There are so many written and un-written traditions throughout the Knights of Columbus. Some of them are listed below, others are not. If you think of one that we should have listed, e-mail us at


  • Opening/Closing Odes
  • Vivat Jesus, the universal greeting of the Knights
  • The KC salute, normally given to the presiding officer at meetings
  • Gavel hits at KC meetings and what they mean


Opening and Closing Odes- Many Councils will begin and end their meetings with song. Here are the lyrics-

The Opening Ode (to the tune of O Tannebaun)

Sing ye praises loud and long,
And let the unenlightened know
In every echo of your song,
The great deeds done, tho' long ago,
By Columbus of the valiant soul,
Who first old Neptune has controlled,
Despite of envy, intrigue, gold
In the dim past of long ago.

With vessels three, o'er stormy sea,
He thrill’d the world of long ago,
While wisdom link’d with destiny,
In justice scale its weight did throw.
We are his heirs; we wear his name;
We boast his deeds; we spread his fame;
Our order is the shining flame
That lights the gloom of long ago.


The Closing Ode (to the tune of America)

Now our evening's work is done,
Then let us ev'ry one,
Join in a song.
Long may our Order stand
Foremost in this free land,
Ready with heart in hand
To right each wrong.

We have a mission great,
True to our Church and State,
Onward we move.
We dry the mourner's tear,
The tired heart we cheer,
Faith in our works appear,
Upheld by Love.

Vivat Jesus, a greeting used between Knights

 Preface- Special thanks to the following pepole in their assistance in gathering this information: Kyle Gallien (College Council Associate, Knights of Columbus Supreme office), Alton Pelowski (Managing Editor of Columbia Magazine), Susan Brosnan (Archivist for the Knights of Columbus Supreme office) and Patrick Korten (Senior Vice President of Communications, Knights of Columbus Supreme office).

The phrase Vivat Jesus comes from the book , "With God's Help- Memoirs of Bishop Charles P. Greco”.  Below is a photo copy of the page of that book which describes his use of that phrase.


In the file, per Supreme Knight Virgil Dechant, Vivat Jesus was introduced around 1980 during the revision of the Ceremonials of the Order (1977-1978) as a method of greeting another Knight.  It came from Bishop Greco's motto.

After a thorough search through the archives of Columbia Magazine we found on page 10 of the October 1978 edition of Columbia an article titled “Portrait of a Prayer:  Vivat Jesus”, we found the following paragraphs:

The underlying theme Vivat Jesus of the 96th annual meeting of the Supreme Council in New Orleans made clear that the activities and programs carried on by the Knights of Columbus must be inspired and nourished by the Catholic faith.

This message was stressed emphatically by Supreme Knight Virgil C. Dechant in his report to the delegates and in his brief address at the States Dinner.  It was underlined in the greetings sent to the delegates by Jean Cardinal Villot, writing as the Secretary of State for the late Pope Paul VI.  It also comprised the substance of the message received from Archbishop Jean Jadot, apostolic delegate in the United States.

It recurred repeatedly in the homily delivered by Archbishop Philip M. Hannan at the opening concelebrated Mass and in the address of Bishop Charles P. Greco, supreme chaplain, at the States Dinner.

The theme received eloquent expression from Bishop Warren L. Boudreaux of Houma-Thibodaux as he spoke at the family hour of prayer during the Wednesday afternoon open session .  The well-attended religious ceremony-an innovation at this year's convention-by itself dramatized the spiritual bedrock which supports all the projects and programs of the Order.

Dechant accented the spiritual motif in the first few words of his annual report by asking all the delegates to join him in placing the Order and his administration under the special protection of the Blessed Mother and by dedicating the convention to the theme Vivat Jesus (Long lives Jesus). The motto graces the episcopal shield of Bishop Greco.

Basically, these few paragraphs are saying that 1978 Supreme Convention's theme was Vivat Jesus; this was the Knights of Columbus' first official use of the phrase. The phrase has passed around from one place to another, and now is used all across the world as a universal greeting of the Knights of Columbus. The phrase is often used at the beginning or end of someone’s remarks. The response is always, Vivat Jesus!



 The KC Salute, usually given to the presiding officer at a meeting

After gaining the attention of the presiding officer (Grand Knight, District Deputy, Supreme Knight, Faithful Navigator, etc), make a sign represeting the tree of the cross, going vertical from high and going low. The response will be the signing of the arm of the cross, going horizontal from left to right.

Hits of the gavel at meetings- what do they mean?


1 hit of the gavel means the Council is to come to order, for membership to be seated, or for signifying the approval of a motion or of some other official act, including declaring new Brothers


   2 hits of the gavel means that the Council officers should rise


      3 hits of the gavel means that the entire council chambers should arise


       4 hits of the gavel signifies the Council should prepare for prayer