Into the Breach
Dariusz Dudek talks to Krzysztof Zuba, the state delegate of the Knights of Columbus in Poland.
I guess almost every man played war as a child. Not only as a soldier with a rifle, but also as a cowboy and a knight. In the heart of a man is deeply rooted this very idea – knighthood. It may seem that the times of knighthood are long behind us. But is it really so? We’ll talk about it in the “Male-Catholic Church” series. I cordially greet Mr. Krzysztof Zuba – state delegate of the Knights of Columbus to Poland. Good morning!
Good morning, welcome!
Did you play knight as a child?
I admit that in my childhood I played football more often. I was chasing the ball rather than imagining myself as a knight. Nevertheless, I watched movies or read books about the behavior of knights, about knightly principles, about certain rituals, customs or way of life, and the rules they followed. But in my childhood, somehow I did not identify with this way of life.
If, however, in my childhood I had to find a space where there are references to knighthood, it would be a service at the Dominican Fathers Church in Tarnobrzeg.
The altar boy are associated with the service. Also a knight – I will come back to this topic – serves a lord. When I told my nephew yesterday that I was going to record an interview with a knight, he said to me: “Uncle, ask if this man serves any king.”
In answering your nephew’s question whether there is such a Lord, I believe that every believer – not only a Knight – should put God in the first place in his life, and this is the calling of the Knights of Columbus to act. We tried to look for our identity, how to name with a few sentences who the Knights of Columbus are, what the Knights of Columbus are for, what the path is. From our discussions, such a simple picture emerged – in our opinion, this is one of the paths that can lead to salvation.
And how did you come to this path of the Knights of Columbus?
It was over 10 years ago. I come from Tarnobrzeg. There was a fantastic parish priest, a prelate, and it was in the parish where I lived after my wedding. He watched my activities in a slightly different field. He also knew my family. And one fine day, our eyes met. At that time, the first meeting in the parish was held to inform about the new community that was to be established. The prelate was driving the car, he had a red light, and I was crossing the lanes and then our eyes met. I bowed to the parish priest and then, I think, the Holy Spirit acted, because after a few minutes, the prelate appeared at my work and he hit the man with very good words. He knew there was an organizational meeting, that you had to invite the men and give them a chance. Then he said to me: “You know what, Krzysztof, we are building a strong team, a new community, I really want you to be in this group.”
Could you tell us about the origins of the Knights?
Of course! Second half of the nineteenth century, United States, Connecticut, a young priest – now blessed – Michael McGivney, watches his parishioners. What is important itself comes from an immigrant family. There were times when Catholics, it is fair to say, were discriminated. In the church you can see mainly women, while men were, as they say, “for medicine”, which means less and less.
The situation that prevailed, the time of the industrial revolution, when it happened many times that during work, or at an early age, the father, the head of the family, and the husband died, causing the family to fall into poverty. There were times when children were taken away from widows, and often as a result of these difficult events they would depart from the faith. And the young priest Michael McGivney was looking for a solution, he was looking for an idea how to attract men to the church, how to attract whole families.
He proposed creating a new community. Twenty-something men meet 140 years ago in New Heaven. Through the initiative of those men who officially appoint the Knights of Columbus, various events are held at the church. On the one hand, we are talking about prayer activities, and on the other, they propose a wise way of spending free time. The parish is to be the center of life – that is, many activities are organized at parishes, and additionally, Fr. Michael McGivney, in response to what was happening, proposed a fraternal organization. If any harm is done, one of the Knights’ men dies, then the other Knights are to look after the widow and the whole family. Today, there are over 2 million men in the ranks of the Knights of Columbus worldwide.
We have been in Poland for 15 years, because 15 years ago there was the first meeting in the Polish Bishops’ Conference. We have nearly 7,000 men who have chosen to follow this path.
When I read about the Knights, it struck me strongly that the Knights reacted to specific events from the beginning. It was not an action like: let’s do anything, but let’s do something because there is a need. I was struck by the fact that during World War I and II, the Knights of America built special centers for soldiers so that they could rest, return to mental and spiritual balance. And it also touched me that they were open to everyone: every faith, every religion and every skin color, they made no difference.
Blessed Father Michael McGivney identified mercy, unity and brotherhood as pillars on which we should build our work. We talked about the beginnings of my knighthood, and just before that, there was a flood in Sandomierz and Tarnobrzeg, and then the Knights came from several places and helped.
We experienced strong storms a few years ago in the north of Poland. And there the Knights from several Councils joined in, they came to really help. They were even in Orlik, Brusy, near Chojnice and helped there. Not only to raise money, but also to roll up your sleeves and go to work! It turned out that it was needed most there.
I remember that the chaplain of the Knights from Brodnica went, asked the parish what was most needed and announced a collection of power tools, because it turned out that some saws, drills and other types of power tools were needed. And most of all, help is needed. And the Knights rode over there and helped to tidy up.
The Council from Suchedniów and the Kielce diocese surrounded one family with special care and helped in the renovation of the house. What is important – the media was there for a few days, they took photos, showed the drama of people and went away. And what was important was talking to these people, helping with simple jobs. And those Knights were there. And today this area is one of the better-developing areas of the Knights of Columbus operations.
I have come across two stereotypes about the Knights of Columbus. First: to be a Knight of Columbus, you have to be a rich man, because the contributions are high and there may be people with high earnings. And the second: you act like a sect, have meetings behind closed doors, in a church with the lights out and the windows covered.
I am glad that we can talk about that and explain it. I admit that the first element we are talking about may result from the fact that the Knights in the church dress festively during the ceremonies. I mean, like me, they have a white shirt, tie, suit and sash, which may make someone looking from the outside, when seeing someone dressed in a suit, guess that it is some company president. Or, as it was during the World Youth Day in Krakow, the Knights served at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Łagiewniki, directing the movement, and there they heard the sentence: “Look, the Government Protection Office is watching St. Faustina “. This was due to the outfit they were wearing. We still remember this anecdote today. We have students, retired people, working people, people with basic education and professors in our shadows.
The second item was about the ceremonies that took place, and it had been going on for almost 140 years that the admission ceremonies to the Knights were closed. By the decision, first of the Supreme Knight, to propose that the formula be open – that happened a year ago; and in Poland, I decided that from July 1, 2020, all ceremonies of admission to the Knighthood that are held are open door ceremonies.
What is the formation of the Knights of Columbus?
One of the benefits of being a Knight is that you receive a knight’s rosary at the reception ceremony and at the same time make a commitment to pray as often as possible. This is the first step in the formation of the Knights of Columbus.
Knights meet periodically every month. The meetings should begin with either Holy Mass or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament or some other forms of prayer. Usually, the local meeting is attended by a chaplain who gives a short catechesis, because we are not ideal people and the level of our religious knowledge often requires refreshing.
In addition, we are working on the exhortation “Into the Breach”, which was written by Bp. Olmsted for Catholic men, and in fact it fits perfectly into our conditions in Poland. In addition, videos were developed based on this exhortation and can be followed on YouTube by the Knights of Columbus.
Each month the high chaplain, in the monthly letter we receive, Columbia, invites us to the challenge. We have an analyzed fragment of the Holy Scriptures there and we also have a challenge to do a specific work of mercy in a given month, for example to provide care and help to some needy people.
Above all, however, we commit ourselves to work on ourselves in formation during the reception ceremony.
I would like to refer to this exhortation “Into the Breach”. What is this breach in which the man has to stand?
If we look at the statistics about the number of the faithful who are in churches during the Holy Masses, if we look at the number of people who leave the Church or we are talking about people who are baptized but do not practice, and often stop believing – they call themselves believer but not practicing, suddenly it turns out that there is a great gap in this powerful group of believers. And the gap was defined by Bp. Olmsted as a breach. And now this gap has to be filled somehow. Hence the invitation to men not to sit on the couch, not to sit in the last bench in the church, but to take matters into their own hands. That is, through their activity, their activities, on the one hand, replaced those activities that could be undertaken by others who have passed away, and on the other hand, through their testimony, they are to cause these people to come back, or we will reach new people who will never stay with the Church or had no contact with faith.
I think that this breach was very vividly named by bishop Olmsted. We have a challenge, this is a place for a man to take matters into their own hands, roll up their sleeves, take responsibility and stand in the gap. Take action. And I think that appeals to all of us, because we see a crisis taking place at different levels.
We return to the great figure of St. John Paul II, who recalls that when he woke up at night he saw his father kneeling and praying. That is the challenge for us. We men, if we show the right attitude, both our wife and children will feel safe at home. If we do what is right, our children will learn from us as they watch us.
How can someone join the Knights of Columbus?
If you fulfill the basic criteria, please contact our member department through our website and declare your willingness, then go to the pastor’s priest to get confirmation that the conditions are fulfilled, or if the local Council is nearby, the Knights of Columbus is operating by individual brothers.
We don’t have any preparatory periods or verification of candidates. This appending process is pretty smooth. Therefore, if someone feels in his heart that he is able to do more than before, wants to take responsibility for the parish, for the family, for the Church – we invite you! The easiest and fastest way to contact us is via the website and we will already guide you on how to become a Knight of Columbus, where you can attend the reception ceremony, and how you can join our respective activities later.
Thank you very much for the conversation not only about the Knights of Columbus, but also about the Male Catholic Church, which we need very much in our time. We also thank you for being with us, for listening and watching us. And if someone is pushed by the Holy Spirit to join the Knights of Columbus, it’s worth the risk