Archbishop Lori calls Knights founder a ‘visionary leader’ as miracle approved for beatification

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori felt “great joy” when he heard the news that Pope Francis had accepted a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus.

“As the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, I am, in a certain sense, a successor to Father McGivney,” who was the first chaplain and secretary of the order, the largest lay organization in the Catholic Church, with more than 2 million members. “And as chaplain, I have grown to love and appreciate his priestly example and his leadership,” the archbishop said in an interview May 27, the day the Vatican announced the miracle, which cleared the way for Father McGivney to be beatified.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no date has been set for the beatification, which will be held in Connecticut. Archbishop Lori will participate in the beatification Mass when it takes place.

The archbishop acknowledged Father McGivney’s connections to Baltimore, where he was formed for priesthood at St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street and ordained a priest in 1877 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the archbishop’s predecessor, then-Archbishop James Gibbons.

Archbishop Lori called Father McGivney a visionary leader who founded the Knights of Columbus when he created the organization as a life insurance company. He saw the need to help families left destitute when the breadwinner died, Archbishop Lori said, as often happened in the 19th century.

“But he also saw the need, even more importantly, for men and their families to deepen their commitment to the faith, their knowledge of the faith and their participation in the faith,” the archbishop said. “So, he made the Knights a tremendous avenue for the spiritual growth of Catholic men and their families.”

The recognition of a miracle attributed to Father McGivney is a “beautiful confirmation, as it were, from the Lord himself” of the order’s principles of charity, unity and fraternity.

He called Father McGivney a model parish priest who spent his life doing in a beautiful way what most parish priests continue to do today.

“He knew his people, he loved them. He enjoyed being with his people. He provided opportunities for spiritual growth, but also for families and parishioners to come together. He loved the poor and the outcast. He preached convincingly and beautifully,” said Archbishop Lori, who cited his great foresight by involving the laity as leadership of the Knights. “In that, I think he looks like a forecast of the Second Vatican Council, which indeed provided for a much larger role for the laity in the life of the church, in shaping a just society.”

The archbishop said all those are indicators that Father McGivney was “a Pope Francis priest before there was a Pope Francis,” a comment he said he thought the pope enjoyed when the board of the Knights met with him at the Vatican earlier this year and the archbishop presented a biography of the priest to the pope.

Father McGivney “preached the joy of the Gospel, about the poor and the outcast, the marginalized. He preached engagingly and evangelized. He brought the faith out of the parish, into the streets, to the town square. He really, in many ways, also involved the laity in the life of the church,” Archbishop Lori said. “All of these things are things that Pope Francis not only asks us priests to do, he also exemplifies that himself.”

The millions of members of the Knights of Columbus around the world carrying on the priest’s vision still have a profound impact. “I also think that his life and example inspire priests. And I think that the more his story is known, then the more people across the world will see its relevance for the church today and for our world,” the archbishop said.

He thanked the many people around the world, including Knights and their families, who have learned about his life and ministry and prayed for his beatification. He added that the members of the Father McGivney Guild are also important to show that there is already devotion to a prospective “beatus,” or blessed.

Archbishop Lori also thanked Supreme Knight Carl Anderson for leading the way on the canonization process. “It takes a lot of patience and endurance, and now it’s been accepted,” the archbishop said.


Christopher Gunty

Christopher Gunty

A Chicago-area native, Christopher Gunty is associate publisher/editor of The Catholic Review and CEO of its parent publishing company, The Cathedral Foundation/CR Media.

He has spent his whole professional career in Catholic journalism as a writer, photographer, editor, circulation manager and associate publisher. He spent four years with The Chicago Catholic; 19 years as founding editor and associate publisher of The Catholic Sun in Phoenix, Ariz.; and six years at The Florida Catholic. In July 2009, he came to Baltimore to lead The Cathedral Foundation.

Chris served as president of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada from 1996 to 1998, and has traveled extensively learning about and reporting on the work of the church, including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Haiti, Poland, Italy, Germany and finally in 2010 visited the Holy Land for the first time.