On Palm Sunday, many of us awoke to the news that the Vatican had declared our founder, Father Michael J. McGivney, to be a “Venerable Servant of God.” In other words, the Holy Father had determined that Father McGivney indeed lived a life of heroic virtue.
It is clear to the universal Church that Father McGivney is a model of Christian life. He exemplified the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity as well as the moral virtues of humility, prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. He demonstrated these virtues amid the difficulties of his life as a parish priest and in founding the Knights of Columbus.
Pope Benedict XVI has thus far blessed the Church with two encyclicals, Deus Caritas Est (God Is Love) and Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope). Through these encyclicals he has called Catholics to reconsider the basics of their faith and to deepen their intellectual and spiritual understanding of faith, hope and charity.
Now Pope Benedict has blessed our Order with the new proclamation of Father McGivney as “Venerable Servant of God.” With this action the pope is calling every member to imitate the heroic virtue of Father McGivney precisely in terms of the moral and theological virtues.
Let us take Pope Benedict’s action to heart. When confronting the practical difficulties that can arise in our councils, whether in membership or programs, let us recall the fortitude of Father McGivney. Remember his words at one point in our early history, “…the Order I was endeavoring to establish fell back almost lifeless but not dead.” Yet, Father McGivney forged ahead, undeterred from completing his task.
Surely, Father McGivney is an unparalleled model of hope and fortitude in the history of the Knights of Columbus. Perhaps more importantly, he is also an unparalleled model of the virtues of charity, humility, temperance and prudence — virtues that must remain at the heart of a fraternal brotherhood such as the Knights and which must inform the life of each of our councils.
Each of us is called to imitate Father McGivney as a man of Christian virtue in every aspect of our life — both inside and outside the council chamber. We should all celebrate the important step that has been taken in the cause for canonization of our founder. But it is a celebration that brings a deepening responsibility: A loyal Knight of Columbus must also be a faithful spiritual son of Father McGivney; not only as a member, but also as a man.
Near the close of our 125th anniversary year, the Knights of Columbus received a great spiritual gift from our Holy Father. Like all spiritual gifts, this new recognition of Father McGivney’s holiness must be received with both an authentic expression of gratitude as well as a firm spirit of resolution. Let us determine to have both.