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Monday, January 19, 2015

Bryant Sayers Class Honoree Speech


 FOURTH DEGREE EXEMPLIFICATION- January 10, 2015 

 It is truly an honor for me to be with you this evening as the selected Class Honoree. But, before I begin, I would like to say congratulations to all the new Sir Knights. Your presence here this evening shows those of us here with you, as well as those you will come into contact with in your future role as a 4th Degree Knight, how central to your lives are the principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. Congratulations on this accomplishment 
If someone were to ask most Americans to draw us a picture depicting patriotism, we would probably see pictures of flags; eagles; Uncle Sam; and fireworks; all done in vivid colors of red, white and blue. 
But, if someone were to ask most Americans to define patriotism, we may be surprised to hear several very different definitions of the word. Although most on-line dictionaries define patriotism as: “love for or devotion to one's country”, in today’s society, even that definition can be misconstrued. 
So let’s begin with that one. Stop and consider how passionate these feelings of love are and what sort of devotion we are talking about. Do these feelings of love come and go? Or are these feelings so deeply rooted that just seeing the American flag flying high brings a tear to their eye and causes their heart to swell with pride? Sadly, most Americans these days would probably fall into the category of the “come and go” type of patriotism. 
The kind of patriotism we see on the 4th of July during the Independence Day celebrations - the parades, fireworks displays and military band performances. 
Or the kind you see on Memorial Day when we honor our fallen heroes, who willingly gave up their lives defending the country they loved, by hosting parades and making visits to the cemeteries and memorials where they have been laid to rest in the soil they fought so valiantly to protect. 
We also see this type of patriotism in times of national disasters such as the 9/11 attacks or natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes which call for our citizens to pull together in time of need. 
In other words, this form of patriotism resembles the same atmosphere that exists around Christmas. Everyone gets caught up in the festive excitement of the holiday and, although they may have good intentions of trying to focus on the “true meaning” of the holiday, they still end up spending the majority of their time focused on the secular holiday- the parties, celebrations and get together’s - rather than on their enthusiasm for the true meaning. Then, once the holiday is over, it’s back to “life as usual”. The memory may still remain but the feelings the occasion evoked have more than likely disappeared until another holiday brings them back to the surface once again. But let’s not fault them for that. How many of us here tonight fall into that very same category? 
Let’s now look at that same type of patriotism – yes, we’ll define it as love and devotion - and see what it is exactly that may cause someone to NOT feel love for and devotion to this country. 
First of all we have to ask ourselves this question, if everyone TRULY felt love and devotion to our country, wouldn’t everyone be more patriotic? It depends, I think, on how you look at the words “love” and “devotion”. 
Humans, as a rule, grow attached to things. We get attached to other humans, objects, and things… such as places. This attachment can be described as “love” and this love often leads to devotion. By raise of hands, how many of us here tonight are NOT from Arizona? And how many of us are still attached to whatever state or country we have come from? Doesn’t this attachment lead us to feel a continued great love and devotion to that state or country? Would you describe these feelings as patriotism? 
And what is it exactly that we are still attached to there? Is it family? The beauty of the land? The culture? The connection we feel with fellow citizens? Whatever the attachment is, it is deep-rooted and it is passionate. 
There are other factors we must take into consideration that can also influence how others may feel about patriotism. Consider, for example, the feelings of patriotism in the castaways of our society – the homeless, the poor, the disabled, and the elderly; those who are suffering right here in their own country and don’t see anyone that seems to care. Do you suppose they feel any kind of love or devotion to a country where day after day they are ignored by the very brothers and sisters who are, by God’s very command, supposed to be looking after them? What do you suppose their feelings of patriotism are? 
Many people also like to believe they are being patriotic by going out and voting. But they choose their candidates based on the benefits they expect to obtain from them, not out of any concern for the good of their fellow citizens or their country. Is this patriotism? 

The ideas of patriotism in our youth is certainly different than the ideas of patriotism in those of us who are older. The Pledge of Allegiance has been banned from schools and most educational groups have urged teachers to commemorate 9/11 with lessons that stress the need for greater "tolerance" and "diversity." Few have called for lessons about America's founding principles, or the cost at which our freedom was won. To most of our youth, feelings of patriotism are ever-changing, depending on the circumstances of their immediate surroundings and that of the world. In our high-tech society, many of them tend to be influenced by whatever they hear on the latest news, Facebook, or Twitter. 
Patriotism is more than just waving a flag at the Independence Day parade or showing devotion while you hold your hand over your heart as you say the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s more than getting out and voting on Election Day or visiting the graves of the many men and women who died defending our country. 
Anyone can sit back in their lawn chair after eating a delicious barbecue meal on a beautiful Memorial Day afternoon and exclaim, “Man, I love this country!” 
But what is it exactly that they are talking about? If by love of country do they mean the beautiful scenery – spacious skies, amber waves of grain, purple mountains majesty and fruited plains? Or are they talking about the fact that they love a country where they are free to live the way they want without fear of the government. A country where they can still practice their religion without fear of imprisonment or death. 
Former President Ronald Reagan, during his Normandy Speech commemorating the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, spoke of patriotism in this way: 
“Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief. It was loyalty and love. 
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead, or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt. 
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you. 
The Americans who fought here that morning knew word of the invasion was spreading through the darkness back home. They thought -- or felt in their hearts, though they couldn't know in fact, that in Georgia they were filling the churches at 4:00 am. In Kansas they were kneeling on their porches and praying. And in Philadelphia they were ringing the Liberty Bell. 
Something else helped the men of D-day; their rock-hard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause. And so, the night before the invasion, when Colonel Wolverton asked his parachute troops to kneel with him in prayer, he told them: "Do not bow your heads, but look up so you can see God and ask His blessing in what we're about to do." Also, that night, General Matthew Ridgway on his cot, listened in the darkness for the promise God made to Joshua: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee." 
Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee." 
Strengthened by their courage and heartened by their valor and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.” 
This, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is patriotism. Patriotism is not about what we show on the outside. Patriotism is about what we live from the inside. It’s understanding why freedom is so precious -- and so rare. It’s understanding and embracing the principles of liberty, equality and justice on which this nation is founded. It’s living the qualities of integrity that mark true citizens - courage… responsibility… gratitude to forefathers… and a self-sacrificing devotion to the common good. It’s what causes a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus to foster and promote the motto “In service to one, in service to all” as he lives out the four principles of charity, unity, fraternity, and patriotism. 

But for the Knights of Columbus, patriotism goes beyond our devotion to country. As Knights of Columbus our devotion is also to our God. In A Statement by the Catholic Bishops of the United States called - Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics they write: 
“We are daughters and sons of the one God who, outside and above us all, grants us the freedom, dignity and rights of personhood which no one else can take away…. The human being is entitled to such rights in every phase of development, from conception until natural death, whether healthy or sick, whole or handicapped, rich or poor…. Moreover indeed, everyone has the mission and responsibility of acknowledging the personal dignity of every human being and of defending the right to life”. 
As Knights of Columbus, we are responsible for protecting the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable among us. We are called to defend our Church and our priests. Because patriotism has to do with laying down one’s life for ANY and ALL human lives, not just a chosen few. 
This responsibility need not be a cause of fear. The Bishops also write in their statement: 
“God is always ready to answer our prayers for help with the virtues we need to do His will. First and foremost we need the courage and the honesty to speak the truth about human life, no matter how high the cost to ourselves. The great lie of our age is that we are powerless in the face of the compromises, structures and temptations of mass culture. But we are not powerless. We can make a difference. We belong to the Lord, in Him is our strength, and through His grace, we can change the world.” 
May God Bless the United States of America and May God Bless the Knights of Columbus! 

Vivat Jesus! 

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