Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Statue Blessed in Father McGivney’s Own Parish

In the Connecticut parish where Father Michael McGivney served as pastor, a statue of the founder was installed by the local council and blessed by the current pastor. With the encouragement of Father Robert J. Grant, Atlantic Council 18 of Thomaston purchased the 4-foot, gold-colored statue of Father McGivney from the Supreme Council Supply Department and had it installed just inside the front entrance of St. Thomas Church. During Sunday Mass, Nov. 11, Father Grant blessed the statue and asked parishioners to turn to
Father McGivney as a heavenly intercessor in times of trouble and illness.

A Fourth Degree honor guard took part in the ceremony.

Also attending the Mass and blessing ceremony were Connecticut State Deputy Ralph Grandpre, a member of Council 18, and Vice Postulator Brian Caulfield, who delivered a brief talk after Mass on the life and legacy of Father McGivney. He stressed the fact that Father McGivney, who served as the second pastor of St. Thomas Church from 1884 till his death in 1890, walked the very grounds of the parish, which renamed the street outside the church Father McGivney Way.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Father McGivney and the Year of Faith

What does a priest who lived more than a century ago have to do with the Year of Faith, which began October 11? The answer lies in the prophetic vision and practical pastoral action of Father Michael McGivney, who not only founded the Knights of Columbus, but also engaged in civic activity and ecumenical outreach.

In fact, it can be said that Father McGivney, who died in 1890 at age 38, anticipated the Second Vatican Council by empowering laymen to take leadership roles in the Church and in the steady steps he took to bring the Catholic message beyond parish precincts.

The Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI as a time of renewal, reflection and New Evangelization, began on the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II and on the 20th anniversary of the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At the Vatican this month, bishops from around the world, along with priests, religious and lay experts (including Supreme Knight Carl Anderson), are taking part in a historic Synod on the New Evangelization, to develop and discover ways to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world wracked with doubt and relativism. They do so with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance that the timeless questions about God and the meaning of life still echo in the hearts of men. One purpose of the synod is to place the eternal verities preserved by the Church into a language and manner of communication that will reach the hearts of today’s men and women who are immersed in a secular culture.

In this great and noble pursuit, the life and legacy of Father McGivney has a definite place. The most enduring work of this humble parish priest is the continuing growth and vitality of the Knights of Columbus, which he founded in 1882 with a handful of men in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn. From this small beginning, the Order has grown to more than 1.8 million members in some 15,000 councils spread through all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Poland. It is a worldwide Catholic family fraternal organization based on three main principles – charity, unity and fraternity – which has grown not only in numbers but also in charitable reach. Last year, Knights donated more than $158 million to charitable causes and volunteered more than 70 million hours. This is a great public legacy that has immediate and lasting effects throughout the Church and the world.

But more hidden examples of Father McGivney’s vision can be gleaned from his biography, Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism, published in 2006 by HarperCollins. As a young priest at St. Mary’s, he stepped off parish grounds to appear in a New Haven court room – not a friendly place in those days of Know-Nothing anti-Catholicism – in order to oversee the placement of an orphan, the son of a parish family whose father had died. Father McGivney also brought the daughter of a prominent Protestant minister into the Catholic fold, and later broke with protocol by visiting and comforting her parents after the young lady suffered an untimely death.

But in my mind, one of the most noteworthy achievements of Father McGivney was what he did not do. In founding the Knights of Columbus, he insisted that the chief officer – Supreme Knight – must be a layman, even though he easily could have used his clerical rank and reputation to seize the reins of the organization. Not only that, after a short time as the no. 2 officer, he stepped aside to become Supreme Chaplain, overseeing only the spiritual and moral development of the Order. Then two years after the founding, while the future of the Knights was still uncertain, he obediently followed the decision of his bishop to become pastor of a parish 30 miles from New Haven, a great distance in the days of horse and buggy. Father McGivney trusted laymen to lead in his absence.

In this trust of the laity we see the true spirit of Vatican II, which we celebrate throughout this Year of Faith. Let priests and laymen together look to Father McGivney for his goodness and his guidance.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Possible Miracle

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of any Cause for Canonization is talk of the miraculous. The Church requires two miracles through the intercession of the candidate, one for beatification and one after that for canonization. Think about it. In an age when science is supposed to have dispelled any belief in the miraculous, the Church still states plainly that miracles occur, just as surely as Christ is present on the altar in the holy Eucharist. They are not legends, or group hysteria or figments of a pious imagination. Miracles are real and verifiable through the Church’s rigorous standards.

Contrary to what some may think, miracles for the Cause must take place after the candidate dies, not during his or her lifetime. The Church is not so concerned about the candidate’s miraculous works during life; rather miracles are sought after death to exhibit the power of God working through that candidate’s intercession. Ultimately, only God performs miracles, and he does so in his own time and for his own reasons. As the Gospels document, Jesus performed miracles not to show off his powers, but to inspire and increase faith.

The good news is that a new possible miracle is under investigation in the Cause of Father McGivney. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson made the announcement on Aug. 7 during his Annual Report at the 130th Supreme Convention in Anaheim, Calif. Here is what he said:

“The strength of the ties of the Knights of Columbus to the Church has no greater example than the advancement of the Cause for Canonization of our founder, the Venerable Servant of God Michael McGivney. As his cause continues, our postulator in Rome recently received very encouraging news about a possible miracle through the intercession of our founder.

“This development was especially welcome, because the report came shortly after we received news from the Vatican that the event previously under investigation would not be going forward. So we saw clearly the truth of the old saying, when one door closes another one opens.

“Now our postulator has begun looking diligently into this new report, which we think may be a miracle involving the intercession of Father McGivney. Since this investigation is in the early stages, I will not discuss the exact details, knowing that the final judgment on these matters is in the hands of the Church. But I think we have very good reason for hope that Father McGivney is very much on track for beatification.

“One approved miracle is needed for beatification, and another approved miracle is necessary for the final stage of canonization and sainthood.

“The message we should take from these recent events is that all Knights and their families should continue their regular prayer for Father McGivney’s canonization. We should invoke his intercession in life’s struggles, and especially when faced with very serious illness. In addition, every Catholic is invited to sign up for the Father McGivney Guild and continue to report favors received.”

Let us pray that this proposed miracle goes forward and leads to Father McGivney’s beatification. Check this blog for updates as the process unfolds.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

‘Venerable’ Does Not Mean ‘Old’

When Father Michael McGivney was declared “Venerable” in March 2008, many asked what exactly that means. We know the title “Blessed” or “Saint,” but “Venerable” sounds like a way station for old souls, a sort of limbo for those hoping for canonization. Nothing could be further from the truth, so we need to look at the title a little more closely.

We don’t use the word “venerable” often in daily speech, and when we do it is usually in reference to a practice that is kept more for its age than its relevance, as in “venerable tradition,” or a “venerable old man” who is respected more for longevity than activity.

Yet these dusty concepts are not what the Church means when it uses the title “Venerable” for Servants of God. In the Catholic context, Venerable means not something antiquated or past its prime, but something bold and dynamic. Far from the notions of “old and dated,” Venerable denotes “heroic and virtuous.” When the Vatican bestows the title of “Venerable” upon a Servant of God whose cause for sainthood is being studied, it means that the candidate’s “heroic virtue” has been recognized by the Holy Father based on all  of the best information on the person’s life and reputation. The Venerable person has lived a life of virtue above and beyond the normal Christian calling, and is a model for others today, with a way of life that should be studied and emulated by all, especially the young.

Far from old and stodgy, Venerable Michael McGivney is a man for our times, a priest worthy of recognition and imitation, a visionary ahead of his time who empowered the laity to take leadership positions in the Church through the Knights of Columbus. We will look at all these virtues as we develop this blog, “A Saint in the Making.”