Brother Chad Guillaume
This last Friday, August 13, we celebrated a devout Christian from the United States. Michael McGivney died 130 years ago. Ordained a Catholic priest just 12 years after the end of the Civil War, the humble pastor ministered at a time before telephones and light bulbs.
In the 21st century, the life of Michael McGivney still speaks to the nearly two million men around the world who are members of the Knights of Columbus, the fraternal order of Catholic men he founded in 1882 in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut.
Father McGivney, in the holiness of his life, has important lessons to teach the faithful in a time of division and polarization, inside and outside the Church. I hope that his example and his elevation to the rank of the blessed will be able to remind everyone of the universal call to holiness and help to bring about a spiritual renewal.
As we recognize Father Michael McGivney’s holiness, there are timely signs of God’s providential care that can speak to us in a personal way, especially at this time in our history. Father McGivney did not see his ministry as limited to church records. He visited people in prisons and hospitals and fostered respectful relationships with other Christian communities and civil authorities. This religious leader was a bridge builder who shied away from the walls that so many people build if you don’t belong to their group!
Born in 1852, Michael McGivney was the oldest of 13 children whose working-class parents were Irish immigrants in Waterbury, Connecticut. He began seminary studies in 1868, but returned home to help raise his siblings after their father’s death in June 1873. He then resumed his studies and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Hartford in 1877.
Appointed Associate Priest of St. Mary’s Church, where he served until 1884, and later as pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, Connecticut, Father McGivney ministered primarily to a community Irish-American and immigrant at a time of deep Catholic anti-sectarianism.
It is remarkable to me that even in the 19th century, in which Father McGivney lived, so many basic human suffering and challenges we face are the same. Just like nowadays, many people are poor and in pain. The needs of the 19th century share many of the same common spiritual needs and challenges that we encounter in trying to live holy lives today.
When you have someone locally who has walked our streets and cities, and who has lived a life of charity, faith and hope to such a degree, it is certainly an inspiration for all of us to strive for holiness. .
On March 29, 1882, 29-year-old Father McGivney and two dozen influential Catholic men founded the Knights of Columbus to provide spiritual support to Catholic men and financial resources to families who lost their breadwinner.
He founded the Knights in his twenties as a parish vicar to meet the needs of his flock. We need the same pastoral creativity between priests, pastors and lay people to meet the challenges of 2021 and beyond.
Bro. McGivney’s beatification is more than a celebration of a spiritual father, who left such an important legacy, but it is also a call to conversion for all of us to take Christ’s call to faith, to charity, unity and brotherhood as seriously as Father McGivney and the first 24 Knights with him did.
Father McGivney is the third U.S.-born priest to be beatified, after Blessed Stanley Rother and Solanus Casey, both beatified in 2017. The miracle that paved the way for Father McGivney’s beatification involved the recovery of Michael Schachle, a boy from Tennessee, now 5, from a fatal case of fetal hydrops in utero.
Daniel Schachle, the father of the boy who attended the beatification mass with young Michael and most of his siblings, told reporters that he hoped the people who follow the beatification will carry “the pro-life message. really deep here, especially at this time of our culture. “
Schachle, who himself is a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and a former grand knight of his local council, also said he hoped Father McGivney’s beatification would strengthen Catholic men in their masculinity.
“Men need to have that masculine calling, to step up, to be the good fathers and good husbands and protectors that we are meant to be,” Schachle said. “Part of the problem we see in our society is that men are not doing what they are supposed to be doing in their families and communities.
“I think that’s what inspired Father McGivney to inspire men to get involved,” Schachle said.
Blessed Michael reminds us that life is not transactional, but a gift to be shared. We appreciate that true worship, correct fasting, should be centered on a right relationship with God and others, especially those on the margins of society. Christian unity is more than just adherence to a common belief. God calls each of us, in our time and in our own way, to be vessels of mercy and thus to enter into our heavenly heritage.
Bro. Chad Wilhelm is the local pastor of St. Joseph, located on 4th Street NE in Devils Lake