Eduardo and Sara Alvarez had already planned to attend the feast day celebration for Blessed Michael McGivney on Aug. 13 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix. But what was originally meant to celebrate and venerate the founder of the Knights of Columbus became a prayer for his intercession for their son, Eduardo, Jr., who was born premature the previous Monday, Aug. 7, and was still in the NICU.

After the liturgy, the couple asked Holy Cross Fr. David Halm, associate state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus and pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, to accompany them to Banner University Medical Center in Phoenix so he could perform an emergency Baptism for little Eduardo.

“He was born three months early. He’s doing well but, however, we should take any precautions, and we’re going to go baptize him for just in case,” said Alvarez, who joined the Knights of Columbus eight months ago with Council 10540 at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert. “Originally, we had plans to come just because of Fr. McGivney’s celebration. However, it doubled up as an intercession.”

The Mass featured a first-class relic of Blessed McGivney, to be venerated by those attending the Mass. Robyn Combs, a parishioner at the cathedral, brought her five children to the reliquary to the left of the sanctuary to venerate the parish priest.

“We see Fr. McGivney as a really good example of holiness,” said Combs. “Any time that we have an opportunity to venerate relics, we’d like to and ask for their blessing on our family and ask them to help us grow in holiness.”

Fr. Fernando Camou, the rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral who celebrated the Mass,said that without the Knights of Columbus supporting him as a seminarian, he wouldn’t be a priest today. As a priest today, he takes inspiration from the Knights’ founder on how to serve his people.

“I am trying to give myself generously like he did for the sake of raising up people to help them realize their dignity in Christ,” said Fr. Camou. “I find great inspiration in Fr. Michael McGivney just in that sense that one life can have such an impact.”

Field agent Josue Limón with the Knights’ Raso Agency — which provides insurance for members in Arizona — came from Tucson to venerate Blessed McGivney. He referred to Blessed McGivney as “the first agent.”

“He is the first man who was knocking on doors trying to energize brothers to protect their families and to evangelize,” said Limón, a member of Council 15376 at St. Augustine Cathedral in Tucson who serves Spanish-speaking members in the state. “Fr. McGivney saw that there was a need, especially because when he was in seminary he had to leave seminary because his father had passed. When he saw that happening repeatedly in his parish, it left a mark, and it triggered him to find a solution.”

In his homily, state chaplain Fr. Gregory Adolf, pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Sierra Vista, in the Diocese of Tucson, reflected on the Sign of the Cross, made up of a horizontal and vertical plane. The horizontal plane, he said is made up of the material world, whereas the vertical is the spiritual.

“If it is not sustained by the vertical — by God, spirit, eternity, all of those things which cannot be weighed, measured, bought or sold — if it is not sustained by God, the horizontal will sink under its own gravity of selfishness and fear,” said Fr. Adolf. “A society that’s lost its sense of the vertical, a family that’s lost its sense of the vertical, a man or a woman who has lost their sense of the vertical, they will sink in selfishness and fear, and we see the evidence around us.”

Blessed McGivney stood against that, Fr. Adolf said. Through his efforts, the family would be strengthened. The family — the domestic Church — and not the parish is the basic unit of the Catholic Church, he said.

“Blessed Michael J. McGivney in some ways broke the mold of parish priests in the United States in the 1880s. He got out of the rectory and out of the sanctuary and began to form young men in lives of virtue and holiness where they worked,” said Fr. Adolf. “Building family. The basic unit of the Roman Catholic Church is not the parish — it’s the domestic Church. It’s the family. However that family’s configured, that’s the basic growing place seedbed for holiness.”

Fr. Adolf then listed many of the programs that the Knights of Columbus offer to support that sense of vertical in the family, programs such as the “Family of the Month” or consecration to the Holy Family.

“It is Blessed Michael McGivney’s call to strengthen family life and to protect families who have lost their wage-earner and are threatened with dispersal,” he said. His vision for family life was not only financial and material but also spiritual strength. He understood, anticipating by many decades, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council regarding the domestic Church — your family, our families.”