The traditional Order of the Crown of Thorns (OCT) was re-activated on June 14, 1998 by Motion No. 48 of the Christian Catholic Church Board (CCRCC). Its Grand Master (G.M.) is Bishop Serge A. Thériault (right) and it observes the Statutes published in 1893 by Bishop René Vilatte (left), 1st Ordinary of the Christian Catholic Church (CCRCC) and 2nd G.M. of the OCT. According to these Statutes (1893), the charge of G.M. of the OCT is exercised in succession by bishops of the church.
In 1899, Louis-François Girardot, G.M. of the Order of the Lion and Black Cross (OLBC), transfered his charge to Msgr Vilatte and his successors in the Christian Catholic episcopate (CCRCC). Since that time, the OLBC has been a meritorious appendant Order of the OCT. An officer of the Supreme Council of the OCT, appointed by the Bishop G.M., administers the OLBC, with the title of Deputy G.M.
The OCT is a chivalrous and religious order organized June 1, 1891. The order was inspired from a similar order founded in 1239, at the times of the Crusades, and protected by St. Louis, King of France. The King had inherited from the Holy Land the Crown of Thorns worn by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In a Pastoral Letter, Bishop Grand Master Vilatte wrote: "One of the objects of the Order is to have Religious Knights will guard the temple. Above the main altar will hang the painting of St. Louis, King of France, holding the Crown of Thorns".
King Louis built, to house the relic, the Sainte Chapelle which is one of the inspiring visual experiences of Paris. Much of this is due to its stained glass windows which essentially surround the entire upper floor. It is worth visiting and we can surf to the virtual site through the Internet.
The goals of the order are: "to reward those who believe in the God Man, Jesus Christ, and appreciating the grand priviledge of the Christian Faith, heroically propagate its doctrines and combat error under whatever form it may present itself. The Order also has in view to recompense piety, humility and philanthropy wheresoever they may be found". Statutes, Art. 2, 1893.
I, the undersigned, Founder and First Grand Master of the Chivalrous
& Religious Order of the Crown of Thorns (founded 1891.06.01), have
transferred my charge and functions of Grand Master to His Eminence J. René
Vilatte, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Old (Christian) Catholics
in America, and to his successors in the episcopate, with full powers to
confer the grades of the Order, and to make such modifications in them as
he may deem fit for the well-being, honor and perpetuity of the Order.
Given at Portland, Oregon, the 1st of June 1893.
(Rev.) G.J. Ferken.D.D.
The order was attached to the Council of Oversight for the Christian Catholic Rite of Community Churches (CCRCC). The Council was provided with a Bishop (+J.R. Vilatte), who was consecrated in the historic apostolic succession of the Holy See of Antioch in 1892. The Holy See was under Patriarch Ignatius Peter III at the time.
The Council of Oversight was first established in Duvall, Wisconsin, USA. The Episcopal See was transfered to St. Louis Pro-Cathedral Church, Green Bay in 1895 and to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1900. It was re-established there at the time of the restauration, in the 1970s, and the Government of Quebec has issued Letters Patent that created a Religious Corporation for Christian Catholics.
The Grand Masters of the OCT Traditional have been the Bishops Ordinaries of the CCRCC, starting with Bishop J.R. Vilatte (left) (1854-1929), to whom succeeded Bishop Casimir F. Durand (1879-1957). Bishop O'Neill Côté (right), who took office after him, as IIIrd Bishop Ordinary, was a knighted member of the Sovereign Order of Christ and the Sovereign Order of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (Kights of Malta). He served in the Chair till the present Bishop Ordinary took office in 1982, Serge A. Thériault (right).
N.B. Two Crown of Thorns related Orders were listed as illegitimate by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1953, because they are "arbitrary and artificial exhumation of ancient institutions" (Italian Law of 1951.03.10).
The statutes of the order were promulgated on August 2, 1893, in Duvall, Wisconsin. Provisions were made for three categories of members: "commanders, officers and knights. Among them are Religious Knights who live together under a common rule. They wear a ring in addition to the insignia." Religious Knights lived under the rule of the Society of the Precious Blood (S.P.B.) and observed its statutes. These statutes were promulgated in Gardner, Wisconsin, on July 1, 1888, by Bishop Vilatte and Father J.B. Gauthier. The present centre of S.P.B. is in Hull, Quebec.
The insigia of the Order is a cross of Jerusalem in white enamel surrounded
by a crown of thorns in gold. In the centre of the cross is a shield with
the monogram Chi (X) Rho (P) in gold. The ribbon of the Order is of red
silk with a smooth white border."
+J.René Vilatte, Statutes of OCT, 1893
Rt. Rev. Serge A. Thériault
Rev. Father Willard Dionne
Bishop J.R. Vilatte, Chivalrous & Religious Order of the Crown of Thorns Statutes, Forth Howard, Wisconsin. Printed by James Kerr & Son, 1893. This document can be consulted at Quebec National Archives, Western Quebec Centre in Hull, where CCRCC repository is located.
Prof. Daniel Cogné, "Les armoiries de +Joseph René Vilatte", Heraldry in Canada, Vol. XIX, No. 3, Sept. 1985, p. 30-33.
Hull - January 10, 1999
On this feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, 8 news members joined the OCT's Commandery in Hull. It is a turning point, since this event marks the reactivation of this independant chivalrous and religious Order which was founded by Saint Louis, King of France in 1239 to protect the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Today members of the OCT strive to develop fraternal bonds as well as pursuing personal, social and spiritual growth.