GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL CARE works in marvelous and mysterious ways. One way is by giving every age the saints it needs. With eyes of faith, it is possible to see the wisdom of God’s timing as he provides the witnesses we need for the moment we are in.
This is true for all the saints, but it was brought home to me in a specific way while reflecting on our Founder’s beatification, which took place one year ago, on Oct. 31, 2020. I find myself asking, “Why Father McGivney?” and “Why now?” None of us can know the mind of God, but I think there may be several reasons.
In the first place, Blessed Michael McGivney was a parish priest. He was not called to contemplative life; rather, he was called to be Christ among the people — with all the pastoral challenges that entails. He knew well the strain that comes from being involved with the day-to-day struggles of his parishioners. Parish priests today face their own challenges. More and more priests labor alone, administering two or more parish sites with diminishing resources and participation. When you add to this distrust resulting from the abuse crisis and the stress of pandemic restrictions on Mass attendance and parish life, it’s no wonder that many priests feel exhausted and demoralized.
What better moment, then, for a model and an intercessor like Blessed Michael McGivney — a parish priest who ministered to parishioners struggling and suffering through the difficulties of their age, including fatherless families, addiction and even pandemic conditions. And he did this amid societal prejudice that treated Catholics — particularly priests as — pariahs.
Moreover, in Father McGivney’s day, Catholic families faced an uphill climb. As immigrants, they grappled with bigotry, material poverty and the temptation to abandon their faith in order to and social acceptance. Many of Father McGivney’s parishioners had left largely Catholic homelands to come to a land where their beliefs were considered foreign and even suspect.
‘I believe that our Founder’s beatification in this moment in history is no mere coincidence. We should look to his response to the needs of his time as a roadmap for our own response to the needs of our time.’
Similar challenges face our families today, under fierce pressure from outside forces. Increasingly, as they were the 1880s, Catholic families are tempted to accept secular ideologies and to abandon their faith in order to avoid the contempt of the world. As Christians, we are called to be in the world, but not of the world — and that is getting more and more difficult by the day.
We live in a time of great division, as proponents of political and cultural ideologies work hard to gain adherents while shouting down opposition. These fissures have found their way into our families, often pitting one generation against another.
Our Founder knew that the answer for Catholic men and for Catholic families was to come together and to strengthen one another in faith. I believe that through Father McGivney’s beatification, our Lord is reminding Catholic men and families that we must be unified more than ever before.
Finally, Father McGivney was a man of action. He saw the desperate situation of his parishioners and was not content merely to lament that reality. He acted — concretely and decisively. In founding the Knights of Columbus, he was calling men and families to rise and be bound together.
Thus, I believe that our Founder’s beatification in this moment in history is no mere coincidence. We should look to his response to the needs of his time as a roadmap for our own response to the needs of our time.
Let us continue to pray for Father McGivney’s canonization, even as his life and witness — brought into sharper focus by God’s providence — inspire our own actions in the days and years ahead. Blessed Michael McGivney, pray for us!
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