1. He was a man of deep faith.
Father Michael McGivney was motivated to help his people know the Catholic faith but also to live by it increasingly each day. And he helped his flock to do the same. MiGivney was an effective and clear preacher, applying the principles of faith to his sermons and making Catholicism relevant to the lives of his flock. Father McGivney also was dedicated to teaching the Faith to young people in his parishes. His motivation was his great faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
2. He encouraged growth in charity.
As a priest, Father McGivney became acutely aware of the many difficulties and trials faced by his brothers and sisters in Christ. His compassionate heart was moved to action in response to what he saw. Ever-attentive to the needs of others, Father McGivney loved all with a father’s heart. His great charity inspired him to establish the Knights of Columbus as a fraternal society that financially assisted families during times of hardship.
3. He was single-hearted in purpose.
Father McGivney was faithful in his life of prayer, devoted to the Blessed Mother and man of the Eucharist. Father McGivney desired to instill in Catholic men a spirit of piety, which would extend to their families and communities. He also knew that piety was not an end in itself but the means to an end — to live in such a way that we become saints. As a holy priest, McGivney was an example of holiness for others and a means of encouragement for those who observed him.
4. He accompanied a man sentenced to death.
Father McGivney visited a young man sentenced to death every day. The young convict was in desperate need of Father McGivney’s counsel and ministry. Clearly moved by grief during a Mass he celebrated at the jail for Smith days before his impending execution, Father McGivney characterized his presence at the impending execution as “perhaps the most trying ordeal of my life.” The man told Father McGivney what a gift he was to him, saying: “Father, your saintly ministrations have enabled me to meet death without a tremor. Do not fear for me, I must not break down now.”
5. He was the victim of a pandemic.
In Father McGivney’s lifetime, priests were often overworked. Taking on multiple parishes took a toll, especially at a time when transportation was not what it is today. Priests then were also regularly exposed to disease, which was the case for Father McGivney when a pandemic spread in 1889. Weakened and unable to return to strength, and after bouts of rest and consultation with doctors, Father McGivney ended up confined to his bed the summer before he turned 38. On Aug. 14, 1890, he died — two days after his birthday.
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic.