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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Recomendation

I want to recommend the book 'Parish Priest, Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism' by Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster. I breezed through it in about a week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It tells the story of a parish priest in New Haven, CT during the late 19th century. McGivney would become the founder of the Knights of Columbus, a men's fraternal organization created to care for working Catholic families and provide a Church approved social outlet for Catholic men.
It not only discusses McGivney's life but talks about the role of the parish priest at a time in US History when immigrants were rapidly changing the religious makeup of America. As the Catholic population soared, bishops scrambled to find enough priests to cover parishes and build churches. These immigrants often faced harsh working conditions upon arrival and if the family's primary breadwinner fell ill or died, it was not uncommon for widows with several children to be turned out unto the street. (Kind of puts into perspective the plight of many 'poor, welfare mothers' of today. )
Consistent with subsidiarity, and the ways of the Catholic Worker Movement (still a half century down the road), McGivney envisioned an organization that would pay a death benefit to member's widows. The money would pay funeral expenses as well as keep bill collectors at bay. The Knights were also a response to the many popular secret societies of the day that pulled men away from their families and made them swear oaths of loyalty-a practice forbid by the Church. Local councils provided for the Catholic men in their parishes and their families long before the idea of a state run welfare system was created. Today the Knights number in the millions as do there charitable contributions.
I would recommend picking up the book when you're looking for something informative but not overwhelming. One person can make a difference, especially by following sound Catholic principles. McGivney's accomplishments show how ordinary Catholics can cause radical change by actively living the Gospel.