Summary of today’s show: The Knights of Columbus is one of the largest charitable organizations in the world and was started by a parish priest wishing to care for Catholic widows and orphans. Brian Caulfield joins Scot Landry to discuss the Knights of Columbus Fathers for Good website initiative, which aims to help men become better husbands and fathers to their wives and children, as well as the other charitable works of the order and the groups’ founder Fr. Michael McGivney’s cause for canonization.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Brian Caulfield of the Knights of Columbus
Links from today’s show:
- Fathers for Good
- Knights of Columbus
- Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism
Today’s topics: The Knights of Columbus’ Fathers for Good
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. He said today’s topic is the discussion of the Knights of Columbus initiative called Fathers for Good. He read Supreme Knights Carl Anderson’s words about the website and then welcomed Brian Caulfield to the show. They discussed that Anderson is one of the leading lay Catholic thinkers in this country.
Scot asked Brian to give an overview of the Knights. They were founded in New Haven, CT, in 1882 by Fr. Michael McGivney, whose cause for canonization is active right now. Their headquarters are still in New Haven, including their museum and St. Mary’s Church, where Fr. McGivney was pastor. They have 1.8 million members worldwide, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Poland. They are just starting in Poland. They publish their magazine Columbia in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Polish. They are most known for their charitable works. Every year they have a survey of their fraternal activities and their local councils donate millions of dollars in charitable giving and millions of hours of volunteer work. Scot said the Knights donated $158 million this past year. He said the Knights donated more than 70 million hours of charitable work worldwide.
Brian said the Knights are known in parishes as the ones to go to get things done. They’re often men who want to give something back to the parish and to God. They know their faith calls them to give to those in need. Our Catholic faith demands of us to give to others, whether financially or through our “sweat equity”. They have been big supporters of the Special Olympics from the beginning. Other programs include giving away coats to children for the winter. They have a food for families program where councils restock the food pantries of their local parish or town.
Scot pointed out that the millions do not come primarily from the members themselves. The Knights are one of the largest life insurance companies in the US. They got into the business at the idea of Fr. McGivney to care for orphans and widows. Brian said in 1882 anti-Catholic discrimination was rampant even as boatloads of Catholics continued to come into the country. Often they had the most dangerous, backbreaking work and if they died, the widows were left penniless. Fr. McGivney had lost his own father at a young age. He had thought of giving up the seminary to care for his family, but the bishop of Hartford took him aside and offered him a scholarship because he recognized his potential. So Fr. McGivney kept the idea in his heart of providing help. There were many non-Catholic fraternal organizations that provided these death benefits, and he didn’t want men to have to jeopardize their Catholic faith in order to provide for their families. The insurance idea was right at the foundation of the order and was intended as a charitable option. The original idea that there would 1,000 members and if a member died, the rest would give $1 each to the widow. Now they are one of the highest rated insurance programs in North America and receive highest ratings for ethics. Life insurance is sold by brother knights to brother knights. You have to be a knight in order to buy the insurance.
Scot said he’s struck that the Knights of Columbus and Our Sunday Visitor were formed by parish priests and have been so influential in the Church in the US. Brian said Fr. McGivney’s vision was ahead of his time in seeking to empower the laity in their legitimate vocation. He gathered 12 men in his parish to start the organization, but within two years he stepped aside in leadership. He was never Supreme Knight, but became Supreme Chaplain. Within four years, he had been transferred by the bishop to a new parish which removed him from day to day to contact. So 100 years before Vatican II, he was helping laity to lead, to grow spiritually, and to keep their faith both in church and socially in the community. We don’t realize today how difficult it would be for a parish priest to found a lay organization and then to set it to go on its own.
Scot said that the Knights are also very active in Rome in caring for St. Peter’s Basilica and to support the work of the Pope. Brian said they’ve always tried to be supportive of the work of the priests and bishops without trying to take their place. They don’t try to overstep their bounds.
Brian said he’s been helping to promote the cause of Fr. McGivney in the Philippines. He was in a remote and rural region of the island nation meeting various councils. As he was driving with someone to stop at councils along their route and calling ahead with a few minutes notice, at every stop a group of men would be gathered at the church to greet him as someone coming from the Supreme Council. They had a strong connection immediately despite the distance and were able to immediately discuss their charitable works and the news of order’s work worldwide.
2nd segment: Scot said Fathers for Good has been around for a few years and has great resources. He asked what the genesis was for this initiative. Brian said in 2008, Carl Anderson realized that in order to attract younger men to the order, they needed to be on the web in a big way with a site geared toward fathers. The intent was to provide a forum for ideas. They look for responses to each article. They want to give men information, formation, a sense of welcoming. Fatherhood is a not always welcome in our popular culture, especially when you see how fathers are portrayed in primetime television. The biggest problem is separation of man from his family, on a cultural level, a communications level, and even a legal level through involuntary divorce. They do try to keep a positive view of fatherhood where it’s not always esteemed.
Many of their articles offer suggestions for fathers to implement in their lives. The name has two meanings: Every father is a father for the rest of his life, for good. It also means that all fathers want to be good fathers deep down in his heart. Many men come from families where they didn’t get a good example and now it’s our turn to make good for our own children. Fathers for Good provides the resources to be the best dad they can be.
Wives are some of the biggest readers of the articles. Most wives want to be involved and they want more involvement from their husbands.
Scot remembers the day he and his wife learned that she was pregnant for the first time. He was surprised how much information was out there for general pregnancy books and general parenting tips, but how little there was about being a great father, especially from a Catholic perspective. He finally found some books by a local Bostonian called Jim Stinson. But now he’s happy to see Fathers for Good as a resource he didn’t have.
Fathers for Good is for all dads, including men who want to be dads. Brian said the average user of the site is a man over 40 who has two children in their teens. The demographic are men on the web looking for resources and advice. They are often already connected to online Catholic communities. He said the men will share their experiences with each other and this is a forum they feel comfortable doing that.
Brian said one regular features is movie reviews, which help them decide whether they should watch it themselves or whether their children should see it. Secular reviews often don’t give that kind of information. They discussed other sections of the site and topics covered, including discipline, courage as a father, fathering a daughter, spirituality for fathers, a section for moms, and even how to overcome porn. There was some discussion of the prevalence of porn and the statistics of how much of an epidemic there is given easy access on the web. It’s a terrible scourge for men, Brian said. Men like to think of themselves as strong and courageous, yet they can fall so easily for such cheap images on the web. We have to look at it as right and wrong and we have to think of our loved ones. How would the men feel if their wife walked in on them or their children. Brian said they have a powerful witness from Deacon Ralph Poyo about his own former addiction to porn. Men need to pray about it and in some cases they may need a Catholic counselor and provide all kinds of resources for them to be set free to be the men and fathers they’re called to be.
Scot said this isn’t just affecting men, but affects everyone. Twenty-one percent of websites are porn sites, he said. It’s a $3 billion per year business. About 8% of all email is porn-related. Twenty-five percent of all search engine requests. The average age of first viewing online porn is 11.
Scot asked what new elements of the site they’ve added. Brian said they have a new Facebook page and they invite people to Like it and add their comments. They post links to new content there. The movie reviews are updated each week. The husband and wife column is also updated weekly.
Right after Labor Day they will be featuring how families can get involved in the upcoming Year of Faith, starting October 11. The Knights of Columbus have recently come out with a booklet “What is the New Evangelization?” They hope to answer it in a way that is practical for families, like praying as a family and being witnesses in your community and parish. To get a booklet, write to 1 Columbus Plaza, New Haven, CT, 06510 and include $1.
Scot asked about the cause for canonization of Fr. McGivney and where it stands. He said in March, 2008, Pope Benedict declared Fr. McGivney Venerable, which is the furthest stage that human effort can bring the cause. They explore all the written records, do interviews, and so on. This is ruled on by the Congregation of Saints to rule whether it is evidence of a life of virtue. He lived all the Christian virtues to a heroic level, above the level of usual sanctity. From that point, in order to verify they are in heaven, God performs a miracle due to the intercession of the Venerable person. With one miracle, they are declared Blessed. When a second miraculous healing verified by the Vatican occurs, they can be canonized. Fr. McGivney’s process began in 1997. They are currently looking into a reported miracle regarding the intercession of Fr. McGivney. Brian asked for listeners to hope and pray for the canonization. They can order the canonization prayer card for free and can join the Canonization Guild for free at a special website.
Scot said if canonized, Fr. McGivney would be the first American priest who didn’t found an order or became a bishop to be made a saint.
Brian also suggested listeners check out their news website called Headline Bistro.