To a considerable degree, Fourth Degree activities are family activities. For that reason we have prepared thee following information. It is intended as a brief overview of the Fourth Degree, and in particular, the special relationship it has to the ladies of it's members. Therefore we address these pages to you.
The Purpose of the 4th Degree
The Fourth Degree is the Patriotic Degree of the Knights of Columbus, and on a national level, it comprises roughly 10% of the membership of the Order. It has five major objectives.
- To promote and strengthen the patriotic spirit of the civic community.
- To educate its members, and others, both in the teachings of Holy Mother Church, and the 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.
The Fourth Degree, both collectively and individually, supports those religious, civic, and charitable causes which are designed to implement one or more of those five objectives.
Not many years after the Knights of Columbus was organized in 1882, many of the members began to urge the foundation of a higher degree. The Supreme Board of Directors approved the formation of the Fourth Degree in 1899. The first exemplification of the Fourth Degree was held at the Aster Hotel in New York on February 22, 1900 with a class of 1400 candidates.
The degree expanded swiftly, and a separate board of governors was set up for the new degree in 1910. The chief executive officer of the Fourth Degree is the Supreme Master. The Fourth Degree is divided in to geographical units known as provinces, of which there are fifteen.
Our province is the Father Edward F. Sorin C.S.C. Province and consists of the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia. The chief executive officer of the province is the Vice-Supreme Master. Each province is divided into districts which normally, with few exceptions, coincide with the respective states. Each District has a executive officer known as the Master.
Each Fourth Degree Assembly schedules a number of social events during the year that involve the ladies. At least one dinner meeting is dedicated to the wives, mothers, girlfriends, and sisters of the assembly members. Most Assemblies hold anniversary banquets at which the ladies are honored guests. This is also true of memorial services for deceased members and for ceremonial occasions. The ladies are always invited to installation ceremonies for assembly officers. These social occasions afford the Sir Knights of the Fourth Degree and their ladies to become personally acquainted with members of councils represented in the assembly.
There are no hard and fast rules concerning dress for ladies, rather, the inherent good taste of the ladies is the best guide for them in choosing the proper attire for a given occasion. For major social, or ceremonials events, many ladies choose to appear in formal wear. Others are comfortable in cocktail dresses. Some select suits or dresses which they consider appropriate for the occasion. The wise Sir Knight judiciously avoids any attempt to dictating to the ladies, especially in an area in which the ladies are better equipped to decide.
One of the charms of the Fourth Degree lies in the fact that it is the uniformed degree of the order. It is the part of the order which is most visible to the public. The winter uniform consists of black tuxedo, plain white shirt, black bow tie, black cummerbund, black shoes black socks and social baldric. The summer uniform is the same, except that a white dinner jacket is substituted for the black tuxedo jacket. A regulation Fourth Degree lapel pin and a pocket name badge are optional and highly recommended. The jewel of current office, worn on the official ribbon around the neck is authorized, as are miniature medals of jewel of Knights of Columbus offices previously held, worn on the left breast tuxedo jacket pocket. The uniform is worn on public occasions, when the Fourth Degree participates as a group in a church ceremony; on the occasion of wakes and funerals of members, and high church dignitaries; for memorial services; in civic or patriotic ceremonies of solemnity and dignity. It is also recommended to be worn for special K of C social occasions such as parties and balls.
Fourth Degree members should purchase a cape, chapeaux, white gloves and a ceremonial sword and these may be purchased one piece at a time and given as birthday gifts, Christmas and anniversary gifts. The Faithful Comptroller will be pleased to assist in the purchase of these items and to advise on the approximate cost of each. All Fourth Degree members are urged to purchase these items and become a member of the Color Corp of their Assembly which is organized to participate in special religious activities, during which the pocket name badge and other adornments are removed. The Color Corp Commander will instruct the members in this regard.
Many of our Ladies, as well as some long time members of the Third Degree of our order, have asked about the various colors of capes and chapeau worn by the Fourth Degree when in full regalia, and what these colors signify. They are as follows:
Vice Supreme Master Light Blue Master Gold District Marshal Green Color Corp Commander Purple Faithful Navigator White General Membership Red Cape-White Plumes
Once a Sir Knight attains an office, he is entitled to wear the colors of that office until he elected or appointed to a higher office, except for the Marshal [appointed by the Master of District] and the Color Corps Commanders [appointed by the Faithful Navigator] who are appointed for a specific term and then revert to their previous colors when that term expires.
The Knights of Columbus is a Fraternal organization. With Fraternity as one of its cardinal virtues, the support and assistance of member in times of illness is of major importance. Should illness strike your Sir Knight, you ladies or other family members, are requested to notify one of the Fourth Degree members or your acquaintance, of the fact immediately. Other member will be then advised and will be asked to remember their Brother in their prayers, to visit him, and to offer any needed assistance. This, of course, always has a cheering effect on the ailing member.
It is important that notification be made to a member of the assembly, as soon as possible, by some member of their family. That is the only way that other Sir Knights can be made aware of their Brother's illness.
Death comes to all men, but one of the great consolations of our Catholic faith is that death is a beginning, not an end. The chief aim of fraternalism, in this respect, is the consolation of the bereaved. The Knights of Columbus offer certain rites in connection with the death of a member, designed to remind the living of the Promise of the Resurrection and to demonstrate the esteem in which the deceased is held by the fraternity. The following are some steps which should be taken by a member of the deceased Sir Knight's family upon the death of the Sir Knight.
- Each Assembly has a member, usually the Fraternal Chairman, whose responsibility it is to maintain close contact with the family of the deceased Sir Knight during the period immediately following the death. His name and telephone number should be published in the assembly newsletter. He is the Fourth Degree Representative, and should be notified of the death of a Sir Knight as soon as possible. He, in turn, will notify the proper persons. If the family so wishes, the Fourth Degree Representative will also assist in the following measures.
- If it is in keeping with the wishes of the family, arrangements should be made with the funeral director to have the deceased Sir Knight attired in the uniform of the Fourth Degree [Black Tux and Accessories]. The cape and chapeau and his sheathed sword are to be placed upon the casket during the wake and funeral and a proper notification to his Brother Sir Knight be included in the death notice in the newspaper.
- Fourth Degree members of the Assembly will mount an Honor Guard, "Watch of the Dead" at the wake. One Sir Knight in full regalia stands at the head of the casket and one at the foot during the wake. The Guard is change at regular intervals.
- Following the wake services, a certificate of condolence is presented to the widow or a member of the family, expressing the sense of loss shared by the assembly and the bereaved family.
- Subject to availability, and at the request of the family of the deceased, Four Degree Knights will serve as pallbearers. Such request should be made through the Fourth Degree Representative, who will assist the family in securing the active pallbearers. Active pallbearers will wear the uniform of the Fourth Degree minus the sword.
- At the conclusion of the graveside rites, or at some other appropriate time during the wake or funeral, the sword of the deceased Sir Knight will be presented to one of the sons of the deceased [usually the eldest], or the widow or nearest relative in a appropriate ceremony. The Faithful Navigator, Color Corp Commander or some other designated officer will make the presentation.
In all its programs and activities the Fourth Degree delights in the cooperation and company of the ladies. Only the actual business sessions and exemplifications are closed meetings. The Fourth Degree depends on the wives and ladies of its members to encourage and assist the Sir Knight in their duties and responsibilities as member, so that each member will realize his full potential as a member of this fraternal society, and as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ.
We ask for full and complete assistance of our ladies in our endeavors and we hope your association, and that of your Sir Knight, with the Fourth Degree result in many hours and year of fulfillment and enrichment and that it will also be socially rewarding.
A Bit of History on 4th Degree Regalia
Evolution of the 4th Degree Color Corps regalia is interesting as the Swords and Uniforms have developed since the institution of the 4th degree. It is a study in that the only thing constant is change.
The original swords were made by Gleason long before The English Company or Lynch started making them and they were longer. The first pommel was an Eagle with a very plain blade but was longer. The scabbard for these swords displayed the 3rd degree K of C emblem, not that of the 4th degree.
The sword evolved to a shorter version with Christopher Columbus'head facing forward when in the Scabbard and again the use of the 3rd degree insignia. Modern swords feature Christopher Columbus facing towards the side when in the scabbard and the use of the 4th degree emblem. The older swords were all made by Gleason and the new by either Lynch and Kelly or The English Company. Genuine K of C swords only have the Eagle or Christopher Columbus on the pommel without any chains or hooks on the scabbard. The scabbards will feature 3rd or 4th degree emblems only.
Color Corps around the country initially had their own unique uniforms which included various chevrons on the chapeau and other medals and insignias on the capes, with variation of lining colors as well.
Initially, regalia was essentially what Assemblies wanted and could afford which made for some very elaborate regalia in affluent assemblies and plain regalia in others. The interesting note is that the same was true in the Philippines where there was use of either a white tuxedo jacket, black tuxedo jacket, and the traditional formal dress shirt commonly used in those hot climates. Colors of the various capes and chapeau's were eventually standardized to those used today.
(Thanks to the Kentucky State Website for information contained in this article.)