While Knights of Columbus are known for countless charitable activities in their parishes and communities, did you know that some members have made the ultimate sacrifice as martyrs for the faith? Still others have been officially recognized by the Catholic Church for their heroic virtue.
As a Catholic man, every Knight is challenged to live as a saint and eventually be one with God in heaven. This isn't impossible — in fact, some Knights’ reputations for sanctity have been officially recognized by the Church and some are even recognized as saints.
There are steps toward such a declaration of sainthood. First one is named a servant of God, then venerable, then blessed and, finally, canonized a saint. Two miracles attributed to a candidate's intercession must be recognized by the Vatican and approved by the pope to reach canonization
Here is a list of Knights whose reputations for sanctity have been recognized by the Catholic Church.
Msgr. Bernard John Quinn
Quinn fought against the rise of nativism and racism in the 1920s. He established the first parish for black Catholics in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He also rebuilt an orphanage not once, but twice, after the first one was burnt down by the Ku Klux Klan. Msgr. Quinn exhibited great love for his parishioners, saying, "I would willingly shed to the last drop my life's blood" for each one of them, regardless of race.
After a nine-year investigation, the Bishop of Brooklyn has advanced Msgr. Quinn's cause, submitting it to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
According to his biography, Irving Houle is said to have received the stigmata — bodily wounds and pain corresponding to Christ's passion and crucifixion — on Good Friday 1993. He was told by Jesus and the Blessed Mother to begin a ministry to convert sinners. A family man who lived in Michigan, Houle dedicated the rest of his life to praying with tens of thousands of people. Some of them are said to have been healed of physical and spiritual illnesses.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops unanimously supported the advancement of his cause on the diocesan level in June 2019.
Cardinal Terence Cooke
During his tenures in New York, nine nursing homes were completed, and 60% of abandoned and neglected children in New York City found care. An outspoken opponent of abortion, Cooke supported and helped establish services to help women and other marginalized persons in need.
He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Father Edward Flanagan
Father Flanagan founded Nebraska's Boys Town, a community for orphans and others in need, to "save boys from being the derelicts of tomorrow." In a 1928 issue of Columbia, he said, "I saw the need for a home for homeless boys after trying to take care of jobless and poor men. It was my direct association with down-and-outs, which made me think that if these men had been trained and cared for while they were young they would not have been in the circumstances in which I found them."
He helped at least 10,000 boys during his life, inspiring the establishment of 80 other similar communities.
Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur
Father Lafleur served as a military chaplain in the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War. He became a prisoner of war following the Fall of Bataan, but continued his ministry to the other soldiers, even constructing a chapel out of bamboo that he named the Chapel of St. Peter in Chains. His work inspired nearly 200 American soldiers to convert to Catholicism.
For his bravery, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the second-highest award in the military. His cause for sainthood was opened by the Diocese of Lafayette in early 2020.
Father Patrick Peyton
Known as the "Rosary Priest," Father Peyton was the founder of the Family Rosary Crusade and Family Theater Productions, and now he is the subject of a new film called Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton.
The Catholic priest produced more than 800 radio shows and 83 TV specials that featured stars like Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Stewart and others. He would end every show with the motto he popularized: "The family that prays together, stays together."
Father Peyton was declared Venerable by Pope Francis on Dec. 18, 2017.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Archbishop Sheen was one of the most influential Catholics of the 20th century. He hosted The Catholic Hour on NBC and the television shows Life is Worth Living and The Fulton Sheen Program. Roughly 30 million weekly viewers watched the two-time Emmy winning program as he evangelized using the technology of the day.
Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Archbishop Sheen, which involved the recovery of a newborn who showed no vital signs.
Father Michael McGivney
Father McGivney is the founder of the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, which he formed in 1882 while serving as a parish priest in New Haven, Conn.
In May 2020, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to Father McGivney's intercession involving an unborn child who, in 2015, was healed in utero of a life-threatening condition after prayers by his family to K of C founder.
Father McGivney will be beatified on Oct. 31, 2020.
Carlos Manuel Rodríguez
Born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Rodríguez was a Knight of deep spiritual insight who was largely self-taught in matters of the faith. At the University of Puerto Rico's Catholic Center, he was committed to young people, sponsoring days of fellowship and prayer called "Christian Living Days."
After approving a miracle in which Rodríguez interceded in curing a case of non-Hodgkins malignant lymphoma, St. John Paul II beatified him on April 29, 2001.
Father Andrés Solá Molist, Father José Rangel Montaño and Leonardo Pérez Larios
Father Molist, a Spanish Claretian missionary, and Father Montaño, a Mexican diocesan priest, were executed for their faith together with Leonardo Pérez Larios, a Catholic layman, on April 25, 1927, in Rancho de San Joaquin, Mexico.
These three men are counted among the tens of thousands of Mexican Catholics killed during the Mexican government's persecution of Catholics in the early 20th century.
Six Mexican Martyrs
Of the 25 Mexican martyrs whom St. John Paul II canonized in 2000, six were priests and members of the Knights of Columbus.
Known as the "bishop of the poor," Valencia lived through the Mexican revolution in 1910 and the government's persecution of Catholics in the 1920s. In 1910, he went underground, disguised as a junk dealer to continue his ministry. Valencia went on to serve in Guatemala and Cuba. As bishop, he founded a clandestine seminary to train future priests and escaped death several times.
He was canonized on Oct.15, 2006, by Pope Benedict XVI.
Story originally published as “Knights Who Lived As Saints” July 2019. Updated 10/06/2020.
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