This Sunday, March 29, marks Founder’s Day, when we remember the date in 1882 that the Connecticut legislature approved the charter of the newly formed Knights of Columbus. Though we are not able to join together in person to celebrate, we can be united in thought and prayer as we honor the Order’s founder.
This is a good time to consider what message Father McGivney has for us, who carry on the work he began 138 years ago, when he gathered a group of Catholic men in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven. Let’s look briefly at four aspects of Father McGivney’s life and legacy.
He lived in uncertain times. Harsh working conditions, crowded living quarters and epidemics marked the mid-19th century, as Michael McGivney came of age among an Irish immigrant population in Waterbury. The eldest of 13 children, he saw the early death of six of his siblings. After finishing eighth grade, he worked for a few years in a spoon factory before answering God’s call to enter seminary. As a priest, he ministered to the sick and suffering, and knew sickness and suffering himself – ultimately dying in a 19th century pandemic. Yet he had a genius for lifting the spirits of his people through parish plays, fairs, sports and a joyful manner and laugh that made even hard times bearable.
In this current pandemic, let us share a bit of joy and laughter with others.
He sought to protect families. His father died when Michael was a seminarian and his plans for priesthood were almost derailed by financial hardship. Father McGivney learned from this experience. Helping families – stay together and keep the faith – after the death of a breadwinner was one of the main reasons he founded the Knights of Columbus.
Even in our temporary working conditions, we can embrace his vision of protecting the faith and well-being of Catholic families.
He promoted charity and unity. Charity and unity were the original principles of the Order. As Father McGivney explained in a letter, “Unity in order to gain strength to be charitable to each other in benevolence whilst we live and in bestowing financial aid to those whom we have to mourn ...”
Even while “social distancing” is the norm, Knights can and should remain united in our faith, in our mission and in our commitment to support those in need.
He taught love of neighbor. For Father McGivney, no one was beyond the love of God and he went to what Pope Francis calls today the “peripheries” to serve others. He visited a prisoner on death row daily to help him die in the grace of the sacraments. He welcomed the daughter of a prominent minister into the Catholic Church and consoled the parents after her early death.
Though physically apart, we can still check on a brother Knight or neighbor by phone, we can deliver groceries to an elderly person’s home, or write an encouraging letter to a friend facing hard times.
Let us follow Father McGivney’s example and call upon his help, especially this Sunday, Founder’s Day.
Prayer for the Canonization of the Venerable Servant of God Michael McGivney
Founder of the Knights of Columbus
God, our Father, protector of the poor and defender of the widow and orphan, you called your priest, Father Michael J. McGivney, to be an apostle of Christian family life and to lead the young to the generous service of their neighbor. Through the example of his life and virtue may we follow your Son, Jesus Christ, more closely, fulfilling his commandment of charity and building up his Body which is the Church. Let the inspiration of your servant prompt us to greater confidence in your love so that we may continue his work of caring for the needy and the outcast. We humbly ask that you glorify your venerable servant Father Michael J. McGivney on earth according to the design of your holy will. Through his intercession, grant the favor I now present (here make your request). Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Please report all favors received:
The Father McGivney Guild 1 Columbus Plaza New Haven, CT 06510-3326, USA www.fathermcgivney.org
Share your story of how your council is helping strengthen people’s faith and offering support during this time. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s monthly archives, click here.
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