In founding the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney sought to respond to the crisis in family life affecting Catholics in 19th-century America. As a young man he witnessed firsthand the challenges his widowed mother faced with seven children at home. Later, as a priest he confronted the problems affecting the families of his parish community due to poverty, violence, alcoholism, immigration, anti-Catholic prejudice and discrimination.
Father McGivney’s vision for family life was not simply that each family might find financial and material aid. He understood that holiness is the calling of all baptized Christians. And, seeing as his two brothers followed him into the priesthood, we can understand how truly important the “sanctuary of the home” was to the McGivney family.
His family was a living example of what the Second Vatican Council later taught — that each man, woman and child is called to holiness through proclaiming the Gospel and communicating the divine gift of love through the activities of their daily lives.
When Christian families respond in this way to the design of the Creator, they become a “domestic Church” that, as Pope Paul VI explained, mirrors “the various aspects of the entire Church” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 71).
Since the Second Vatican Council, and especially during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, it has become clear that the family is “the way of the Church”. In one sense, this obviously means that the family is the object of the Church’s evangelization efforts. In other words, the “mission” of the family in the task of evangelization is to be what it is called to be — that is, to live its daily life as a Christian family or as St. John Paul II said so often, “Families, become what you are!” (Familiaris Consortio, 17). This mission is at the heart of the “community of life and love” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1603).