Young Catholic men find joy and fulfillment in ‘knightly’ service of Christ’s Eucharistic Presence
The Knights of the Holy Eucharist represents part of the resurgence of vocations in the Catholic Church.
Knights of the Holy Eucharist leading the faithful into a deeper love for the Lord in the Holy Eucharist through their work at the magnificent Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Angels Monastery in rural Hanceville, Ala.
Today, members of the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, a vibrant community of consecrated young men deeply committed to the Catholic faith, provide that very service for their Lord and King, Jesus Christ, through their work at the magnificent Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Angels Monastery in rural Hanceville, Ala. Situated on 400 acres of lush farmland along a remote country road some 45 miles north of Birmingham, the Shrine receives thousands of pilgrims each year who seek to nourish their faith amid this sacred and peaceful environment.
The Shrine and monastery, home to a cloistered community of Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, were founded by Mother Angelica, the beloved nun who entered religious broadcasting in 1981 on little more than a prayer and developed the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), the largest and most popular religious media network in the world. EWTN is headquartered some 50 miles to the south in the Birmingham suburb of Irondale, where the nuns resided in the original monastery until their relocation to the present site in 1999.
In the spirit of St. Francis
The Knights of the Holy Eucharist represents part of the resurgence of vocations in the Catholic Church developing from the “new evangelization” promoted by Pope John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI. Its members have as their primary focus the fostering of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament as well as the assistance and protection of the nuns of the monastery. Along with maintaining the grounds and facilities, the Knights host clergy, brothers, and seminarians on retreat; serve as acolytes at Shrine liturgies; and provide assistance for pilgrims.
Community members live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience but do not profess public vows. In their daily work and personal contact with pilgrims, the Knights also seek opportunities to evangelize by performing works of charity and providing instruction and comfort when necessary. Putting aside the things of this world, they live by the motto of their patron, St. Francis of Assisi: “My God and my All.”
The Knights strive for a structured balance of work and prayer. In addition to their assigned labors, Knights participate daily in Mass, the Rosary, Morning and Evening Prayer, and two hours of scheduled adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. They also take formation classes three days a week, make a Holy Hour on Thursday evenings, and plan a monthly one-day retreat.
Luke Johnasen, whose religious name is Brother Laurence, finds the life of a Knight to be very fulfilling. He entered the community in 2006 after visiting his younger brother Nyles (Brother Philip), who had joined the Knights a few years earlier after making a retreat at the Shrine.
“When I saw the Knights and how they lived their lives in work and prayer, with daily adoration, it really seemed to speak to me,” said Brother Laurence, 28, who is originally from Hilo, Hawaii. “Even when we are not physically in the chapel of adoration, we are doing work around the chapel all day long, so we are still doing work centered on the Blessed Sacrament.”
David Rodriguez, known as Brother Juan, became part of the community at the age of 18. The formation he has received there has given him “a deeper understanding of how God’s grace works in each and every one of our hearts,” he said.
Now 21, Brother Juan said that the sacrifices he has made to pursue his vocation bring him “a fulfillment largely in the joy that comes from answering God’s call.”
Called to serve
Like EWTN, the Knights of the Holy Eucharist was the inspiration of Mother Angelica herself. In the summer of 1998, with the Shrine under construction and nearly 18 months from completion, the foundress decided to start a new community of men dedicated to maintaining the facility, assisting at liturgies, and providing hospitality for pilgrims. Among those she invited to consider this vocation in consecrated life was 35-year-old James Fazzini, who had only recently come to work at the monastery. “What have you got to lose by trying it?” she asked him. He joined the Knights that August and in December received Brother David as his religious name.
Initially, the Knights boarded temporarily in a house just down the road. “We took an existing pole barn on the monastery grounds and converted it into living quarters because Mother wanted us to be on the property,” said Brother David, who presently serves as the Brother Guardian of the community. “We’ve added to it ever since, and now we receive 200 ...
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