Did you ever see a miracle walking? Or running, jumping, laughing, and hugging like any active five-year-old? This is the story of the miraculous healing of a child in the womb attributed to the intercession of Venerable Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus. It is also the story of a large, heroic, and loving family that welcomed the child as a gift from God despite a fatal prenatal diagnosis.
Born May 15, 2015, the child was named Michael McGivney Schachle by his grateful parents, who had prayed fervently to God, through the intercession of Fr. McGivney, for their unborn son’s survival. The miraculous healing opened the way for the K of C founder to advance from Venerable Servant of God to “Blessed,” a step before sainthood in the Catholic Church. As a result, on Oct. 31, Michael will join his parents, Daniel and Michelle Schachle, along with many of his 12 siblings, at the Mass for Beatification of his namesake in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut.
This pro-life story begins in late December 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee, when Michelle heard from her doctor that an ultrasound revealed the child she was carrying had Trisomy-21, Down syndrome. She and her husband prayerfully accepted the diagnosis, believing that having a sibling with special needs would be an opportunity for their children to develop greater compassion and respect for life. Shortly after the New Year, another ultrasound diagnosed the more serious condition of fetal hydrops, when fluid fills two or more of an unborn child’s organs. In the ultrasound image, little Michael’s body looks like a balloon about to burst. Prenatal specialists at a world-renowned medical center told the Schachles that they had never seen such a severe case and offered abortion, explaining that the child would not survive to delivery under any circumstances. Committed to their Catholic faith, Daniel and Michelle declined to end their son’s life, turning to more fervent prayer amid many tears.
At this point, Daniel had what he calls a “Garden of Gethsemane moment,” asking God to let the cup of suffering pass from him while accepting His will. He then began to pray for the intercession of Fr. McGivney, promising to name the child after him if God would grant a miracle. The priest was well-known to the Schachles—Daniel serves as an agent for the Knights of Columbus insurance program, and the family named their homeschool after its founder. So it was no surprise when Daniel and Michelle asked their children and friends to pray to Fr. McGivney, who needed a miracle attributed to his intercession to advance toward sainthood.
In March 2015, having received medical clearance to travel with her high-risk pregnancy, Daniel and Michelle went on a previously planned K of C pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine in Fatima, Portugal. At a Mass they attended there, the Gospel reading told the story of the Roman official who asked Jesus to cure his son. Hearing Jesus’ words, “Go, your son lives,” Michelle felt that the child in her womb was healed. A few days after they returned home, she underwent yet another ultrasound; this time she was moved to happy tears when the doctor told her the baby looked like a normal child with Down syndrome. The fluid that had filled his body was gone—with absolutely no medical treatment. Lacking any scientific explanation for the change in condition, the doctors and staff at the secular hospital began calling Michael “the miracle baby.”
Due to maternal blood-flow problems, Michael was delivered by C-section at just past 31 weeks, weighing three pounds and four ounces and with no signs of fetal hydrops. He had Down syndrome and a condition called coarctation (narrowing) of the aorta—which was surgically corrected a few weeks later—but was healthy otherwise. Affectionately called Little Mikey, he is the center of joy in the family, always giving and receiving love.
At the Mass for Beatification next week, after an apostolic letter from Pope Francis is read, Little Mikey will accompany his parents in processing with a first-class relic, a bone from the bodily remains, of Fr. McGivney, who will be only the third priest born in the United States to be named “Blessed.” Another Church-approved miracle through his intercession is required for Fr. McGivney to be declared a saint.
From my perspective as vice postulator for the cause of Fr. McGivney, I see the healing of Little Mikey as a confirmation of all that the Knights of Columbus stands for: respect for life from conception to natural death; affirmation of the dignity of children with Down syndrome and all those living with disabilities; the life-saving mission of the Order’s Ultrasound Initiative, which has provided more than 1,300 “windows to the womb” to pro-life pregnancy centers nationwide; Fr. McGivney’s original mission of providing financial protection to families through its insurance program, and the Knights’ commitment to the Order’s principles of charity, unity, and fraternity.