SILENT KNIGHT… a calling to service

By Colonel (Ret.) Craig L. Carlson

Do you seek a way to serve God in your daily life? I do and have been blessed immeasurably by this service. Most of us have an empty spot that needs to be filled spiritually. For many, the Silent Knight Program has filled that need and benefited many others in the process.

Silent Knight was an inspiration that resulted from three experiences in my life. First, was being raised in a Christian home that believed in taking care of people in the community. My parents would provide a gift to people that were struggling or grieving and my brother, sister or I would be sent to deliver the gift. This created an appreciation for charity in my life. Second, as a Battalion Commander, I was also Vice President of a charity program called “Operation Santa Claus” in El Paso, Texas. This experience showed me the willingness of people to give and the heart people had for children. “OpSanta” provided over 27,000 toys to needy children during the two years I had the pleasure of serving the people of greater El Paso and Fort Bliss, Texas. Third, was my investiture into the Knights Templar.

My wife and I were invited to join the Templars in 2000. As an active duty officer in the U.S. Army I was cautious as to organizations I joined. We took three months to research the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (SMOTJ) and speak with various members of the Order. We accepted the invitation and traveled to New Orleans for our investiture in the St. Louis Cathedral. At dinner, I asked one of the knights, “What makes us different? Yesterday, I woke up and was not a knight, tomorrow I will wake up and be a knight… what will be different?” He responded that I could donate to this or that cause and support the Holy Land. I must say I was disappointed in the answer because I could do all that from my church. What I was seeking was a daily cause that would allow me to be a knight in deed everyday and I was surprised there was no challenge to the members of the Order to “make a difference” everyday. To me, a knight needed a quest, a quest worthy of knighthood. The answer was wrapped up in the words of the Templar motto, “not unto us, Oh Lord, not unto us, but to Thy Name give glory.” The answer was anonymous service.

I began thinking about what type of challenge would be appropriate for a chivalric Christian Order that would empower every member to serve humanity in their daily lives. To make a long story short, the SILENT KNIGHT Program was the result. The book, “SILENT KNIGHT” was published in August of 2001… and I must say I was only the scribe as I didn’t have a choice in writing it. I was burdened so heavily by the Holy Spirit that not writing it was never an option. With the encouragement of others, such as my wife (Mo), RADM James Carey, Marshall Bachman, Russ Coping, Dale and Susan Leopard, to name a few, the book and the program became a reality.

Mo and I were living in Izmir, Turkey when the book was published. We donated some books to get the concept and story moving among the Templars. H.E. RADM Carey was instrumental in getting the program known. Things were not starting out as we had planned, especially since we were stationed on the other side of the earth, but God was in control. We accepted no donations as we were not a 501c3 and only provided cards and lapel pins to those inspired to anonymously care for people in their community. Emails began to pile up from participants in the program that were sharing stories that were so beautiful they would make me weep. The growth of the program was rapid and frankly surprising. Mo and I decided we would continue to provide Silent Knight cards and lapel pins for free, as long as we were financially capable of doing so. This included covering the cost of mailing both domestically and internationally. Over the years, the good that Silent Knights have performed make the expense pale in significance. It has been the most satisfying effort we have had the pleasure to be a part of. We have been truly blessed. The selfless people that have become Silent Knights reach around the globe, have touched people in over 26 nations, paid for housing, utilities, provided transportation, food, funds, medical support, school supplies, and all types of direct support to needy people within their reach. Silent Knights helped stand up the Commandery of the Holy Land and have provided resources to the people of the Holy Land over the last nine years. Additionally, there have been Silent Knight cards used to provide encouragement to individuals that were struggling with grief, jobs, politics, or private matters, where encouragement was needed more than any other gift.

The Silent Knight program is an inclusive effort… not an exclusive effort. This means anyone that has the heart to serve God in this anonymous program is welcome. While anyone can be a Silent Knight, many Templars joined our ranks from the very beginning, and since that time, many outside the Templars have adopted the principles and serve humanity anonymously. It is all to the glory of God. Since the Silent Knight Program began with Templars, grew into a movement among the Templars, and expanded from there, it is also good to see that the Templar ranks have grown from people first being attracted to the SK Program, demonstrating a heart for service, and then being sponsored into the Knights Templar. Today, Silent Knights serve at all levels of the Templar Order.

Programs that are “Silent Knight” inspired and are run by dedicated men and women willing to make an anonymous difference in their community also continue to inspire others. One such program is located in the western United States. It began with one Silent Knight approaching a school vice principal with a concept where the Silent Knight would pay for items needed by children in that school, and the vice principal would deliver the item, thus keeping the Silent Knight anonymous. This program has grown to support an entire school district and recruited other Silent Knights by demonstrating the heart and possibility of what can be done when good people join together to serve their fellow man without seeking any recognition or reward. We were pleased to sponsor that Silent Knight into the Templar Order.

A couple of churches have adopted the Silent Knight Program. Funds are donated to the church by its congregation through a once per month offering. The congregation nominates needy persons for receiving a Silent Knight gift that will meet a specific need. Silent Knight cards and lapel pins were provided free to the churches and no donations ever left the control of the church. Many were served.

Several years ago the Priory of Saint King Charles the Martyr, under the leadership of former Prior Mike Ching, had cards printed to support the Silent Knight effort as the need for cards became greater and the priory was using a fair amount of them. Those cards have empowered hundreds of Silent Knight activities around the earth and we pray God has been well served by the lives that have been touched. In a few cases, due to cost of mailing and volume, we have given permission to individuals to have cards printed locally at their own expense. No modifications are allowed in the card, logo, or conduct of the Silent Knight program.

On numerous occasions Silent Knights have banded together to meet a specific individual or group need that exceeded the ability of any single individual to address. In these cases, a Silent Knight generally provides a description of the situation and asks other Silent Knights to “chip-in” as their heart and finances allow. A perfect example of this was performed by a Silent Knight (who happens to be a Catholic Priest) in Africa. The Silent Knight nominated an individual to other Silent Knights to garner support a necessary medical operation. The nominee had no idea that God was going to send anonymous aid. The individual had the surgery, recovered, and all costs were paid for by anonymous Silent Knights. Over the years, we know that several thousands of dollars have been provided through these types of activities and, again, needy people have been served.

Now, what makes the Silent Knight Program so unusual in the United States is that every Silent Knight deed is non-tax deductable unless the donation goes to a church or other charity that has partnered with the Silent Knight Program. This is true, out of pocket, individual charity meeting specific needs of people in your community. As the vast majority of Silent Knight gifts go direct from person to person there is no tax advantage allowed in the United States. This is spelled out in our manual of conduct. Some decline to participate because of this… and that is not to say they are not doing other great charitable work. Amazingly enough, lots of people of all backgrounds, financial resources, and locations decide to participate because they believe it is the right thing to do and understand it is a very Biblical principle. “Silent Knight” is not a new idea, it is as old as the Bible. Furthermore, there is no giant bureaucracy that requires anyone to provide a report of anonymous giving conducted as a Silent Knight. Now, I must admit, we love to hear the stories as it encourages us to continue providing cards and lapel pins for free and the stories validate our belief in the goodness of people.

It has been an eye opening experience for Mo and me to see Biblical principles at work in our lives. One thing we have learned is that you cannot give away a blessing without being blessed. We have experienced more joy in our lives from participation as a Silent Knight and having the opportunity to meet other like-minded men and women around the earth. As the leader or caretaker of an anonymous program, it is strange to be so visible and to, at times, be thrust into the spotlight due to this program. The Knights Templar has bestowed rank and awards upon Mo and me for doing what we love. We had no expectations of this nor did we seek it, but the Knights Templar has been generous in their recognition, culminating in my service as Prior of Saint King Charles the Martyr; however, the Templars are not alone. As the Silent Knight program spread, other Orders and organizations have joined in the effort and more good has occurred. We have Knights of Columbus, Ethiopian Orders, other chivalric orders, monasteries, churches, and at least one civic organization performing Silent Knight deeds in their local community or country. To my astonishment, I was nominated by a Silent Knight (and I still do not know who did this) for a knighthood from the Vatican and received this honor from His Holiness Pope John Paul II in recognition of Silent Knight work inspired around the earth. .. by the way, I am not Catholic and remain humbled by this turn of events. Today, I am pleased to say that others are standing up more frequently than me to promote the program. The Knights Templar has been instrumental in the growth and good Silent Knight works that have been performed around the world. As Templar Silent Knights within the Order recruit others to join them in their anonymous charitable crusade both the Order and the Silent Knight Program will continue to grow in numbers and reach.

Silent Knight cards and lapel pins continue to flow to anyone that seeks to serve his fellow man in this anonymous way. We have one litmus test to become a Silent Knight: WILL YOU SERVE GOD IN YOUR COMMUNITY ANONYMOUSLY? If the answer is yes, read the manual of conduct on our website, agree to perform in accordance with the manual, and we will send you a few cards and a pin to begin making a difference. As you perform your charitable work it is good to remember that many Silent Knights have started as unsuspecting participants in the program. A Silent Knight approaches a friend or co-worker and asks them to deliver a gift so that their anonymity can be protected. Once the unsuspecting Squire or Maiden performs the task, frequently they are inspired to become a Silent Knight. The Knights Templar Order has grown through this demonstration of Biblical principle over the last nine years, and we pray the Order will continue to attract members willing to serve God in this anonymous program.