For Chaplains

A Nine-Month Novena for the Family

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Faith Formation Program
Father Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development


The family remains at the heart of the founding charism of the Knights of Columbus. Father McGivney understood well the perils threatening family life in the 19th century. In 1873, at the age of 21, he had to interrupt his own seminary studies upon the death of his father, Patrick, to care for his mother and six younger siblings. It was only with the financial assistance and sacrifice of his future brother-in-law Michael Lawlor (who himself had two brothers who were priests), as well as extraordinary support from Bishop Francis Patrick McFarland of Hartford, that our founder was able to return to the pursuit of his theological studies. It was this personal experience that shaped his response to the pastoral challenges threatening the families he served as a young vicar at St. Mary’s in New Haven, Conn. 

Today, the Church again takes up “the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of [the new] evangelization” with the recent conclusion of the Synod of Bishops on the Family. Acknowledging the divide presented by the media, Pope Francis reiterated that “no intervention called into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of Marriage, namely: indissolubility, unity, fidelity and openness to life. This was not touched” (General Audience, 10 Dec. 2014).

The Holy Father continues to ask us to accompany the synodal path with prayer. Many of our councils are doing just that through the Domestic Church Initiative. In addition, I invite you to consider beginning a nine-month novena of prayer to St. John Paul II and Venerable Father McGivney, to celebrate council Masses and to offer programs of study on the family with our brother Knights. September will witness the first pilgrimage of Pope Francis to America, as well as the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, with the Order being a major sponsor. Next October, the Synod of Bishops will meet on the theme “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World.” Pope Francis has said, “The prayer and reflection which must accompany this journey is required of all the People of God.” His own weekly audiences for 2015 will reflect on the family and offer meditations “on this great gift that the Lord has made to the world from the very beginning, when he entrusted Adam and Eve with the mission to multiply and fill the earth; that gift that Jesus confirmed and sealed in his Gospel” (General Audience, 17 Dec. 2014).

 I ask each of you reading this to pray about how we, as brother Knights, might respond creatively, pastorally and spiritually to this critical need of prayer and preparation for the Church. Please send me any suggestions you may have at  

Pope Francis reminds us of what can happen in our councils “in seeking to make love and not hate normal, making mutual help commonplace, not indifference or enmity. ... This is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who is coming, to welcome Jesus in the family, in each member" (General Audience, 17 Dec 2014). May this New Year of Grace be a time for renewal for every council, brother Knight and family we serve. 

Vivat Jesus!


Fr. Jonathan D. Kalisch, O.P.
Director of Chaplains and Spiritual Development
(203) 752-4115