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State Chaplain 2019 - 2020

Picture of Rev Kenney St. Hilaire

Rev Kenneth St. Hilaire
October 2019

At the Supreme Convention in Minneapolis in August, supreme knight Carl Andersen made an urgent plea that the Knights of Columbus lead the way in promoting civility in the sphere of politics and even within the Church, where--he noted--personal attacks and refusal to dialogue are becoming more and more common.

Archbishop William Lori, the supreme chaplain, reiterated this appeal. He said, “The anger and polarization that are sadly so much a part of our culture now also are finding their way into the life of the Church.” He asked all of us Knights to support a campaign for civility organized by our Order. You will probably see information about this campaign in upcoming issues of Columbia magazine.

When we think about our culture’s growing lack of civility, we may be inclined to think first about the very public sphere: political candidates slinging mud at each other in television ads and during debates, well-known figures in the Catholic world writing stinging articles about the Pope or bishops, and so forth. However, I find that personal attacks, refusal to dialogue, anger, and polarization are closer to home than we’d like to admit.

I see it all the time, in fact. We make enemies out of the people who disagree with us or who offend us. Someone says something or writes something or does something that offends our sensibilities, and rather than confront the person directly about it, we harden our heart toward them or go on the attack against them.

How wise Jesus was to give His followers the instruction: “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15).

I know from my own experience how difficult it can be to muster up the courage for this conversation. There is always the temptation to go and hash out the issue with someone else, or even (in some circumstances) to take up the matter with the person’s superior instead of the person himself.

Rule of thumb: the easiest way is not always (or even usually) the best way. It’s amazing how often a conflict can be resolved by taking up a conversation with the perceived offender. “What did you mean when you said _____?” Or: “I took your actions to mean _____. Is that what you intended?” Chances are, the person may respond with a clarification that puts our mind to rest and eases the tension. Nine times out of ten, I’m sure, no personal affront was intended.

However, even if the person’s response confirms that he really meant what we thought he meant, at least the foundation has been laid for further discussion and the door of communication is already open. It doesn’t have to become a knock-down, drag-out fight!

Keeping open the lines of communication without taking offense is one of our absolute best strategies for fostering civility in our spheres of influence and beyond. It’s part of what it means to be “Knights of Unity” in a world that tends so readily toward division and polarization. I heartily encourage you to practice civility in social discourse. Let’s all be models of charity and patience in the way we receive others and listen to what they have to say.


Vivat Jesus!

Fr. Kenneth St. Hilaire
State Chaplain