Paladin: any knightly or heroic champion; any determined advocate or defender of a noble cause.
Noble: of an admirably high quality; notably superior; excellent; of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence; lofty.
Knight: a man, usually of noble birth, who after an apprenticeship as page and squire was raised to honorable military rank and bound to chivalrous conduct; a man upon whom the nonhereditary dignity of knighthood is conferred by a sovereign because of personal merit or for services rendered.
Heroic: having or involving recourse to boldness, daring, or extreme measures; having or displaying the character or attributes of a hero; extraordinarily bold, altruistic, determined, etc.
In his presentations LtCol Dave Grossman (US Army, ret) refers to today’s law enforcement professionals as “modern paladin”, and then – probably because many folks in the room have no idea what “paladin” means – he adds, “like the knights of old.” He makes comparisons between the shield knights carried that had symbols to indicate their loyalty and the shields that police officers wear on their chest today that show what governmental authority they represent. Knights strapped on swords and carried spears. Today’s cops strap on guns and carry a plethora of other tools. Both were / are tasked with supporting justice.
In previous writings of mine I’ve discussed the characteristics that make today’s contemporary warriors, and especially our law enforcement professionals, similar to knights of any time – including George Lucas’ futuristic Jedi Knights. In making that comparison to the science-fiction knights, I also noted a number of characteristics they shared with some of today’s clergy – reverends, ministers, priests and other religious leaders. Today I’d like to make two observations and discuss them:
1) The tradition of ecclesiastical orders of chivalry (religious knights) began during the first crusade under the auspices of Pope Urban in 1096. A number of other knightly orders were initiated with Christian underpinnings or dedicated purposes to include the Knights Hospitaller of St. John (1098), the Knights of St. Lazarus (1099) and The Knights Templar (1119).
2) No matter what purpose the organization of knights was formed to fulfill; no matter what authority they were initiated under – sovereign or religious (state or church); the basic characteristics for nomination to and acceptance within the organization have remained fairly common.
Beginning with observation number one, let’s consider the creation of ecclesiastical orders, the authority required, historical traditions, etc. First, as a note of timing, we must recognize that the third millennium of the Christian era began on January 1, 2001 – not January 1, 2000 as so many believe. The new millennium begins on the first day of the first year of that new millennium. 2001 was the first year of the new millennium. So, in looking back, we see that a number of orders were initiated during the early portion of the second millennium. Using the examples given, 1096, 1098, 1099, 1119. That’s a 23 year period where at least four new chivalrous orders were created.
The Knights Hospitaller of St. John was founded by the Blessed Gerard, also founder of the religious order of St. John, and was confirmed by Papal Bull from Pope Paschall II in 1113. The Knights of St. Lazarus, from what I can find in my research, simply evolved into being a military organization from their previous existence as hospitallers for those suffering from leprosy. Their last known military action was in the 1400s. The religious nature of the Knights of St. Lazarus was previously existent as they were charged by the church to care for the lepers in a given area. The church’s support and authority seemingly carried over into their justified military acts during the Crusades.
The Knights Templar, more formally known as “The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon”, were originally organized as a monastic order by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Originally founded in 1118 by French knights Hughes de Payens, a veteran of the First Crusade, and Geoffrey de St. Omer for the protection of pilgrims on the road from Jaffa and Jerusalem, the Templars operated for several hundred years before coming under the wrath of King Philip IV of France who coerced Pope Clement V to disband the order on Friday the 13th of October, 1307 (that’s where we get the superstition of Friday the 13th being an unlucky day). Many of the Templar knights were killed in gruesome fashion while others were merely stripped of all their possessions and left homeless with only the clothes on their back.
These orders all have in common the fact that they were founded to provide protection and / or service and support to suffering Christians, whether they were terminally sick people or weary travelers. Each order received numerous Papal blessings. It’s important to note that none of them were created by a Pope or a King (church and state). Each was created originally by the equivalent of a Bishop in a given area.
In addition to the ecclesiastical orders, other organizations of Knights have been created by different monarchs. Perhaps one of today’s most well-known orders, the Royal Victorian Order was created by Queen Victoria in 1896. That’s only one hundred eleven (111) years ago. Other royal orders include The Order of the Garter (1348), The Order of the Thistle (1687), The Order of the Bath (1725), The Order of St. Michael & St. George (1818), The Order of Merit (1902), The Imperial Service Order (1902), The Order of the British Empire (1917) and The Order of the Companions of Honour (1917). Take a look at those dates. The oldest dates back to 1687, some three hundred twenty (320) years ago. In terms of Earth history, that’s the recent past. Ecclesiastical orders have been around three times that long and are based on a much higher authority: God.
Now, knowing all that, let’s take a look at some of the personal characteristics deemed necessary for a person to become a Knight or Dame (female equivalent of a knight). Such characteristics were often delineated in a codex. Defined, codex means “manuscript pages held together by stitching: the earliest form of book, replacing the scrolls and wax tablets of earlier times.” So, the Knight’s Codex was a document that described the desirable characteristics and gave reasons for what made those characteristics necessary, or further detailed how they affected a Knight’s expected behavior(s).
Loyalty: faithfulness to commitments or obligations. Such commitments and obligations could be to your family, your work, a recreational group you belong to, etc. Knights must be known for unwavering loyalty to all the ideals they are supposed to embody. By listing loyalty as the very first necessary personal character trait, it’s made clear that the rest of the character traits are not negotiable. They must be adhered to carefully and with great commitment. It might not always be easy, but it’s something that must always be done.
Respect: to hold in esteem or honor; to show regard or consideration for. Remember that old saying, “Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you”? Yep. It’s that simple. Knights should always show a minimum level of respect for others and a higher level of respect for each other. Basic courtesy is what it boils down to and it’s not difficult, but in today’s overly-selfish and self-centered world, common courtesy is quite often missing in a person’s day.
Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. Now, let’s be honest: everyone is afraid of something at some point in their life. I can’t begin to list the number of times in my life that I’ve been scared out of my mind about something. Even still, they don’t equal the number of times that I’ve been mildly nervous about something. Courage is the ability to face those fears and either set them aside or function in spite of them. Since knights of old often had to fight against greater odds they had to be quite courageous. There is another form of courage most of us need today though: the courage to stand up against societal pressures or criticism. Using myself as an example, and not patting myself on the back, I quite often write about topics that aren’t popular, or I voice an unpopular opinion. It’s easy for me because my writing is usually written for people who tend to agree with me. Courage would be espousing the same beliefs and opinions in a crowd full of people who don’t agree with me. Courage is what some teenagers need today to say no to drugs or cigarettes or alcohol or sex. Courage comes in many forms but it is most definitely a prerequisite for anyone with knightly aspirations.
Justice: the moral principle determining just conduct; conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment. In the movie “Air Force One” Harrison Ford’s character says, “Peace is not just the absence of conflict, but must include the presence of justice.” What is just and fair isn’t always crystal clear. Often what is legal isn’t just. Sometimes what is just is a matter of opinion. However, most of us learn – by the time we’ve shared a sandbox with other children – what justice is. It’s simply acting right and insuring that others do the same; punishing those who commit crimes; defending those who would be targeted by crime. Justice is a largely unpopular concept today and at the same time is proclaimed by many as the reason why they or their group should get something for nothing – because of some past injustice that was performed upon the group they claim membership in. Justice is timely. Nothing can be done today to correct an injustice performed in the distant past. Even apologies are a waste of time because they can’t be made to those who were treated unjustly. The best we can do is learn from the mistakes of our past and move into the future with an on-going commitment to act in a just fashion ourselves and encouraging others to do the same.
Largesse: generous bestowal of gifts; Generosity of spirit or attitude. In one of his songs Garth Brooks says, “We don’t reach for handouts; we reach for those who are down.” I know of a family who, during a time when they were severely financially challenged, offered to take in a mother and her three children to help them get out of an abusive situation. Now here’s the perfect example of generosity of spirit. The family could barely pay their own bills but they saw a need that others had; a need they could fill, and they extended that invitation well aware that it would make their own situation more tenuous. It’s easy for a rich person to be generous. Giving gifts isn’t difficult for people who have more money than sense. The true gifts of compassion, care, shelter, food, etc… those are the gifts we should all endeavor to make our mark with.
Prowess: exceptional valor, bravery, or ability, esp. in combat or battle. The thing to remember here is that not all combat or battle is physical. Clashes occur in business, politics, religions, families, etc. “Prowess” can be had in navigating any form of conflict. Traditionally we relate Knights to a prowess in physical conflict. When you think about general history as documented the warriors were those who maintained a certain physical condition and mastered the use of various weapons. From that narrow perspective, today’s equivalent would be a special forces soldier or a police officer on a SWAT team. However, we must be careful not to discount those who have a high level of proficiency in negotiation, investigation, intelligence gathering / analysis, etc.
Integrity: adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. Come on; this is an easy one: don’t be a schmuck. Everyone has to have a minimum level of integrity or they get a quick and dirty reputation as an utter piece of junk. Even criminals have a level of integrity that they maintain. Have you ever noticed what happens to child molesters and terrorists in prison? They have to be kept separated from the general population because even “common” criminals hold them in contempt. Your integrity is what you have that no one can take away. It’s a core value that you must maintain or risk losing a piece of who you are; a piece you can never get back; that piece is what you show the world to represent yourself. It’s a kind of important piece.
Nobility: exalted moral excellence; the state or quality of being exalted in character. Nobility is NOT being of a higher status politically, governmentally, or otherwise in societal ranking. Nobility is all about who you are and how you carry yourself. While a great many noble families claim “nobility” because of historic lineage, at some point in time they were just like everyone else. Very few family names today can track a clean and clear lineage back to a past sovereign. Have you ever wondered how those families came to be considered noble at that point in history? It was through the recognition of their actions, character and demonstrated honorable behavior. Nothing stops any of us today from being noble.
Faith: belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion; belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc. The only thing I know about Free Masons is that you have to believe in a supreme deity to become a member. How do I know that? I asked. If you ask someone who is a mason if you can become a mason they will answer you with a question. That question is, “Do you believe in God?” If you do, then you’re welcome. If you don’t, then you aren’t. It’s that simple. Such a small demonstration of faith is a requirement. Whether you have faith in the Christian Lord, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ, or you believe in Allah and Mohamed, or you cherish the teachings of Buddha, you still have faith. Faith is a necessity we all take for granted in our lives. Need an example? When you start your car and drive anywhere you take it on faith that your breaks will work when you need them. We all have faith that when we flip a light switch the light will come on (or go off). Faith is an integral part of our lives that we can’t escape. If you have faith in a deity – a higher power, if you will – then you are demonstrating an even greater level of ability to function based on your belief system. Such demonstrated faith was, and continues to be, considered of value in Knights.
Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc. Here is probably the most difficult to achieve attribute and one I certainly have never been accused of: humility. Being humble. The challenge with this is: A great many of us who have all these other fine qualities are what is known as “type A aggressive” personalities. We tend not to back away from conflict and we aren’t usually super careful about how we filter what comes out of our mouths. Offending and upsetting people doesn’t usually concern us overmuch. Along with all of that comes (usually) no hesitation whatsoever in realistically admitting to our strengths… and weaknesses. Remember this: as long as you don’t go around bragging then you’re doing alright.
Franchise: a privilege of a public nature conferred on an individual, group, or company. This goes hand in hand with humility. If you’re not busy touting your own virtues and/or worth, then what are you doing? If you spend a few words complimenting the values and accomplishments of someone else then you have succeeded in this value. In doing so you maintain an awareness of your self. Maintaining such an awareness empowers you to monitor how well you adhere to the listed values and character traits. When you have reached the point where every trait above is incorporated into every aspect of your life – both personal and professional – then you will have achieved a state of being that is certainly worth striving for – so I’ve been told. I haven’t attained it yet.
So, having reviewed all that, I now throw out this question: When was the last order of knights commissioned? Two were in 1917. Were they the last? Actually, no…
The Most Honorable Order of Christian Knights Of The Rose was commissioned on July 4, 2001 by the late Right Reverend Peter Compton-Caputo, Bishop of the Anglican Independent Communion. An ecumenical international organization, the Christian Knights of the Rose received a Papal blessing September 2003 from Pope John Paul II, Royal Patronage June 2005, and a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI November 2006.
The first question I asked, and that I take is common to hear, was “What authority did Bishop Compton-Caputo have to authorize such an organization?” I was quite surprised at the answer. Bishop Compton-Caputo’s ecclesiastical authority as a Bishop can be traced in a direct line back through two Popes (Benedict XIV, 1740-1758 and Nicholas I, 858-867) to St. Peter… THE St. Peter. Ecclesiastical fons honorums (fount of honor) include historically recognized religious leaders such as the Pope in his capacity as the Bishop of Rome, Eastern Rite Patriarchs, and Protestant Bishops with a documented apostolic line of succession. Bishop Compton-Caputo obviously qualified as such.
So, who are these people and what do they do? They are leaders in their communities – both personal and professional – from around the world. Indeed, the Christian Knights of the Rose have chapters in the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Sweden, Russia, England and Wales. When I first discovered it I was very suspicious: the cop in me coming out. What I’ve found is a well-documented and historically supported organization of people who strive to meet all of the personality characteristics described above.
So, if you thought the “knights of old” were dead, you were only half right. The PEOPLE may be dead, but the ideas they embraced; the concepts they believed in; the justice they served is still quite alive and well… and growing. And we all need those ideals to continue to grow. LtCol Grossman compares modern day law enforcement professionals to the paladin of old; the comparison is a good one, and the character traits that made those Knights so enviable are character traits our law enforcement professionals today should strive to integrate into their lives and selves.
In a different article I discussed the character traits that were desirable in a Contemporary Warrior. I submit to you that ANY contemporary warrior is a modern day paladin. Virtually all of them would be well served to pursue those character traits listed above:
- Largesse (being generous)
- Prowess (being skilled)
- Franchise (complimenting others)
Aren’t those all character traits that our public – the citizenry we serve – would love to see in all law enforcement professionals? We’re all human, so mistakes would still be made, but if our police officers, deputy sheriffs and soldiers all made an earnest effort to integrate those traits into their lives, how much would our complaint rate drop? I can only believe that the level of respect for contemporary warriors would grow.