Our Christian Faith Must Be Kept Alive
in the Land of Our Lord
By SIR F RUSSELL KENDALL
KNIGHT OF THE COLLAR, VICE GOVERNOR GENERAL
(From the Spring 1994 Newsletter of the Lieutenancy of Canada (Toronto)
Succinctly, the Knightly Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is a unique, ancient, chivalric, collective organization or Order of intensely Catholic people, both men and women, cleric and lay with a given apostolate entrusted to it by the wisdom and needs of the church under the solicitude and guidance of the Papacy and marked by honour, generosity spiritual and religious pursuit.
The Statutes or Constitution of The Order, (given to it by reigning popes and refined and amended throughout the ages from its inception at the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in the year 1099 by Godfrey de Bouillon, and confirmed as an Order by Pope Paschall II in the year 1113) governs and imparts a real corporate existence to The Order verifying it as a "True Order", in close fidelity to the Sovereign Pontiff and under the Protection of The Holy See, as distinguished from "The Honorific Societies" or "Honours" granted both by the popes as well as other sovereigns to individuals in recognition of past distinguished service.
The Holy Father through The Cardinal Grand Master controls not only the activities of the Order but the selection of members with the concurrence and supervision of the pope's Secretary of State. Members undertake special obligations to help preserve the living faith in the holy land as well as the duty to live exemplary Christian lives, thus the Order exemplifies action through faith. All members are bound in loyalty and in this service to The Supreme Pontiff. However; the loyalty and service to the pope to which the members pledge their fealty is in the nature of a religious oath and in no way contravenes but rather broadens the members love of and loyalty to his own country or nation.
Throughout the existence of man, impressed within the complex of his psyche has been his need to gather together in society for the accomplishment of purpose, for family, for religion, for safety, for government, for congeniality. This conglomeration has resulted partly in what we call today history, tradition, custom. We know that history teaches us, custom guides us and that in tradition we find a very useful method of living life at the present and for charting the best for our future. The Order is steeped, in tradition and timeless custom. For a thousand years its life followed poignant rules and rigid practices which impressed it with its specific, present character and give it its distinctive personality.
For, during all this time the Order has prayed and worked to bring peace and tranquillity, love and justice to the sacred land of Palestine. It is these things together with its living history and absolute fidelity to the popes that make the Order today what it is and provide it with such a significantly unique place within the bosom of the church and at the heart of the Apostolic See.
The fact of the first Crusade was a miraculous event. It should not have occurred except for the strong, simple faith implanted in the mind of Christian man who then being extremely colloquial did not permit him the luxury of looking beyond his own local environment. His faith, his surroundings, his parish church were his world. Few had ventured past the next village, practically none into the vast unknown across the mountain or even beyond the next valley. But there was a faith, a faith so strong, fanned by the Word of The Lord and fostered by fabled preachers that produced a clear vision and a detailed desire to free the empty Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem from the grasp of the unbelieving infidels.
It took Pope Urban II to bring the thought of this outrage to Christianity one thousand years ago. It took this saintly pope to venture onto the highways and byways and across the mountains to inflame the mind set of these vehemently Christian folk and fire them to Crusade to the holy land to free the holy places and particularly the empty sepulchre of Our Lord so that all Christendom could go and see and pray and so that holiness could be brought back to the land of Jesus through a living, practising, sustaining, viable Christian congregation. It was Pope Urban II who at Clermont in the year 1095 uttered the Great Battle Cry - Deus Lo Vult - God Wills It. It remains today as our singular motto.
Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Brabant and other great Christian leaders forged a vast body of Cavaliers and a huge hoard of serfs into an army that suffered unspeakable hardships, hunger, disease, disaster, shipwreck, terror and even insurrection as it trudged its way to Mount Scopus, there to see the walled Holy City of Jerusalem unfold before them. After a month long siege what was left of this army of courageous souls in July of the year 1099 finally stormed the bloodied walls of Jerusalem, freeing the holy city from the tyrannic rule of The Seljuk Turks and securing the Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord so that all Christendom might go and pray at the very threshold of their faith.
It was then that Godfrey placed a cordon of Knights to stand guard around about the Holy Sepulchre and to pray at the most sacred spot on earth. It is from these great crusader knights that the Orders of knighthood originated and it was through them that we, The Knightly Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem have inherited our solemn duty to help keep the Christian faith alive and well in the land of Our Lord.
From this beginning, through many vicissitudes there remains The Order of The Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. The Order which was approved by Pope Pascal II in 1113 is unique in that many of the Popes assumed the office of Grand Master of the Order and that the Grand Master today is still appointed to that office by the Holy Father who in turn names, creates and establishes each member in the Order of The Holy Sepulchre. The Papal Secretary of State approves each of your diplomas and also your documents of promotion. No such society, Order; or organization of the church is so honoured nor so profoundly reminded of its awesome duty and urgent necessity of its objective.
Godfrey, our exemplar, became the first king of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem but was too humble actually to be crowned. He said that he could not wear a golden crown where his Lord had worn a crown of thorns. Godfrey died within a year and his brother Baldwin succeeded him in the year 1100. In 1103 Baldwin wrote to the pope saying that because of the "Singular devotion of The Cannons of the Patriarchal church of the Holy Sepulchre that The Holy Sepulchre was put in their care and that because of their diligence they were named, created and established soldiers of Jesus Christ in The Order of The Holy Sepulchre". They were commanded to wear "white robes with the cross and arms given to them after the conquest of the Holy City" This is your heritage, this also is your right, to wear the Cross of the Five Wounds of Our Lord, The Cross of Godfrey, the Cross of Jerusalem. Wear this crimson cross with dignity but with humility, wear it so that we may fill the world with the cross, wear it so that all might know your tradition and your mission and know what you are and who you are.
The Crusaders were defeated by the Sultan Sal-a-Din at the Horns of Hattin after only 100 years and in approximately another 100 years the last of the Crusader strongholds fell and the remnants of these brave knights returned to their own countries. There they kept alive the traditions and customs always under the purview of the Papacy. The Christian world is forever grateful to St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Fathers as guardians of the sacred shrines of the holy land. Saint Francis went there with twelve of his friars in the year 1219 and tried to convert the Sultan Malek al-Kamil who was greatly impressed with Saint Francis and with his audacity and saintliness but would not be converted. Saint Francis spent sometime thereafter living a pilgrimage in the holy land and Pope Gregory IX officially designated the Franciscans as guardians of the holy land in 1230. On July 11, 1309 they received official permission from Sultan Bibars II Rokneddink to remain there. The province of the Franciscans called the Sacred Custody of the Holy Land remains there today. Although sections and courts of The Knights of The Holy Sepulchre remained through the centuries in various countries of Europe, it was not until December 10, 1847 that Pope Pius IX reconstituted the Order under the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem who had just been appointed Patriarch after 400 years of vacancy in the Patriarchate. Pope Saint Pius X as well as other popes reserved to themselves the office of Grand Master. Pope Pius XII in the year 1940 decreed that a Cardinal Protector of the Order should hold the post of Grand Master. Pope John Paul II named His Eminence Giuseppe Cardinal Caprio as our present Grand Master assisted by a Board of Advisors called The Grand Magisterium.
The Lieutenants of the various Lieutenancies throughout the world are appointed by The Grand Master. They are laymen and Lieutenancies are autonomous, subject however to tradition and to the mandates of the Constitution of the Order given to it by the Holy Father. The Grand Priors of Lieutenancies are also appointed by The Grand Master and they are the ranking Ecclesiastics of the Lieutenancy. They are cardinals, archbishops, or bishops. Today there are nine Lieutenancies in the United States. There are now a total of forty Lieutenancies and Magisterial Delegations throughout the world and others are being considered in western Canada, China, Japan, Hungary, Romania, the Czech and Slavic Republics, former East Germany, Poland, Ukraine and the Russian Federation of Independent Republics.
But, why all this?
That binding together for the accomplishment of purpose, for religion, for family about which we mused a moment ago, becomes an inspiration bringing us in closer contact with Our God. Ritual lifts the soul, and heightens our faith and strengthens our will. These things of old, the Crusaders heraldry, the knights quest for the stars, are transformed by our will into the force of action in faith, in prayer and in deed for indeed we are asked and we are thus inclined to substitute ourselves for these knights of old, to pray, to perform works of charity, to bring about the freedom for which they fought, the peace for which they longed and the cause of justice for which they died. No longer are we asked to die for the cause of the faith in Palestine but without our prayers, our longing, our charity there will not be peace and justice there and without peace and justice, the faith will surely die and the holy land will be a land without a living Christian presence to make it holy. But, are we not now seeing the power of prayer at work? Is not the recent recognition by the two cultures, of one by the other, Arab and Jew, Palestinian and Israeli the beginning of reconciliation, the answer to our prayers. Although ever so feeble and ever so tentative it is a beginning that moves us to pray even more fervently that the people of the holy land may live a loving co-existence which if flourished and fostered will result in peace and justice and bring stability and permanence to the Christian people there.
Some very eligible Catholic people have declined their bishops nomination to become knights or ladies of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre believing the Order is simply a money raising vehicle for the church in the holy land and serves no other purpose. For this belief we are at fault for not clearly perceiving the objective of our apostolate. While it is true that The Holy Father has prayed that we should help maintain the Christian presence in the holy land and obviously schools, seminaries, churches, clinics, jobs and homes are vital for the accomplishment of this purpose, yet, the most important, the most necessary, the most efficious support is through prayers and good works, love and sacrifices, influence and good will offered to God on behalf of the Christian people of the holy land bonding with them in the power of the spirit that they might hold tight and give living light to the church in the land of Jesus.
What higher purpose, what greater objective, what more exhilarating end is to be obtained than to know that you have done your best to keep our Dear Lord present and his church alive in the land of His birth, death and resurrection.This is the reason for your membership. This is why you assented to your bishop's invitation, This is your resolution and determination, and in pursuance of your objective be not vain and haughty but rather humble and unpretentious that you might be an example of Christian conduct, a consolation to your bishop, an evangelizer and a leader, and ultimately a Saint.
Our determined hope buttressed by our spiritual strength and supported by our enthusiastic charity will save the faith in our Saviour's land. Let this be our relentless resolve and let us give praise and thanksgiving for evermore to Our Blessed Mother, Our Lady, Mary Queen of Palestine.
Deus Lo Vult