What is the 4th Degree? 

The Fourth Degree was not one of the original principles of the order. Originally, our principles were based on Charity, Unity, and Fraternity. However in 1886, the principal of Patriotism was considered as an addition to the original principals for multiple reasons. The rapid expansion of the Order across Canada and the United States, the enthusiasm generated by ceremonials, and activities of the first three Degrees generated a great interest for the establishment of the Fourth Degree. It was said, however, that the driving force behind the 4th Degree was the then prevalent spirit of anti-Catholicism which questioned a Knight's loyalty and patriotism. Knights were also falsely charged with owing our allegiance to the Pope in Rome and being less loyal and devoted to our own country. The establishment of the Fourth Degree, dedicated to the principle of Patriotism, was a rebuttal of such charges.By putting words into action a Knight will demonstrate the principal of Patriotism. We do this from multiple fronts:

  • Fourth Degree Knights work for the application of Christian principles at all levels of government.
  • Fourth Degree Knights oppose the institution and development of any forces that would undermine good government.
  • Fourth Degree Knights educate their membership to be defenders of democratic institutions.
  • Fourth Degree Knights provide a greater knowledge and appreciation of our Catholic heritage.
  • Fourth Degree Knights play important roles in charitable and religious activities.
  • Fourth Degree Knights often make public appearances as Honor Guards at religious and civic functions.
  • Fourth Degree Knights often make public appearances as Honor Guards at religious and civic functions.


On February 22, 1900, the first exemplification of that degree was held in New York City. The ritual added patriotism to the three original principles of the Order: Charity, Unity and Fraternity. Now, any Third Degree member in good standing 6 months after the anniversary of his First Degree, is eligible for membership in the Fourth Degree. The primary purpose of the Fourth Degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism by promoting responsible citizenship and a love of and loyalty to the Knights' respective countries through active membership in local Fourth Degree assemblies. Certain members of the Fourth Degree serve as honor guards at civic and religious functions, an activity that has brought worldwide recognition to the Knights of Columbus. You may recognize 4th degree Honor Guard members as they wear a tux, colorful capes, chapeaux (feathered hats), white gloves, and a sword. Our members are challenged to be always ready to sacrifice everything for our Faith and our Country. The response of our Order to the needs of our Country in times of war attests to the fact that we are true to our commitment. From its foundation, the Fourth Degree has provided Honor Guards for religious and civic ceremonies. Marching in our regalia, with the flag of our Country before us, we are clearly identified as individuals who are not afraid to publicly display our devotion to our Country and our Church.

For a while, many people seem to have shied away from giving expression to their feelings for their country, as if such displays of emotion were to be avoided as old fashioned sentimentality. That is now changing. There is an awakening of Patriotism across the land. More and more people are flying the flag and singing their national anthem. This expression of Patriotism has never been more evident in the member nations where our order exists.

Patriotism is, of course, more than waving the flag. It goes beyond expressing love of country and support of its values and institutions. In its best sense, Patriotism involves commitment and action. It requires us to live our lives in such a way that it will strengthen our society, and actively involve ourselves in whatever action may be necessary to remedy our weaknesses.

By joining the Fourth Degree you have enriched your commitment to your country and the Order and you have joined the highest and most prestigious degree in the Knights of Columbus. It is a membership that gives you an opportunity to build pride, show your love for our country, promote responsible citizenship and strengthen your knowledge and appreciation of your Catholic heritage. You can reach your highest potential as a Knight of Columbus and receive the honor to be addressed as “Sir Knight.”