Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder…
Blessed Father McGivney: Knights of Columbus founder beatified
Father Michael McGivney, the young parish priest who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, joined the ranks of the blessed Saturday during a beatification Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut.
Reading an apostolic letter in Latin from Pope Francis, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey — the pope’s representative for the liturgy — announced that Blessed Michael McGivney, “whose zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for the needs of his brothers and sisters made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance,” will have his feast day on Aug. 13.
“He worked to keep families united in dignity and security,” Cardinal Tobin later said during his homily, in which he described the humble 19th-century priest as an apostle who cared for victims of an epidemic that would eventually claim his own life just two days after his 38th birthday.
Said Cardinal Tobin, “130 years after his death, the brief life of this holy man speaks eloquently to our own path of holiness.”
Michael McGivney was born in 1852 to Irish immigrant parents in Waterbury, Connecticut. Ordained in 1877, Father McGivney served as a parish priest ministering primarily to an Irish-American and immigrant community in the then-Diocese of Hartford.
While serving as pastor of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Father McGivney and a group of leading Catholic men founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to provide spiritual support for Catholic men and financial resources for families that suffered the loss of their breadwinner.
His working-class parishioners, whose often difficult lives Father McGivney personally accompanied, described him as a living “positive” saint, Carl Anderson, the supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, said in presenting a brief biography of Father McGivney’s life.
Anderson noted the encouraging remarks that Pope Francis and his two predecessors have said about Father McGivney and his embodiment of the Knights’ virtues of charity, unity and fraternity.
“To this day, Father McGivney’s holiness of life and exemplary service continue to inspire priests across America and around the world, and his vision for an active and engaged laity serves as a witness to the power of spiritual brotherhood and charity,” Anderson said.
The Vatican announced on May 27 that Pope Francis had approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to Father McGivney’s intercession, paving the way to his beatification. The miracle involved the healing of Michael Schachle, a Tennessee boy, now 5 years old, from a fatal case of fetal hydrops.
Michael’s parents and several of his 12 brothers and sisters attended Saturday’s liturgy, in which they presented a first-class relic of Blessed Father McGivney.
“It’s absolutely surreal,” Daniel Schachle, the father of young Michael and himself a fourth-degree Knight of Columbus, told reporters after the Mass.
Father McGivney is the third U.S.-born priest to be beatified, after Blesseds Stanley Rother and Solanus Casey, both of whom were beatified in 2017. The Archdiocese of Hartford opened Father McGivney’s cause for beatification and canonization in 1997.
“I believe Father McGivney is truly Pope Francis’ kind of priest, a model in his time of closeness to Christ’s sheep on the peripheries of life and of society,” Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Harford said in reading a letter of appreciation to the Holy Father.
In his homily, Cardinal Tobin told an audience of about 200 people — the 1,500-seat cathedral’s capacity was limited by COVID-19 public health protocols — that in Father McGivney “we see the face of a son of immigrants who gave his life in pastoral service of those most recently arrived in this country.”
Said Cardinal Tobin, “Father McGivney’s life is an illustration of how a holy priest can provide that necessary and intimate connection so necessary in the life and mission of a parish.”
Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Seán O’Malley of Boston co-celebrated the Eucharistic liturgy with Cardinal Tobin, who said Father McGivney was sanctified “by doing what parish priests still do, day in and day out.”
In his closing remarks, Anderson, the supreme knight, said it was providential that Father McGivney’s beatification occurred in the same month that Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ new social encyclical on human fraternity, was published. In the encyclical, Anderson noted, the Holy Father writes that each day “we have to decide whether to be good Samaritans or indifferent bystanders.”
“We know the decision Blessed Michael McGivney made, and we know the decisions that millions of his brother knights have made following his example,” Anderson said. “Inspired by that example, let us go forward with renewed spirit of charity so we too can be a blessing to all those we meet.”
Brian Fraga is a contributing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.