‘If You Need a Miracle’

Posted on April 04, 2024 in: General News

‘If You Need a Miracle’

When faced with unexpected trials, many turn to Blessed Michael McGivney as a friend and intercessor in heaven

By John Burger



Since Father Michael McGivney’s beatification in October 2020, countless people around the world have sought his intercession in times of need. Touched by grace, many have attributed to Blessed Michael answered prayers, from everyday favors to amazing medical recoveries.

Most reported stories of healing may not qualify as miraculous by the Church’s standards, which are rightly high and demanding to protect the integrity of the canonization process. But they do reveal something of Father McGivney’s pastoral heart and of the devotion of Knights of Columbus and others to the Order’s founder. And they inspire still others to seek his intercession and to draw closer to God, from whom all graces flow.

Three such stories — involving a college student, an unborn child and an 86-year-old Knight — are recounted below.


Christopher Holzman was a sophomore at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and an active member of St. Benedict’s Council 4708 on campus. He was also an avid skateboarder. One night in December 2021, he and his friends decided to take on a rather large hill in town with their longboards.

Chris went first, and by the time his friends got to the bottom of the hill, they found him lying face down on the pavement, blood flowing from his mouth and ears. A passing car stopped to help; the driver, it turned out, was a nurse, and she played a vital role in keeping Chris alive while his friends called 911. He stopped breathing several times.

The local hospital didn’t have the capacity to treat Chris’ severe injuries, so he was life-flighted to Kansas City, Kansas.

His parents, Kevin and Mary Holzman, were notified and immediately prepared to leave their home in Iowa. As they threw some clothes into a suitcase for a possible extended stay in Kansas City, Kevin — a former K of C district deputy — also grabbed a Blessed Michael McGivney prayer card. The thought occurred to him during the five-hour drive that once they got to the hospital they might have to “identify a body.” But the couple simply continued praying and asked for Blessed Michael’s intercession on behalf of their son.

Chris had broken the temporal bones on both sides of his head, an injury with a very high mortality rate. Doctors who examined him were incredulous that he could have broken those skull bones simply by falling off a longboard.

“It’s almost impossible to break the temporal bone,” said Kevin Holzman. “You have to be in a car accident to break it.”

As word got out, Knights at Benedictine and back home in Iowa — and elsewhere — joined in prayer.

After two and a half weeks in a coma, Chris came to and began eating on his own. He spent only a few more days in the hospital. Though the injuries left him deaf, he has received cochlear implants that allow him to hear.

“The doctors I have seen for checkups for all these things look at my charts and they try to figure out what happened to me,” explained Chris, who served as grand knight of Council 4078 for the 2022-2023 academic year. “Some said, ‘Wait, how are you even alive? How are you this well off?’”

Medically speaking, such severe head trauma could have easily left Chris bedridden with long-term cognitive and memory damage.

“It is clear that my time here on earth isn’t done,” said Chris, now 22. “God has a bigger purpose for me.”


Eugenia and Manuel Blain of Toronto were happily expecting their first child. “It was pretty calm until we had the 12-week scan” in the spring of 2021, Eugenia recalled.

Their unborn baby, a boy, was flagged for Down syndrome, and a specialist later spent several hours examining Eugenia and the baby. The test results were devastating. The right side of the baby’s heart was underdeveloped, and his blood circulation was reversed. He also had hydrops — life-threatening swelling in the organs — as well as an omphalocele, meaning abdominal organs were protruding outside his body.

The specialist said that the baby was going to die in utero within a few weeks, and the Blains might want to consider an abortion.

“As a Catholic,” Eugenia said, “that wasn’t an option.”

While the couple sought a second opinion, they discovered the story of Michael “Mikey” McGivney Schachle, the Tennessee boy whose miraculous in utero cure from hydrops was accepted by the Vatican as the miracle needed for Father McGivney’s beatification.

Because of the similarities between Mikey’s condition and their baby’s, the Blains started reciting the prayer for Blessed Michael McGivney’s canonization and invited close friends to do so as well. Manuel, who is a statistician, agreed to say the prayer but remained skeptical.

“I know what I’m praying for — a miracle,” Eugenia would tell Manuel. “It’s very clear to me that I’m not asking for a small thing.”

During her next doctor’s visit, Eugenia asked the technician if the baby’s hydrops had worsened. “And she’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t see any hydrops.’”

When the doctor reviewed the results, he exclaimed, “I was supposed to see someone who had a baby with hydrops and a hypoplastic heart, and I don’t have any of that.” The doctor scanned Eugenia again and confirmed that the baby still had the omphalocele, but neither hydrops nor a heart defect. A cardiologist later confirmed that the baby’s heart was normal, as was his blood flow.

Nicholas Michael Blain was born in November 2021; now 2 years old, he is a happy and social toddler. During the day, he no longer needs respiratory support, and he is eating on his own. Once he’s stable enough, he can have the omphalocele surgically repaired.

The Blains chose Nicholas’ middle name in honor of Blessed Michael McGivney, someone they were only vaguely aware of before this experience. They both grew up in families that were more secular than religious, and their first reaction to the doctor’s news was questioning.

“We are scientists,” said Eugenia. “It’s not that we doubted that it might have been a miracle. But it was more like, ‘What if [the first doctor] got it wrong?”

She posed that very question to her OB-GYN, who opened her computer and showed Eugenia the pictures.

“There is no confusion in these images; this baby was dying,” the doctor said. “I have no other way to explain it: I think this baby is a miracle.”

Manuel admitted that he had been doubtful that praying for Blessed Michael’s intercession could make a difference.

“I just thought that whatever path God chooses for us is what we’ll have to live with,” he recalled. “But we are given this opportunity to connect to these great individuals who can bring us closer to God and change our lives forever. And I would say, if you do need a miracle, pray for it.”


Last November, District Deputy Manuel “Manny” Joia Jr. returned home after spending a grueling month in a hospital in Apple Valley, California. The 86-year-old had required surgery to remove intestinal blockages. Normally 180 pounds, Joia dropped to 140.

“He was not able to eat for weeks. For many days he was only getting an IV. No food, not even a feeding tube,” said Jason Negrete, who, like Joia, is a past grand knight of Father Oliver McGivern Council 10494 in Apple Valley. “He looked so frail and was always cold.”

Joia, a 30-year Air Force veteran and retired civil servant, was hospitalized Oct. 4. Undergoing surgery Oct. 10, he had a steady stream of visitors, including other members of Council 10494. His brother Knights were praying for him, particularly the rosary and the prayer for the canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney, a prayer that Joia himself had been praying daily for years.

In unstable condition after surgery, Joia was put into a medically induced coma to increase his chances of recovery. That’s when Resurrectionist Father Delwyn Haroldson, pastor of Our Lady of the Desert Catholic Church and council chaplain, prayed by his bedside.

“He seemed dead except for the beeping of the life support machine. I anointed Manny and prayed, ‘OK, Father McGivney, now is the time; I pray for your intercession that Manny will be restored back to life and good health.’”

After anointing Joia, Father Haroldson went out to get something to eat.

“But the thought kept coming to me that I should go back and pray more for Manny,” he said. “If he was going to die, that is the least I could do.”

Negrete also felt that Joia’s prognosis looked bleak.

“Honestly, I thought he had one foot in the grave and he was getting measured for a halo,” Negrete admitted.

The priest went back to the intensive care unit and again prayed to Father McGivney and said the rosary for a few hours. “Finally, a sense of peace came over me,” he recalled.

The next morning, he got a call from Grand Knight Anthony Forcinel: Joia was sitting up in bed, talking.

“It just floored me,” the priest said. “In the 11 years I’ve been anointing people, I’ve never known anybody on life support who snapped out of it like that.”

Hospital staff told Joia’s son, Michael, a member of Father Kuster Council 3037 in Chester, Connecticut, that his father went from being kept alive by a machine to being “awake, alert and ready to start moving around” the next day — “and hungry.”

Today, Joia is no longer in need of physical therapy and is getting out of the house more and more.

“I believe that the prayers to Father McGivney helped me come through,” Joia affirmed. “Prayer also heals, not just medicine. But you have to have the faith. … I believe Father McGivney is still with us. He’s guiding my life in a certain way.”


JOHN BURGER writes for Aleteia.org and is a member of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Council 16253 in New Haven, Conn.