Unborn baby who was doomed to die in utero is now "probably the happiest kid" in the home of the Schachles of Dickson, Tennessee.
Michael Schachle is a five-year-old child in Dickson, Tennessee, who has Down syndrome. According to his father, Daniel Schachle, 45, he “probably is the happiest kid in our house.” Schachle and his wife, Michelle, have 13 children.
“He’s always joyful,” Daniel said. “He’s a rambunctious little five-year-old who runs around all the time, plays, gets into things. He’s got a great sense of humor. He’s always kind of messing with people, playing jokes and stuff.”
And, Michael is a sign that Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, is among the saints. On May 27, the Vatican announced that a thorough investigation of the healing of Michael Schachle from a fatal syndrome when he was still an unborn child was attributable to the intercession of Fr. McGivney. The healing had no medical or scientific explanation.
In other words, it was a miracle, opening the way for Fr. McGivney, who died in 1890, to be beatified.
The incredible story began on the last day of 2014, when Michelle Schachle, who was expecting, went for an ultrasound examination. The image showed worrying signs. Michelle’s doctor said the unborn child was likely to have either Trisomy-18 or Trisomy-21, commonly called Down syndrome.
One test led to another, and on February 25, 2015, the doctor told the couple that their baby in fact had fetal hydrops, a condition where he is overwhelmed by uncontrollable fluid buildup.
“The doctor gave us a 0% chance of survival,” Daniel recalled. “She said she’d been doing medicine for 30 years and never saw a child survive this.”
The physician told Michelle that she could let the pregnancy continue until the baby died on his own, and then the doctor would induce labor. Because of the possibility of Mirror Syndrome, in which a mother takes on a lot of the fluid that the baby is developing, putting the mom’s life at risk, the doctor said “she could terminate the pregnancy right now,” Daniel related.
Though the diagnosis terrified Michelle, whose first child years earlier had been a stillbirth, the Schachles knew that abortion was never going to be an option. Daniel said he felt anger during the discussion, as his fatherly instinct to protect his child kicked in.
The devastated couple went home with many questions. They spoke with their parish priest to begin planning for a funeral. But Daniel decided to pray for a cure. As a longtime Knight of Columbus, his prayer instinctively was directed toward Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Catholic fraternal society. His whole career as a Knights insurance agent had been built upon Fr. McGivney’s vision in founding the Knights. For Daniel, it was a “vocation to carry on the care of widows and orphans that Fr. McGivney envisioned.” The Schachles were a home-schooling family and developed a network with other home-schoolers. They named their home school the Fr. McGivney Academy. “We’ve often asked him to pray for us, and we’ve done the prayer for his canonization for years.”
But this father’s prayer now took on characteristics of Jesus’ Agony in the Garden, with Daniel mouthing words to the effect, “Lord, if it be your will, let this cup of suffering pass from us, but not my will but yours be done.” He specifically asked Fr. McGivney to intercede for his son’s healing, and promised to name him after the founder of the Knights if their petition was granted.
“After praying, I got up and told my wife what I had done,” he said. “She was a little bit frustrated at first because she really wanted to name the baby [Benedict] after her grandpa. But the next morning, she was all on board and began asking her friends to pray to Fr. McGivney, as did I, through email chain groups and stuff like that.”
Daniel said that the day he decided to ask for Fr. McGivney’s intercession, “we were going back and forth trying to process everything that was going on. We were looking at this pregnancy like God knows how long we would carry the child and end up with a stillbirth. Michelle was already making plans, and we were talking to our pastor about burial, and we had some friends who made some burial gowns for him. One day I went into the bedroom, and my wife just lay down on the floor crying. She was kind of inconsolable.”
“I remember kneeling down and telling God, ‘If you take my baby, I will still love you, but it will take me a while to forgive you,'” Michelle, 49, recalled. “‘I will do whatever you want me to do. It’s all in your hands.’
“I don’t remember if it was that day or the next day that I said, ‘Of course God can heal him, but what if he doesn’t, Dan?’ And he was like, ‘No he’s just going to be healed.'”
Events in the following weeks would affirm his instincts.