Tag Archives: Knights of Columbus

An American story about an Irish priest, a brave girl, and the KKK

Father James Coyle                                                     en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

Each and every one of us is an individual work of art, crafted by God for Himself. Why would He do that? He does it because He is Love and wants to share Himself with us. We all are truly special in His eyes. He loves us all, individually and without reservation.

 

He will forgive each and every one of us for anything we might do to offend Him. All we have to do is admit it and ask Him for his forgiveness. However, that great interloper called “Pride”, oftentimes places for many, immovable roadblocks to humility, everyone’s needed ally on their path to Love.

 

What follows is an “American” story about a Catholic priest and a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is about love and hatred in America. This is not about the present day. This happened in Birmingham, Alabama in the year 1921.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle had been born and raised in Ireland and, at the age of 23, was ordained a priest in Rome. The year was  1896.  That same year he was dispatched to the Diocese of Mobile, Alabama to begin his ministry. Father Coyle served eight years in Mobile. While there he also became a charter member of Mobile Council 666 of the Knights of Columbus.

 

Birmingham was rapidly growing and was turning into one of the primary steel-making centers in America. Thousands were flooding into the area and Bishop Patrick Allen assigned Father Coyle to be pastor of the Cathedral of St. Paul in Birmingham. This was in 1904.

 

In 1915, inspired by the silent film, “Birth of a Nation” , the second generation of the Ku Klux Klan rose up (the link can explain the first and third generations). These folks were not only anti-black they also hated Roman Catholics, Jews, organized labor and foreigners. They started the use of the “burning cross” as their symbol. By the mid-1920s, there were over 4 million klansmen nationwide.

 

Father Coyle was a passionate priest who loved his faith deeply and this love was infectious. He taught and inspired his parishioners about the beauty and importance of the Mass and Holy Eucharist and he held a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother.

 

The parish grew as Catholics gravitated to the Irish shepherd in their midst. He became the chaplain for the Birmingham Council 635 of the Knights of Columbus and his presence there brought in more members from the growing Catholic community.

 

As the Catholic population in Alabama grew, virtual hysteria on the part of the Ku Klux Klan began to permeate daily life. The Klan was spreading rumors and innuendo about Catholics kidnapping protestant women and children and keeping them imprisoned in convents, monasteries and Catholic hospitals. The Klan even spread the narrative that the Knights of Columbus was the military arm of the Pope and that they were stockpiling weapons for the upcoming insurrection.

 

One of the leading Catholic-haters of the day was a klansman by the name of  Edwin Stephenson. Stephenson lived about a block or two away from St. Paul’s Church. His daughter, Ruth, at about the age of 12, had become fascinated by the comings and goings of the Catholics at St. Paul’s every day. One day she walked down to the church and  Father Coyle was outside. They began to talk. Her father saw talking to the priest and, screaming at his child, demanded she go home immediately. Then he had a few choice words to say to Father Coyle. He then went home and beat his daughter.

 

Young Ruth was undeterred and over the next several years even managed to secretly take instruction from the nuns at the Convent of Mercy. She was baptized a Catholic on April 10,1921. She was 18 years old. When her parents found out their wedding gift to her was the worst beating she had ever received.

 

On August 11, 1921, Ruth Stephenson, of legal age, was seeking full emancipation from her parents. She did this by marrying Pedro Gussman, a former handyman who had worked at the Stephenson house several years earlier. The priest that performed the wedding was a reluctant Father James Coyle.

Later that afternoon, Mr. Stephenson loaded up his rifle and began walking to St. Paul’s Church. He had just found out that it was Father Coyle who had performed the wedding. His heart was not filled with love. Rather, with hatred spilling from his eyes, he walked up onto the porch of St. Paul’s where Father Coyle was sitting down reading and shot the priest three times. The final bullet went right through Father Coyle’s head. He died in less than an hour.

 

Stephenson turned himself in and was charged with Father Coyle’s murder. The KKK paid for the defense, the judge was a Klansman and the lawyer who defended Stephenson was Hugo Black, the future U. S. Supreme Court Justice. Although not a Klan member at the time of trial, Black did become a member afterward. The verdict took only a few hours to come in. It was “Not Guilty”.

 

Father James Edwin Coyle was a Catholic priest who loved his God, his Faith, and his Church. He was hated and murdered because of it. May he forever rest in peace.

 

copyright©Larry Peterson 2017

An Example of the Dark Side of Secularism—attacking the Knights of Columbus

Knights of Columbus Color Guard                                                                    kofcknights.org

By Larry Peterson

I am not going to use any names here. There is no point. Everyone knows who is who.

The Epiphany of the Lord for 2019 will be celebrated on January 6. The entrance antiphon  will read, “Arise Jerusalem, and look to the East and see your children gathered from the rising to the setting of the sun.”  Baruch 5:5

How fitting as we hear how the three wise men from the East, followed the brilliantly shining Star using it as their guide to lead them to the Savior of the world. They were seeking out Goodness and Love, and all they wished to do was worship the One who brought it.

Flash forward 2000+ years and we head into the year 2019.  Two political “rising stars” from the West (who also happen to be United States Senators; one from California and one from Hawaii)  have decided to attack a man who has been named for consideration for a seat on the United States District Court in Nebraska. They are pounding the print and media with their message saying this man is not qualified to be a judge because his views are “extreme.” They know this because he is a member of the Knights of Columbus. Herod would be proud.

The Senator from Hawaii has decided that the Catholic views on abortion and same-sex marriage held by the Knights of Columbus are “extreme.” The Senator from California depicted the Knights as “an all-male society” and asked the judicial nominee if he was aware that the Knights of Columbus “opposed a woman’s right to choose” and were against “marriage equality.” In the new democratic party approving of abortion and same ex-marriage seems to be the litmus test as to whether or not you are “good or bad.”

Those two senators are not the only two trashing the judicial candidate for being Catholic and a member of the Knights of Columbus. Most of those who call themselves “Democrat” is too. These people seem to think that the desire to honor and protect life and traditional marriage (you know, between a man and a woman) makes you an ‘extremist”.

Why even the incoming Speaker of the House, a “devout” Catholic, proudly teaches that abortion is a woman’s “sacred right.”  This flies into the very core of Catholic teaching and is an abomination created for political gain. What has happened to truth, honor,  and integrity?

Here is the thing; I am a member of the Knights of Columbus and have been a member since 1964. I also have another 1.9 million men around the world whom I call “Brother.” You see, we Knights are all Brothers and proud of it.

We proudly proclaim our core principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity, and Patriotism without shame or hesitation.   We respect and defend life all over the world. We (the Knights of Columbus) donated over $185 million and  K of C Service hours valued at $1.9 billion in 2017.

Our charitable activities include the Christian Refugee Relief Fund, Disaster Relief, the Ultrasound Initiative, Coats for Kids, Special Olympics, the Global Wheelchair Mission, and Habitat for Humanity. Plus so much more at the local levels by so many K of C Councils spread from coast to coast and around the world.

So you see, when these very important people decide they do not like our principles and beliefs and think they are picking on only one person (Re: Brett Kavanaugh) they are not. They are trashing millions of people and 1.9 million of them are members of the Knights of Columbus.

One final thought, the senator from California, suggested that the Knights of Columbus is  “an all-male society. She might do a bit more research because she obviously has never heard of the Columbiettes. They are the womens’ branch of the Knights of Columbus and this year they celebrate their 80th anniversary.  Yes, we Knights work hand in hand with our Columbiette Sisters and together, we do great things for others.

From Venerable Fulton J Sheen:   There is no word more “dangerous” than liberalism, because to oppose it is the new “unforgivable sin.”

 

I Watched in Awe as the Priest Stepped into the Sandals of Christ

By Larry Peterson

What follows is about a priest in a crowd, a famous poem, and a moment in time. The moment was like seeing a tiny flower growing out of a crack in a concrete sidewalk. That tiny flower is another example of God’s creative beauty that surrounds us yet is barely noticed by anyone. The fate of that tiny flower is ominous. Even though no person anywhere at any time could ever create that fragile, work of living beauty, it more than likely will be ignored, stepped upon or sprayed with weed killer to get rid of it. Ah well, we “smarties” have no time for such trivialities and petty annoyances.

 

The poem I refer to is, “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. Written in 1913, it has a timely message. There is a line in the poem that reads, “A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray: the tiny flower in the concrete is a smaller version, is it not? So what about the priest in the crowd?

 

I was at a parish event the other evening which featured as speakers our Bishop, an author, a radio station personality, and our pastor. The Knights of Columbus (which included me) were the ones who prepared and served the free dinner to over 300 guests. The parish center was packed and when the final speaker had finished we began to serve the dessert.  I sensed something special was going on nearby. I do not know if anyone else but me was paying attention but I was about to witness one of those special moments in time.

 

There were a number of local parish priests in attendance and one of them was the chaplain at the local VA hospital. I was working in the kitchen assisting getting the cake plates on trays and handing the trays to those serving the guests. Outside the kitchen and to my left against the wall was the drink table where coffee, tea, cold drinks etc were available. At any given time there were at least ten people standing in line. Five feet away from the drink table was the first row of dinner tables. Father was sitting at the end of the first table talking to a woman.

 

At this point, the chatter was quite loud and people were up and moving about visiting other tables saying “HI” to other folks they knew. I noticed Father looking at the young lady very intently and purposefully. I knew this priest had put his Jesus’ sandals on.

 

I kept working and watching the two of them. They were at least twenty feet away from me and, with all the activity and noise and people milling about and all around them, they had managed to be alone. The priest listened and listened and listened some more.  I watched as best I could because this was so awe-inspiring. I was witnessing Christ do His thing through His priest. This happens every time we attend Mass but how many of us think about what actually IS happening? We hear of this happening in other places but how often do we get to watch it happen? Hardly ever.

 

After a while, Father leaned his head to the right a bit and rested his chin on his upraised fist. He was not looking directly at the woman he was now sort of looking downward. He inconspicuously blessed her and, I assume, she was being given absolution. I was not positive because  I had heard nothing and never even saw her face. But it did not matter. Whatever was happening between them was spiritual and beautiful.

 

Like the tiny flower popping its little lavender petal through a crack in concrete or Kilmer’s magnificent tree looking at God all day lifting its “leafy arms to pray” this moment was those moments. Few people notice the stunning Oak tree standing majestically alongside a roadway or a blade of grass pushing its way through a hairline crack in a slab of cement. Sadly, more and more people are losing sight of Christ in our midst and the hand of the Creator smiling down on His creations. I was blessed. I caught a glimpse the other night.

 

Joyce Kilmer’s poem finishes up with the poignant words: “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”  We need to remember that.

Artwork from SimpleMassingPriest.com