By: Paul Luke Keh
I was drawn to write about this topic because of a comment a friend made during a discussion a group of us were having over dinner at the start of last semester. Asked about my extra-curricular activities in Georgetown, I came to talked about my involvement in the Knights of Columbus. Mentioning the Knights as a fraternity immediately drew laughter, and someone commented, “That’s not a fraternity.”
Perhaps it was my insecurity as an international student and freshman, but at that point I never got to defend the Knights as a fraternity, because I was afraid that I misunderstood what a fraternity was. Having never grown up in the US (I lived in Singapore all my life), my only understanding about fraternities before I came to the US was in stories about “frat parties” and that it was some sort of brotherhood.
But joining the Knights six months ago changed that perspective quite a bit: I saw true Christian brotherhood, opportunities to speak about my faith and hear the stories of my other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be there for the poor in our society.
To me, fraternity is so much more than an “organised brotherhood”, especially in the case of Christian fraternity. Christ called his apostles from all walks of life, and together they journeyed with him, even after Jesus’s death and resurrection. As Christians, we are all called to be people of great character and to live our lives in communion with Christ.
But alone, we can only do so much: all of us have our personal troubles and failings, and without a community from which we can draw strength from through mutual support, sometimes we are consumed by these things that draw us away from God. This was something that I experienced sometimes before I joined the Knights here in Georgetown.
The privilege of being in a fraternity is that we can push each other, and ourselves, to abide more deeply in our faith, so that together we draw closer to God and be examples within our communities of what our faith stands for.
Pope Francis had this to say about the importance of community and fraternity in living out our Christian faith with mercy and understanding.
“In reality, before the Lord we are all sinners and all in need of forgiveness. All of us. Indeed, Jesus told us not to judge. Fraternal correction is an aspect of the love and the communion that should reign in the Christian community. It is a mutual service that we can and must render to each other … and it is possible and effective only if each person recognizes himself as a sinner and in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. The same awareness that enables me to recognize the errors of the other; first of all reminds me that I myself have made, and make mistakes, many times.”
— Angelus, Sept. 7, 2014
As I look back on my first semester with the Knights, I give thanks for all that this community has given me. It was not easy being an international student, alone in a new country, but I found a family here: one that looks out for one another, and one that looks to serve the vulnerable in our society.
Moving forward, we should continue to be open to expanding our fraternity so that others may come to experience the warmth of Christian fellowship and the joy that stems from a closer relationship with Christ.