Lent, the McGivney Way
The Order’s principles help us to better understand and practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving
By Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori 1/1/2022
LAST MONTH, we rejoiced to celebrate the beautiful feast of the Lord’s birth. Now we look ahead to the fulfillment of his mission to redeem the world. Signs of this mission were evident from the beginning — from the angel telling Joseph to name the child Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21), to the prophecy of Simeon that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction and Mary’s heart would be pierced by a sword of sorrow (Lk 2:34-35).
During Lent, even as we prepare to welcome catechumens into the Church’s life, we also prepare for the solemn celebration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. Lent is therefore a season of repentance, a time when, through God’s grace, we seek to die to our sins so that we might rise from our sins, and thus anticipate the glory that will be ours in heaven.
Blessed Michael McGivney can give us a helping hand in our Lenten self-denial and spiritual growth. The help he offers is embedded in the very principles of charity, unity and fraternity upon which he built the Knights of Columbus.
Lent, a season both joyful and sober, is meant for every member of the Church, but I believe that Blessed Michael McGivney can give us a helping hand in our Lenten self-denial and spiritual growth. The help he offers is embedded in the very principles of charity, unity and fraternity upon which he built the Knights of Columbus.
Let’s begin with our first principle, charity. If we are to open our hearts to the crucified Shepherd who loves us like no other, our hearts must be aflame with charity. The Church’s tradition, therefore, identifies almsgiving as a most beneficial Lenten practice. It is easy to see an equivalence between charity and almsgiving, which is more than providing financial help to the needy, important as that is. Almsgiving refers to all forms of charitable outreach to those who are in need — precisely the outreach we engage in as Knights. Whether it’s Coats for Kids, the heroic service of Knights to Ukrainian refugees, disaster relief, or simply helping a neighbor in time of trouble — all these are ways of putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Through charity, we become more like Christ, who gave himself up for us and for our salvation.
How about the principle of unity? Unity is crucial for the health of the Order. Only when we are united can we fulfill our mission to empower Catholic men to live their faith at home, in their parish, at work and in their community. Living our faith is like a team sport; we can only do it together. But our unity depends not merely on our good will, but rather on our oneness with God, which is attained through a habit of daily prayer. Lent is a training ground for prayer. For new Catholics, it is a kind of bootcamp. For lifelong Catholics, it is a refresher course. And for us as Knights, it is a time for us to unite in living our faith, a faith which has its source not in any human wisdom but in the wisdom of the cross.
A final word focused on the principle of fraternity: As Knights, we value the brotherhood and solidarity that we and our families share. We also know that sustaining that spirit of solidarity sometimes requires patience and forbearance. Sometimes, we need to abstain from a hasty word or an angry remark. Often, we need to make room in our hearts for a brother Knight with whom we disagree. In a word, we need to “fast” from that which undermines our fraternity. During Lent, denying ourselves food and drink can also help us to make more room in our hearts for one another, for those in need, and ultimately for the Savior, in whose pierced heart is the fullness of redemption.
Lent the McGivney way boils down to this: Charity corresponds to almsgiving; unity to prayer; fraternity to fasting. Guided by the principles that our Founder left us, may we experience our best Lent ever.