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Men on the Periphery

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

 

This year, on Aug. 14, we commemorate the 125th anniversary of the death of Venerable Servant of God Michael J. McGivney. Having devoted himself to the pastoral service of the Church, Father McGivney died at the age of 38 in 1890. Among the extraordinary virtues of his life, his evangelical zeal stands out. Over the course of 13 years, this parish priest sought out Catholic men on the peripheries. He was stationed at a church with an enormous building debt, where his own parishioners were derisively described as “servant-girls” by The New York Times (28 July 1879). There, in the shadow of an elite Protestant Ivy League university, Father McGivney reached out to those on the margins. This was a time when Catholic men, many of whom were immigrants, were apt to join anti-Catholic movements in the hopes of getting a better salary. The few men who actively participated in the life of the Church were veterans of the most vicious Civil War battles.
 This year, as we celebrate the anniversary of Father McGivney’s death and begin preparations for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the perennial evangelization challenges remain. How can we engage and attract young adult men and young fathers to a renewed practice of the faith? How can we assist immigrant men in the active participation of the sacraments and in finding meaning and dignity in their new lives? How can we engage returning veterans in lives of fruitful service away from the battlefield? The spiritual task of each Knights of Columbus council is to offer what Evangelii Gaudium calls “a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill them with life and peace, while at the same time summoning them to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness” (89).
 Sadly, many of our brother Knights experience the heartbreak of not seeing their children participate in sacramental marriages, or the heartbreak of not having grandchildren be baptized or catechized in the sacraments. It even begins to happen that life-long elderly Catholics no longer receive the Last Rites or Catholic funerals, as faith becomes optional for their non-practicing children.
 As chaplains, it is our duty to invite our brother Knights to a new missionary fruitfulness in every council. For the sake of the future of the Church, older brother Knights should pray for the wisdom and active ability to discern how to reach out in fraternal communion with attractive ideas and creative ways of being an active Knight of Columbus to young adults,immigrants, newly married men and young fathers.
 Father McGivney did not shirk from seeking new ways of attracting men on the peripheries to the Gospel. Nor did he start the Knights of Columbus as a young adult group. He gathered the good men he knew, spoke about the spiritual battles facing that generation, and then asked all of them for a further sacrifice in a spirit of evangelical charity. Even then, we know he had to wait a further two years before his idea for an organization of “fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness” caught hold of the men and took off and spread. Let us ask our founder for the jubilee grace to inspire our brother Knights to be men of active and creative evangelical charity, so that the next generation of Catholics will live lives of faithful holiness.

Vivat Jesus!

 

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