November 6, 2021
Address of the Supreme Chaplain
Knights of Columbus State Deputies Mid-Year Meeting
It has already been one year since the beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney. Even though we were unable to gather in large numbers due to the pandemic, most of us witnessed this great event in the life of the Church & in the life of our Order via livestream or via Catholic television or by other electronic means. As you have already heard this morning, Father McGivney’s beatification remains a watershed moment in the life of the Order and a source of strength for the future.
Among other things, we can confidently approach Bl. Michael McGivney in prayer, confidently ask his intercession for our jurisdictions and for the whole Order, confidently ask his prayers for brother knights and their families. This holy parish priest remains our pastor, our chaplain, our friend, and our intercessor in the halls of heaven.
Father McGivney remains the priest’s priest and the chaplain’s chaplain. Although his priestly service was cut short by a premature death, Fr. McGivney set the standard for parish priests of today, and for the chaplains who serve the Knights of Columbus so devotedly. His care and concern for his brother knights and their families, his fidelity and effectiveness as a parish priest, and his immense pastoral charity for the widow, the orphan, and the outcast – these are hallmarks of his ministry and should be hallmarks of every priest’s ministry.
The beatification did more, however, than lift up the priestly example of our founder. Rather, it concretized, made real and tangible for us, the spirituality of the Order itself. No longer can anyone say that charity, unity, and fraternity are just nice, abstract ideas. Rather, we find that Fr. McGivney lived these Gospel principles to the hilt. He was himself a man of charity. He was himself a unifier. He was himself a fraternalist. As our founder, he goes ahead of us and teaches us not only the meaning of these principles but also how to live them out in our times no less than in his own.
Devotion to Father McGivney
Our debt to Fr. McGivney is incalculable. Without his vision, his fortitude, and his self-sacrificing love, the largest Catholic lay organization in the world simply would not exist. Without him, the Knights of Columbus would not be a Fortune 1000 company! Without him, countless Catholic men would have lost their faith and countless families would have been set adrift. Because of his holiness, barriers such as time, place, and culture dissolve. He accompanies us on our journey of faith today, wherever we may be, no less than he accompanied his 19th century parishioners of St. Mary’s in New Haven. As our Worthy Supreme Knight said last evening, Fr. McGivney’s beatification is providential, all in God’s timing, just what the Church and our society needs right now!
If our debt to Fr. McGivney is incalculable, so too our devotion to him must be without stint. I know that many state jurisdictions have launched efforts to promote devotion to Blessed Michael McGivney. My main message to you, worthy state deputies, is to encourage you to continue, or if need be begin, strenuous efforts in your state jurisdictions to promote devotion to Fr. McGivney in every council and in every parish.
You may have noticed in the May edition of Columbia an article entitled, “Our Founder’s Polish Pilgrimage” by Tomasz Adamski. It describes how, since the inception of the Order in Poland in 2006, the Knights have organized pilgrimages throughout their country. For example, in 2021 the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe reached more than 250,000 people across Poland, and the pilgrim icon of Our Lady Help of Persecuted Christians served to raise awareness throughout Poland of religious persecution in the Middle East. Now, the Knights in Poland have launched a national pilgrimage of Fr. McGivney’s relics. Each council is hosting or has hosted Fr. McGivney relics along with prayer services, presentations on Fr. McGivney’s life – bringing to the attention of parishioners Fr. McGivney’s virtues and relevance for today. As the Archbishop of Czestochowa put it, “Every priest who is wondering today how to renew his parish can look at the example and path laid out by Blessed Michael McGivney.” I could not agree more!
The Benefits of a Relics Pilgrimage
Dear brother Knights, I hold up the example of our Polish brothers as an encouragement to every state jurisdiction to launch a similar effort, if you haven’t already. No doubt it is a lot of work to organize such jurisdiction-wide devotions, & we know, such initiatives are more welcome in some parishes more than others. But we are Knights and Knights must be not only chivalrous but also undaunted! Efforts to bring his life and example to the attention of as many as possible of our brother Knights, their families, and our parishioners will bear abundant fruit in our local jurisdictions and in the Order as a whole. Such devotions might include, if possible, venerating Blessed Michael’s relics, praying the prayer for our founder’s canonization, reciting the Blessed Michael McGivney litany, praying the Rosary, Holy Hours in common, and taking part in Votive Masses in his honor. I heartily endorse the idea that we follow as much as possible the example laid out for us by our brother Polish Knights.
When we venerate Blessed McGivney throughout our jurisdictions, we are inviting him to smile upon us from his place in heaven, and more than that, we are inviting him to visit us in our need. We are seeking his prayers, we are inspiring our members and their families, and we attracting to the Order the new members who, if they come to know something about our Founder, will readily see how important it is for them spiritually and materially to join our ranks. Devotions to Fr. McGivney will swell our commitment to vulnerable human life from the moment of conception until natural death, for Fr. McGivney deeply understood human dignity and the preciousness of human life. Devotion to Fr. McGivney will spur us on to new heights of charity, for among his brother priests, Fr. McGivney was unparalleled in his charity, and if you don’t believe me just call out to the soul of Chip Smith in eternity. Devotion to Fr. McGivney will make the Order we love so much an engine that promotes priestly vocations, one of our perennial goals, for our founder was an iconic parish priest who will attract young men today, pray for them, and help them answer the call they have received from God not only to be a priest but to the kind of priest the Church today needs.
So what am I suggesting? If you have already begun statewide devotions to Fr. McGivney, wonderful – but if those plans have not yet materialized, I would urge you to make it happen. You’ll be glad you did! And so will many other Knights, families, and parishioners.
It’s almost trite for anyone to say that we live in a polarized society and that such polarization has crept, sadly, into the Church. Fr. McGivney, the holy priest of charity, unity, and fraternity shows us the way beyond the stultifying impasses of these days – for in his pastoral love he calls us to a unity and a solidarity that enables us to be, in the midst of a culture of death, a beacon of light and hope, a beacon of charity, unity, and fraternity.
Thank you brother knights for your unwavering commitment to our Order, thank you Worthy Supreme Knight for your superb leadership of our Order, and aided by the prayers of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Joseph, and Blessed Michael McGivney, I say to you will all my heart: “Vivat Jesus!”