Father McGivney: A Man of the Family

by Father Gabriel O’Donnell, O.P.

Sent to serve the young of his flock, Father McGivney in turn “sent” the young men under his influence and direction into the world to become good husbands and fathers, true knights for God and country. His work with the young was but a steppingstone to the formation of strong Catholic families. His dedication to the ideal of Christian manhood expressed so clearly in the founding of the Knights of Columbus was never allowed to obscure his ultimate goal of protecting the good of the entire family unit. Just a couple of years after the Order was established, he began to limit his involvement in the Knights to be available to his whole flock.

Though focused on the task at hand, he never lost sight of his ultimate purpose: to care for and strengthen Christian families. In a sense, the founding of the Knights of Columbus was a means rather than an end: a means to strengthen husbands and fathers so that they could, in turn, strengthen their families in the faith and secure their material well-being.

A fragment of a sermon Father McGivney gave in 1884 was recorded in the New Haven Observer. It showed that he also regarded politics as a means to build a better society.

“My friends,” Father McGivney told his parishioners, “the political campaign is rapidly drawing to a close and the time has come to decide which of the numerous presidential candidates shall receive your vote. In casting your ballots you should look well to the responsibilities under which every citizen of this free government is placed. Let not the soft or alluring words of tricky politicians, or the seductive dollar turn you a hair's breadth from your lawful path. Vote not as other men dictate, but rather like men with the interest of your country at heart. Vote according to the dictates of your own consciences.”