Knights order to discuss Holy Land in Denver meeting

A Vatican-approved lay order of knights and ladies charged with protecting Christianity in the Holy Land announced it will hold its annual meeting in Denver in the fall of 2014.

Some 700 members of the North American division of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem will gather to discuss ways to preserve Christianity and raise awareness of Christian suffering during its meeting Sept. 19-21 in the Denver Archdiocese. Prelates and priests will join the meetings and liturgies at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Holy Ghost Church in Denver.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila spoke to the order’s northern lieutenancy that met in Des Moines, Iowa,  September 2013.

“In the Holy Land the situation has not deteriorated as drastically as it has in Syria, but Christians there are still faced with difficult circumstances that lead many of them to emigrate,” said the Denver archbishop, who is a member of the order. “The unrest in places like Syria, Egypt and Iraq has contributed to a refugee crisis in the region, and this has impacted Christians, too. In Syria alone, the two-year conflict has caused 450,000 of the country’s almost 2 million Christians to flee their homes.”

He added that a reported 58 percent of Christians—from 70 percent down to 12 percent—left Bethlehem over the past several years, according to the order.

Patrick and Joan Bridges are co-chairs for the order’s publicity committee, planning the annual meeting that will include local speakers, including Tim Gray of the Augustine Institute, general meetings for members, and an investing of those inducted into the order. The general meetings will be held at the Hyatt Regency Denver.

A welcome Mass is scheduled at 5 p.m. Sept. 19 at Holy Ghost Church. Masses will also be held Sept. 20 and Sept. 21 in the afternoon at the Cathedral Basilica, when new members will be inducted. Knights and ladies are recognized by their white or black capes marked with the Cross of Jerusalem, the emblem of the order.

The public is invited to the liturgies.

The members will discuss specifically how to support and foster a Christian presence in the Holy Land through prayer, finances and pilgrimages.

“It’s going to be great because it will provide more of an awareness of the suffering of the Christians in the Holy Land,” said Joan Bridges. “The Church is universal and we need to recognize those members who are suffering and reach out.”

The order dates back to the first crusade when Godfrey de Bouillon liberated Jerusalem. The crusader leader reorganized the religious, military and public bodies of the Muslim-free territory and founded the Order of the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, according to the order. Baldwin I, king of Jerusalem, then assumed leadership of the canonical order and appointed successors.

Today, the order is charged with strengthening members in the practice of Christianity, sustaining charitable works and institutions of the Church in the Holy Land, preserve the faith and uphold the rights of the Church.

Archbishop Aquila urged all members to be active in the public square and have courage to be joyful witnesses to the faith and not to “hesitate to speak up for Christians who are being persecuted in the Middle East.”


Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem

The northern lieutenancy’s annual meeting will be held Sept. 19-21, 2014 in the Denver Archdiocese. The gathering will include general meetings at the Hyatt Regency Denver, liturgies at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Holy Ghost Church, and an investing of new members to the order. To learn more, visit


COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.