As the first Grand Sovereign of the United Grand Imperial Council of the Red Cross of Constantine and Appendant Orders for the United States of America, Mexico, and the Philippines (RCC) to officially visit Mexico, I was looking forward to the Annual Assembly of the City of Mexico.
My US Airways flight from Phoenix, Arizona arrived without incident in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 10, 2011. When I approached the luggage area and customs, I realized that language is a barrier to communication. The people in line could not understand my Spanish or English, and I could not understand their English or Spanish. The language barrier seemed insurmountable until Denny Strole, my Intendant General for the Division of Mexico and Grand Master of the York Grand Lodge of Mexico, F. & A.M., met me on behalf of the City of Mexico RCC at the customs gate. The brotherhood and fellowship of the Red Cross seem to dissolve not only language but all barriers. This is true wherever you go in Red Cross.
The City of Mexico Conclave, established on May 24, 1944, is representitave of our smaller conclaves. It is allowed a total of thirty members. At present the Knights-Companion number seventeen. Membership is drawn from throughout Mexico, primarily from the major cities, Mexico City, D.F., Guadalajara, Jalisco, Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and Ajijic, Jalisco.
The 2011 Annual Assembly was held on March 10. The City of Mexico Conclave plans to celebrate their 67th anniversary in May 2011, in a city central to all geographic areas in which its members are located. One or two candidates will be received. The 2012 Assembly will be on March 8, 2012, in conjunction with the York Grand Lodge 150th Annual Grand Communication on March 9-10, 2012.
One of the Conclave's primary concerns is the difficulty the Knights-Companion have in attending United Grand Imperial Council Annual Assemblies and Regional Assemblies. In addition, the members believe that they need to attend the Regional Assembly in order to see the complete Red Cross work. Since Knights-Companion are Mexican-Spanish speakers, the Conclave may investigate translating the work into Spanish.
The Conclave excels in hospitality and fellowship. The night I arrived I was treated by Intendant General, Denny Strole, and his lovely wife, Dagmar, to dinner at a fine local French restaurant. The Conclave dinner was held at Roberto's Restaurant, a local favorite. Knight-Companion William R. Miller, Illustrious Grand Chancellor, United Grand Imperial Council (UGIC); Knight-Companion Sid Leluan, Past Excellent Grand High Priest, Arizona; and Most Worshipful Brother John Engan, III, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Colorado, attended the Conclave dinner and the Grand Masters Banquet at the Hotel Real de Chapala, Ajijic, Jalisco.
The City of Mexico Conclave provided the same friendship, fellowship, and outstanding hospitality given by all our RCC Conclaves.
The Order of the Red Cross of the Constantine historically has been known as an honorable and outstanding Masonic organization. "The RCC is an invitational and honorary body whose only hard and fast requirements are being a Royal Arch Mason and a Trinitarian Christian, but we try to be pretty selective in our members…"1
"Our brethren of the Red Cross of Constantine have written quite a history since its beginning in the United States a century ago, a history that is lived more by each individual Knight Companion and in each Conclave rather than in the record of organization. It is a story of faith in an order that fires the imagination in its search for all things good and beautiful. It is a story of a search for unity among the brethren of this "greatest and oldest of all Knightly orders." It is a story of zeal for promoting the very best of the teachings of the Masonic quest for increasing light."2
The early history of the RCC contains a mixture of fact and legend. The Constantinian Orders are the most ancient of all the chivalric orders and degrees and have a legendary history extending back to the early days of the Christian era, even before the Crusades.3 This most ancient chivalric order of military fraternities owes it origin to a celestial vision. Constantine the Great found the Order of the Red Cross as a memorial to the divine miracle which brought about his conversion to the Christian faith. The Red Cross degree traditionally recites the circumstances attending the conversion of Constantine to the Christian faith and his vision of the cross in the heavens inscripted "IN HOC SIGNO VINCES." It is said that on October 27, 312, Constantine received his vision, and the next day he was victorious. In 313, Constantine's Order of the Knights of the Red Cross received whole-hearted recognition.4
The second and third working orders of the Red Cross, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and The Order of St. John the Evangelist, were first established in 327 or 328 A.D. along with the Order of Knights of the Grand Cross, first conferred in 326 A.D. The Popes of Rome exercised authority over the orders from A.D. 337 to A.D. 1094.5 In 1099 the Order of the Holy Sepulchre was revived and every recruit receiving the Order of the Knight of the Holy Sepulchre or that of St. John was required to wear a red cross on his arm or shield.6
In 1692, Abbe Giustiniani, antachee introduced the Orders of the Red Cross into England.7 In 1760 the Grand Masters of the English and Scottish Knights or the Red Cross of Rome assembled in London and adopted as a requirement for knighthood that the applicant must be a Royal Arch Mason and a Christian. Judge Wallor Rodwell Wright was installed Provisional Grand Sovereign in 1804. A Grand Imperial Council of England was organized and on March 13, 1809, asserted sovereignty throughout Europe and America.
In 1906, Judge Wright set forth in writing objectives for the Red Cross:
"To draw closer the bond of Masonic union, purify the system of Masonic science, extend its limits and increase its influence by combining such of its professors as are best qualified by character and principle, respectability and influence, genius and talent, to effectuate this great purpose.
To prevent the perversion of its institutions and privileges to objects contrary to, and abhorrent from, its original intent.
To combat infidelity and treason under whatever form existing and promote by every humble means the social happiness and eternal welfare of our fellow creatures.
It is therfore necessary:
That we observe the greatest circumspection in the choice of our members and associates.
That we adhere inviolably and scrupulously to the principles and constitutions of our Order.
That we cultivate a strict and fraternal union among ourselves.
And that we on all occasions give our decided preference to intellectual and moral excellence over every other consideration whatsoever."8
Judge Wright's objectives are still practiced today.
The Red Cross Orders were conferred at various times in the United States in Colonial times, but it was not until 1869 that the order was officially introduced in the Western Hemisphere. Between the years 1870 and 1872, Conclaves were instituted in various states in the United States. The United States Premier Conclave was constituted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 14, 1870, the Premier Conclave and thirteen others received permission from England to establish a Grand Imperial Conclave of Pennsylvania. It became the Grand Imperial Council Empire of the East.
St. John Premier Conclave was established in Chicago, Illinois on August 30, 1872, and along with other Conclaves in the area, established the Grand Imperial Council of Illinois which later became the Grand Imperial Council Empire of the West.
The Empire of the West and the Empire of the East merged on February 18, 1958, to form the United Grand Imperial Council of the order which we have today. The UGIC includes all of the states in the United States except Maine, the countries of Mexico and the Philippines, and Conclaves in several other countries and territories around the world. The 139th Annual Assembly will be in Boise, Idaho, on June 9-11, 2011.
The United Grand Imperial Council now has 7,500 Knights-Companion. All the Conclaves, no matter where situated, provide excellent hospitality and friendship. Knights-Companion always act in faith and unity with zeal (FUZ).
1 Frederick G. Kleyn, III, KGC, Right Illustrious Grand Recorder, United Grand Imperial Council, RCC
2 Historical Sketch, Knights of the Red Cross of the Constantine and Appendant Orders for the USA, Mexico, Philippines, [United Grand Imperial Council Centennial Assembly, 1972, 2nd printing, May2002], Herbert Ewing Duncan, GHP, pp. 47-48, quoting Sir Knight Ford Q. Elvidge, KGC "Allocution", Seattle, WA: July 26, 1958
3 Herbert Ewing Duncan, p. 17
4 Herbert Ewing Duncan, p. 17-20
5 Herbert Ewing Duncan, p. 23
6 Herbert Ewing Duncan, quoting Michaud, History of the Crusades, p. 23
7 Herbert Ewing Duncan, p. 27, citing An Accurate Historical Account of all Orders of Knighthood, published in London, England.
8 Herbert Ewing Duncan, p. 33, citing John Hervey, P.S.G. Deacon, Grand Secretary, United Grand Lodge of England, Freemasons' Hall, London, 1 September 1870.
James C. Herndon