As I was listening to the sirens last Sunday my mind started to wander. Was that the Altamont Rescue Squad or a police siren? Years ago when I was much younger our friend, Judy  Hukey, was a member of the Rescue Squad. During the day, if she got a call, I would get a call! We had children the same ages and I was her backup when she was on duty during the day and her husband was at work. Judy would get a call, call me, pack up her kids and drop them off at my house on her way to the Rescue Squad. They even honored me with a “yellow cape” at one of their dinners. I was known as the ‘Flash’ because I could make it to the curb to pick up her girls so fast. When my mind wandered back to church and the sermon, Father Smith was talking about the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a parable told by Jesus and is mentioned in one of the gospels of the New Testament. According to the Gospel of Luke, a traveler, who probably was Jewish, is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the beaten man. Finally, a Samaritan comes along. Samaritans and Jews generally despised each other, but the Samaritan is the one who helps the injured man.

Some Christians, see the parable as exemplifying the ethics of Jesus. The parable has inspired painting, sculpture, poetry, and film. The colloquial phrase "Good Samaritan," meaning someone who helps a stranger, derives from this parable, and many hospitals and charitable organizations are named after the "Good Samaritan".

During the days when Jesus lived, as well as long after he died,it was unsafe to travel because of thieves and robbers who would attack, loot and kill small groups of people.

Travel was often delayed until several groups of people could join together and travel as a caravan. These larger caravans would often be transporting goods for sale from one city to another. Because of the value of these goods they often hired someone to protect them on their travels.

For the next thousand years there were many battles fought over the control of Jerusalem. After the First Crusade recaptured Jerusalem in 1099, many Christian pilgrims traveled to visit what they referred to as the Holy Places. However, though the city of Jerusalem was under relatively secure control, the rest of the area was not. Bandits abounded, and pilgrims were routinely slaughtered, sometimes by the hundreds, as they attempted to make the journey from the coastline into the Holy Land.

In 1120, a French knight approached King Baldwin II of Jerusalem, and proposed creating a monastic order for the protection of these pilgrims. King Baldwin agreed to the request. The king granted the Templar's a headquarters in a wing of the royal palace on the Temple Mount in the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Temple Mount had a mystique because it was above what was believed to be the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. The Crusaders therefore referred to the Al Aqsa Mosque as Solomon's Temple, and it was from this location that the new Order took the name of Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon, or "Templar" knights. The Order, with about nine knights, had few financial resources and relied on donations to survive. Their emblem was of two knights riding on a single horse, emphasizing the Order's poverty.

A Templar Knight was truly a fearless knight, and secure on every side, for his soul was protected by the armour of faith, just as his body was protected by the amour of steel. “He is thus doubly armed, and did not fear neither demons nor men."

The Templar's impoverished status did not last long. They had a powerful advocate in a leading church figure and was  a nephew of one of the founding knights. The knight put his weight behind the Templars and wrote persuasively on their behalf in the letter 'In Praise of the New Knighthood'. In 1129, he led a group of leading churchmen to officially approve and endorse the Order on behalf of the Church. With this formal blessing, the Templars became a favored charity throughout Christendom, receiving money, land, businesses, and noble-born sons from families who were eager to help with the fight in the Holy Land.

Another major benefit came in 1139, when Pope Innocent II, exempted the Order from obedience to local laws. This ruling meant that the Templars could pass freely through all borders and were not required to pay any taxes, and were exempt from all authority except that of the pope.

With its clear mission and ample resources, the Order grew rapidly. Templars were often the advance force in key battles of the Crusades, as the heavily armored knights on their warhorses would set out to charge at the enemy, in an attempt to break opposition lines. One of their most famous victories was in 1177 during a battle where some 500 Templar knights helped several thousand infantry to defeat Saladin's army of more than 26,000 soldiers. 

Although the primary mission of the Order was military, relatively few members were combatants. The others acted in support positions to assist the knights and to manage the financial infrastructure. The Templar Order, though its members were sworn to individual poverty, was given control of wealth beyond direct donations. A nobleman who was interested in participating in the Crusades might place all his assets under Templar management while he was away. Accumulating wealth in this manner throughout Christendom, the Order began generating letters of credit for pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land. Pilgrims deposited their valuables with a local community of Templars before embarking, received a document indicating the value of their deposit, then used that document upon arrival in the Holy Land to retrieve their funds. This innovative arrangement was an early form of banking, and may have been the first formal system to support the use of checks; it improved the safety of pilgrims by making them less attractive targets for thieves, and also contributed to the Templar coffers.

Based on this mix of donations and business dealings, the Templars established financial networks across the whole of Christendom. They acquired large tracts of land, both in Europe and the Middle East; they bought and managed farms and vineyards; they built churches and castles; they were involved in manufacturing, import and export; they had their own fleet of ships; and at one point they even owned the entire island of Cyprus. The Order of the Knights Templar qualifies as the world's first multinational corporation.

In the mid-12th century the Muslim world had become more united under effective leaders such as Saladin, and dissension arose among Christian factions in and concerning the Holy Land. The Knights Templar were at odds with the two other Christian military orders,  the Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights. Decades of feuds weakened Christian positions, politically and militarily. After the Templars were involved in several unsuccessful campaigns, Jerusalem was captured by Saladin's forces. The Crusaders retook the city in 1229, without Templar aid, but held it only briefly. In 1244, the Turks recaptured Jerusalem, and the city did not return to Western control until 1917 when the British captured it from the Ottoman Turks.

With the Order's military mission now less important, support for the organization began to dwindle. The situation was complex though, as over the two hundred years of their existence, the Templars had become a part of daily life throughout Christendom. The organization’s Templar Houses, hundreds of which were dotted throughout Europe and the Near East, gave them a widespread presence at the local level. The Templars still managed many businesses, and many Europeans had daily contact with the Templar network, such as by working at a Templar farm or vineyard, or using the Order as a bank in which to store personal valuables. The Order was still not subject to local government, making it everywhere a "state within a state"—its standing army, though it no longer had a well-defined mission, could pass freely through all borders. This situation heightened tensions with some European nobility, especially as the Templars were indicating an interest in founding their own monastic state.

In 1305, the new Pope Clement V, based in France, sent letters to both the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay and the Hospitaller Grand Master Fulk de Villaret to discuss the possibility of merging the two Orders. Neither was amenable to the idea, but Pope Clement persisted, and in 1306 he invited both Grand Masters to France to discuss the matter. De Molay arrived first in early 1307, but de Villaret was delayed for several months. While waiting, De Molay and Clement discussed charges that had been made two years prior by an ousted Templar. It was generally agreed that the charges were false, but Clement sent King Philip IV of France a written request for assistance in the investigation.

King Philip was already deeply in debt to the Templars from his war with the English and decided to seize upon the rumors for his own purposes. He began pressuring the Church to take action against the Order, as a way of freeing himself from his debts.

On Friday, 13 October 1307 (a date sometimes spuriously linked with the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition) Philip ordered de Molay and scores of other French Templars to be simultaneously arrested. The arrest warrant started with the phrase : "Dieu n'est pas content, nous avons des ennemis de la foi dans le Royaume" ["God is not pleased. We have enemies of the faith in the kingdom"]. The Templars were charged with numerous offences. Many of the accused confessed to these charges under torture, and these confessions, even though obtained under duress, caused a scandal in Paris, The Templars were accused of idolatry.

After more bullying from Philip, Pope Clement then issued the papal bull which instructed all Christian monarchs in Europe to arrest all Templars and seize their assets. Pope Clement called for papal hearings to determine the Templars' guilt or innocence, and once freed of the Inquisitors' torture, many Templars recanted their confessions. Some had sufficient legal experience to defend themselves in the trials, but in 1310 Philip blocked this attempt, using the previously forced confessions to have dozens of Templars burned at the stake in Paris.

In September 2001, a document known as the "Chinon Parchment" dated August 17–20, 1308 was discovered in the Vatican Secret Archives, apparently after having been filed in the wrong place in 1628. It is a record of the trial of the Templars and shows that Clement absolved the Templars of all heresies in 1308 before formally disbanding the Order in 1312, as did another Chinon Parchment dated 20 August 1308 addressed to Philip IV of France, also mentioning that all Templars that had confessed to heresy were "restored to the Sacraments and to the unity of the Church". This other Chinon Parchment has been well known to historians.

The current position of the Roman Catholic Church is that the medieval persecution of the Knights Templar was unjust, that nothing was inherently wrong with the Order or its rule, and that Pope Clement was pressed into  his actions by the magnitude of the public scandal and by the dominating influence of King Philip IV, who was Clement's relative.

By the time I returned from my reveries and my mind wandered back to “The Good Samaritan” parable that Father Smith was discussing. I realized that just as in that parable it does not matter what century we are in, or who we are, there will always be someone who disagrees with our beliefs and will attack us for those beliefs. There will always be someone who will try to steal from us and will often do that with lethal force. There will also always be someone who will see when we are in trouble, or in need, and will give us a helping hand if they can. It is up to all of us to help when we can. We may not need to carry someone  to a shelter, or dress someone's wounds, but we can do so many other good deeds for others. What are you going to do today to be a "Good Samaritan" to someone?


Reminder:  This year's Vacation Bible School will be held August 19 - 23.  As in the past, it will be held at St. John's Lutheran Church on Maple Avenue.   The annual event is sponsored by the Altamont churches. Children who have completed 3 year old preschool through grade 5 are eligible to participate in this ecumenical VBS.  Each church has reservation forms. 

  Save the date

Golfers take notice:  St. Lucy/St. Bernadette Church will hold its 8th Annual Golf Tournament on  Monday, September 16th.  Note that the event will be held at Pine Haven Country Club.  Registration forms are available in the Church's Gathering Space.  More info to follow.

  Concert in the park

"Thirteen Feet of Bluegrass will be featured on Tuesday, July 30th sponsored by the Altamont Free Library.  This group will keep your feet tapping.  The concert is open to the community and surrounding area free of charge. Show time is 7:00 p.m.  Bring along your chair or blanket for you own comfort.   In the event of inclement weather, the event will be held in the Community Room, 115 Main Street.  Donations will be accepted and appreciated.

School supplies

The community of Altamont are seeking school items for the Food Pantry and the children in the Hilltowns.  Items needed include: 3- ring Binders, 3 Hole filler paper, Composition notebooks,index cards, high lighter, post-Its, pencil cases, pink erasers, rulers, scissors, bBack packs, etc.  All donations can be left in the Gathering Space at St. Lucy/St. Bernadette's Church.

 Cyprus family

 Members of Cyprus Temple and family members are reminded that the annual family picnic will be held on August 4th at the Cyprus Shrine Center. There will be plenty of food, music and games for all to enjoy.        Tickets are $8 for an individual and $15 for a family.  Reservations are required and should be made with Ray Brook at 945-2912.


Happy Anniversary wishes are extended  to Marg and Mike Keogh who will celebrate their special day on July 26th.


Happy Birthday wishes are extended to the following:

        Mario Sbardella and Natalie Naginey on July 26th;

        Christine Bendzlowicz and Stephanie Harrison on July 28th and,

        Kaylin Amanda Battista, Kyle Douglas Efaw and Tanya Stevens on July 29th.