When parish priest Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, he showed that holiness has a timeless quality, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore has said.
“It’s not hard for us to see that Fr. McGivney was a priest of charity and mercy. Pastoral charity permeated his priestly ministry: he was filled with love for his parishioners; engaged with their needs; involved in their moments of joy but also times of loss and sorrow,” Archbishop Lori, Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, said March 29.
The archbishop spoke on the 135th anniversary of the founding of the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Conn., the church where Fr. McGivney founded the Catholic fraternity that now has 1.9 million members worldwide.
Archbishop Lori reflected on the life of Fr. McGivney, who died in 1890 at the age of 38.
“How many confessions he heard within the walls of this church and how many people’s hearts did he open to the mercies of God,” he said. “It’s not too surprising, then, that when the Knights were founded in this very church their first and abiding principle would be charity – not the ersatz charity that talks big but does little – but a true love and concern for the orphan and widow and the outcast.”
“Did he not implant a culture of encounter in the Knights of Columbus 135 years ago?” the archbishop asked.
For Archbishop Lori, Fr. McGivney’s life showed the virtues of the Christian that Pope Francis would later describe as fostering a “culture of encounter,” being a “missionary disciple,” showing “accompaniment” and reaching out to those on the peripheries.
“Fr. McGivney was a missionary disciple. He was no stuffy cleric sitting in his overstuffed rectory waiting for people to call,” the archbishop said. “No, he was a disciple, a follower of the Lord, who loved him, believed in him, and preached the Gospel with conviction.”
The priest’s prayer and preaching “drove him outward and onward into the community where he ministered as a good shepherd, built bridges everywhere he could, and brought Christ to people and people to Christ.”
“There is something timeless about people who are holy,” said the archbishop. “They are timeless – but not as a work of art is said to be timeless. Holy people are such because their lives speak to each new generation, including times and seasons very different from their own.”
Archbishop Lori also reflected on the approach of Pope Francis towards Christian spirituality.
When Pope Francis speaks of the encounter with Jesus Christ, he does not mean a superficial meeting but rather “a true and deep meeting of minds and hearts.” The Pope “encourages us to allow the heart of Christ to speak to our heart, and to draw us into real intimacy with himself and his heavenly Father.”
“We encounter the Lord when we enter heart and soul into the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when we worthily receive the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, and when we pray privately, allowing the Lord’s voice to echo in our hearts,” the archbishop said.