons – have changed over 500 years. Their mission has not. By day they wear the world-famous “Gala Uniform” of red, blue and yellow with swords and halberds. The blue “Exerzieruniform” is worn for training and night duties. Heavily-armed plain-clothed Guards have automatic weapons and pepper spray. They all serve.

There is only one required “uniform” for a Sir Knight. It is whatever he is wearing at the time. We pray to Our Lady, Queen of the Knights to “Make us always aware that as your Knights, we are constantly observed, our faith judged, and our Order appreciated.” You are not required to own an assembly polo shirt, nor a tuxedo, nor a jacket and emblem tie. There is no requirement to join the Color Corps. There is a uniform of sorts – a uniform code of conduct. “A Sir Knight is always on duty “ever to exemplify in our public and private lives the virtues which should characterize those specially dedicated to the service of the heavenly court.”

I believe that our Order should have Assembly polo shirts, tuxedo-based regalia and the jacket with tie, all for those who need to wear them. We can haggle over the fine details of pins and berets – after all, the Papal Swiss Guards have seen plenty of change in 500 years. Just do not lose sight of who we are.

A man owned a stand of sugar maple trees.  It was a family business passed down from father to son and from brother to brother.  The man, his family and his workers tended the forest year-round.

In the spring, they collected sap and boiled it to make and sell maple syrup and candies.  They were careful not to over-tap the trees, lest they weaken and die. In the summer, they harvested the straightest trees for lumber to make furniture, firewood and other uses.  Craftsmen made all sorts of maple products for sale.

Every fall, the leaves turned yellow, orange and red. People travelled for miles around to see the beautiful trees – large and small, young and old - and to buy syrup and souvenirs.  In the winter, they sold the seasoned wood for fuel and to smoke food.

In good years there were many seeds and seedlings. It takes years for these seedlings to become tall trees.  The workers kept the deer away from eating the seedlings; they removed the poorly formed, diseased and dead trees to make room for healthy growth.

All was kept in balance, and all was well.

What does this story mean?  The owner is the Faithful Navigator, the workers are the assembly officers and chairs and the trees are the members.  A healthy assembly uses everyone’s talents in a balanced manner.  A member gives of himself – as a tree in charity gives its sap, its leaves and even its wood.  Everyone can help, as even showing up at Mass with a nametag – a brightly colored leaf if you will – attracts potential members.  We need new members to sustain the council, lest we “sap” our most active member’s strength.  Do your part to sustain the forest.

under god2July is a time filled with expressions of patriotism -- flags flying, parades, Sousa marches, firework displays accompanied by martial music, and recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. How often have we placed our hands over our hearts, faced the nation's flag, and recited this brief statement of fealty? Do we understand, however, what we are saying, or has the recital become a ritual, a mere collection of words, a formality before certain public events?

The Pledge is an outward declaration of fidelity to a nation uniquely conceived and to the values and beliefs for which it stands. Consider the significance of what is being expressed in the brief 31 words.

I pledge allegiance – This says that it is a personal and individual promise of loyalty. It is a continuation of the oath made by the signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to create this nation. It is a commitment to the patrimony that has been handed down from generations past and a vow to maintain the nation’s precepts for generations to come.

to the flag – The banner is not a mere piece of colorful bunting, but a symbol of the nation, a memorial to the sacrifices that were made to create, maintain, protect and develop this country. It is a reminder of the nation’s history, traditions, culture, the principles upon which it was founded, and the values which it espouses.

of the United States of America – It does not refer to any country, but only this country, which is an embodiment of fifty states and tens of thousands of communities, each with its individual character. It is a country composed of people with heritages from every corner of the earth.

The armistice (cessation of hostilities) between the Allies and Germany in WWI (then 'The Great War') took place on November 11, 1918 - at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Since that time, beginning with the declaration by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) has been celebrated each November 11th beginning at 11am. The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 am.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a Concurrent Resolution on June 4, 1926, and Armistice Day was created as a legal holiday by an Act of Congress on May 13, 1938.  On June 1st, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 380 renaming the day Veterans Day, a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

The Department of Veterans' Affairs points out that many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.

As Catholic American Citizens and Knights of Columbus, we should seek prayers of thanksgiving for our Veterans - and attendance at Mass is a particularly great way to honor those who have served. Prayers of healing for those who have suffered service-related injuries - whether visible, catastrophic, or invisible, is a particular charism of the Knights of Columbus' 4th Degree - especially through our Warriors to Lourdes Program. Be sure to take time out of your day - particularly at 11am - to remember those who have fought and to thank those who have served our nation in uniform and who now live with us as fellow civilians and citizens.

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