In 1960, Columbian Squires from Nuestra Señora de Monterrey Council 2312 in Monterrey, Mexico, ran a rose from the International Bridge in Laredo, Texas, to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sixty years later, the Knights of Columbus again carried a rose across the International Bridge as part of the Order’s Silver Rose program.
This year’s events look different from that first one held 60 years ago — Knights no longer carry live flowers, but roses cast from silver. Eight silver roses, including one blessed by Pope Francis, now stand in the place of that single flower, and they are shepherded each year by members of the Knights along eight distinct routes that extend from Canada to Mexico. But the intent is the same: to reaffirm the Order's commitment to the sanctity of life and honor the Blessed Virgin under her title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.
“This program has allowed Knights to develop a stronger sense of unity, even across borders and cultures,” said Drew Dillingham, manager of Life programs at the Knights of Columbus.
“Thousands of Knights from different areas — be it neighboring parishes, states, or even countries — have been connected through this program,” Dillingham said. “A unified Order allows us to amplify the impact of our efforts to glorify God and serve our communities.”
This year, Knights from the U.S. and Mexico handed off a silver rose on Dec. 9, the feast day of St. Juan Diego, the first indigenous saint of the Catholic Church who revealed Our Lady of Guadalupe to the world. Attendees at the Dec. 9 event were limited due to an adherence to COVID-19 protocols, with no more than 24 people from both sides of the border. The Knights in Laredo coordinated with the city and with the border patrol to keep the event socially-distant, but still impactful.
To Guadalupe Ortiz, Jr. — a K of C district master in Texas — planning was “challenging,” but he felt the Silver Rose event had to continue despite the pandemic.
“We still have to move forward, we still have to honor Our Lady and we have to persevere,” Ortiz said. “We need to ‘be not afraid,’ which is our state deputy’s motto this year, and show our faith.”
The Knights of Columbus has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. From prayer guides to documentaries to acts of service to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson’s book, Our Lady of Guadalupe has been central to K of C activities.
(Learn more about the Knights’ devotion on our new website dedicated to our patroness)
The Silver Rose program is a crucial aspect of the Knights of Columbus’ expansive pro-life initiatives, which includes supporting the National March for Life in Washington, D.C., and placing more than 1,000 ultrasounds in pregnancy resource centers around the world.
“Among the most important features of the Silver Rose program is its accompanying prayer service that includes the rosary, a litany and an act of consecration. By calling upon the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Knights make their prayers and efforts to support mothers in need and protect the unborn more efficacious,” Dillingham said.
It honors life in yet another way: the program unifies Knights across three different countries, a crucial need today as people, regardless of race and nation, face the effects of a global pandemic. And this principle of unity symbolized by the Silver Rose provides comfort to many Knights, particularly Pedro Bernal.
Bernal, a Knight from San Felipe Council 2687 in Del Rio, Texas, and his wife and daughter contracted COVID-19. It was a strenuous time for Bernal since he is also fighting cancer. Although he and his wife eventually recovered, his daughter Melissa passed away from the effects of the virus on Aug. 5. She was 54 years old.
After her death, a Silver Rose was brought to the Bernals’ home, and it became a focal point for Knights to come together to support a grieving family.
“Having the Silver Rose present during the Novena Rosary [prayed following the death] of their daughter Melissa served a strong symbol of Knights’ devotion to Our Lady and her rosary,” said Tom Cabello, a Knight from San Felipe Council 2687. “Knights coming together to partake in the rosary also serves as an example of our commitment to charity and unity.”
In a year of uncertainty and cancellations, Ortiz believes this occasion — the 60th anniversary of the program — in the aftermath of the beatification of Father Michael J. McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, should be a “shot in the arm” for the Knights.
“For the beatification to happen this year, it only bolsters our fervor in moving forward,” he said. “We have someone on our side other than our mother, Mary, and all of the angels and saints and St. Michael the Archangel. We should continue moving forward and know that Father McGivney is praying for us and interceding for us.”
Originally published in a weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s archives, click here. Or, share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
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