Once a candidate completes the First Degree ceremony on the lesson of charity, he is considered a Knight of Columbus and can participate in all council activities. First Degree members are encouraged to attain the Second and Third Degrees, which teach the lessons of unity and fraternity. Upon taking the Third Degree, a member receives full honors of Knighthood and is “Knighted.”
Privileges of Third Degree membership include the ability to serve as a local council officer, and admission to state and Supreme Council business meetings. First and Second Degree members can attend the state and Supreme Council meetings, but they are not allowed in the business sessions.
On February 22, 1900, the first Fourth Degree exemplification or degree ceremony was held in New York City. The Fourth Degree imparts a lesson on the virtue of patriotism. The primary purpose of this degree is to foster the spirit of patriotism in members and the community at large and encourage active Catholic citizenship. Today there are some 300,000 Fourth Degree Knights out of the total 1.8 million member Knights of Columbus.
Local units, called assemblies, draw their members from Knights of Columbus councils. The qualifications for membership in the Fourth Degree are: membership in the Knights for at least one year and being a Third Degree Knight.
A Fourth Degree Knight may become part of the assembly’s color corps. These members are recognized widely by their distinctive attire of tuxedo, feathered hat (chapeau), cape and sword. These members regularly take part in civic events such as parades and wreath-laying ceremonies, and at ecclesial functions at Catholic churches. The various colored capes and chapeau feathers denote different officer positions within the Fourth Degree.