Spirituality for Today – August 2016 – Volume 21, Issue 1

The Knight

Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A photo of a Fr. Michael J. McGivney.Fr. Michael J. McGivney

The churches of New Haven, Connecticut have a long and venerable history. One particular church in that city has a shorter, but notable history. In 1956, The Five Satins recorded their monster hit, In the Still of the Night, in the basement of Saint Bernadette Church. In 1877, however, a newly ordained priest was assigned to Saint Mary Church – Father Michael J. McGivney. Now as then, immigration was a hot topic in our country. The condition of Irish immigrants in New Haven was a concern for the young priest. Emerging secret societies were a threat to the faith and well-being of these men and there was a pastoral concern to address the needs of widows and their children. Gathering a concerned group of laypeople, Fr. McGivney established an organization to enhance the spiritual and social well-being of the Catholic immigrant population of New Haven – the Knights of Columbus. After a transfer to a parish in Thomaston, Connecticut, he worked tirelessly for the poor and sick of his large parish. Eventually, his health gave way and he died of pneumonia at the age of 38 in 1890. A fitting tribute came from Edward Downes, the brother of a child that Fr. McGivney rescued from being sent into foster care, "He was a man of the people. He was ever zealous for the people's welfare, and all the kindness of his priestly soul asserted itself most strongly in his unceasing efforts for the betterment of their condition." What a noble "knight" was the now Venerable Michael J. McGivney. [Source: His Cause Marches On, Brian Caulfield, Columbia, August 2015]

Today, we know the Knights of Columbus to be a global insurance and welfare organization that provides aid and comfort to millions throughout the world. We also can see it as the result of what a powerful team priest and laity can become. Indeed, the faith community that is a parish thrives on such collaboration. In the face of a tide of spiritual and moral decay in today's society that, in my opinion, has not yet reached it ebb. Men and women of faith and zeal akin to that of Fr. McGivney are required to initiate a renaissance of religious faith in our land. Signs of a brighter world are not absent, but more and more inspired men and women need to be rising in every part of our country. People have not changed in their hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, need of love, – and their need of God.

The world is not as irreligious as it seems at first glance. Religion has moved out of churches, to a large extent, to cope with our frustrations, despairs, shames, and neuroses. The only mistake the churches can make in the new order is to assume that everybody must come to them instead of their going to everybody.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

In the manner of the pious knights of old, individuals of faith are to go forth into the cities and the countryside in search of wrongs to be righted. This intention of will is not so far removed from actuality as one might believe. In fact, there is simplicity to the task. Each day is replete with opportunities to perform loving acts. One can begin with a morning prayer that he will be constant in trying to please the Lord in all of the thoughts and words and deeds which make up the content of a person's daily living. An awareness of the "dragons to be slain" starts with one's own intentions. Persist in doing the work of the day as a way of serving the Lord, witness to the fact that it is the Lord that is motivating the service, allows one's efforts to bring the Church in the public square. The Knights of Columbus operates in this fashion. If a person wishes to don the armor of Christ, faith can overcome the darkness that robs a person of their dignity, self-respect, and humanity.