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"A Path to Discipleship:" Supreme Knight reflects on Blessed Michael J. McGivney

Jeffrey Bruno

John Burger - published on 10/29/20

Carl Anderson says beatification of K of C founder should spur interest in "life-changing brotherhood."

In his annual report delivered to the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus this summer, Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said that through the spiritual genius of Fr. Michael J. McGivney, the Knights of Columbus “became the way for Catholic men to transform friends into brothers — brothers who care for one another.”

As Anderson and the Knights prepared for this Saturday’s beatification of Fr. McGivney, the New Haven, Connecticut-based supreme knight took a few minutes to speak with Aleteia about the meaning of this milestone — for himself personally, for the Knights, and for society.

SK MCGIVNEY TOMB MASK
Photo Courtesy of Knights of Columbus

Anderson is the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the world’s largest Catholic family fraternal service organization, which has nearly 2 million members. Before becoming supreme knight in 2000, he held a number of positions in public life and in the Church. He served as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and acting director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. He was then a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

From 1983 to 1998, Anderson taught as a visiting professor of family law at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. In 1988, he became the founding vice president and first dean of the Washington, D.C., session of this graduate school of theology now located at The Catholic University of America.

He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, A Civilization of Love: What Every Catholic Can Do To Transform The World, and a number of other books. At the Vatican, he has been a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Councils for the Laity and for the Family.

Tell us about how you’ve come to know Fr. McGivney over the years, as a Catholic, as a Knight and as Supreme Knight. What effect has devotion to him had on your life and that of your family?

My relationship with Fr. McGivney has grown more personal and more profound over the years, praying to him. He’s almost like a member of the family, I would say, at this point. And especially with the responsibility of leadership over the Knights of Columbus — in a way, his organization — I turn to him a lot, whether it’s in terms of making decisions or when we have to make some hard choices, for his intercession and think about what he would do.

He really does have a profound concern for family life, so, as we saw in the miracle with the Schachle baby, I would say Fr. McGivney is an important part of our prayer life here.

Also, as we look at what we’re doing with the renewal of parishes, the renewal of the priesthood in this country and looking forward to reopening so many of our parishes after this pandemic, there again, Fr. McGivney as a model parish priest certainly is inspiring. And he’s inspired so many of our priest-chaplains and priest-members, that that’s been very heartening as well.

Finally, the fact that Fr. McGivney died like so many Americans who have died during this pandemic, since he was a victim of a pandemic back in 1890 — the Russian Flu or the Asiatic Flu pandemic — so we’ve seen with a lot of heartache with our families suffering in the same way that he did. We have somebody we can turn to who really has a personal understanding of what this is like. 

So I think in all those ways he’s made a big difference in our life. 

What does it mean to the Knights of Columbus that he is now being beatified? 

For so many of our members, they have a very strong devotion to Fr. McGivney, and so it’s maybe like a big encouragement from heaven that this tremendous step has been taken. I think it’s also a validation of his call of the laity to live a life devoted to charity, unity and brotherhood. When you think about it, the great orders in the Catholic Church, whether we’re talking about Franciscans or Dominicans or Jesuits or Benedictines, we all know what that means: they’re men who’ve taken vows and they live their life according to them. But where’s the layman in all of this? Where’s the layman who’s got to work in the world; he’s got to be active in his parish; he’s got to support his family? Here’s Fr. McGivney, with a brotherhood for the layman in the world with a family and a path of discipleship around charity, unity and brotherhood. So that’s a tremendous advance, and I think it’s changed millions of lives of Catholic men in the U.S. and around the world, in Canada and Mexico, and other places.

So I think that’s been part of what this beatification is — a validation of this kind of path of discipleship. And I think also it will be an occasion for which maybe we do a gap analysis. The Church now is holding up Fr. McGivney as someone who can be imitated, should be imitated, and we measure our own life against his life of holiness, and maybe we’re encouraged to close the gap a little more.

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