Blessed Michael J. McGivney was “an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance” because of his “zeal” for proclaiming the Gospel and his “generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” Pope Francis said in his apostolic letter of beatification of the founder of the Knights of Columbus.
Representing the pope, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, read the letter in Latin during the Oct. 31 Mass of beatification for Father McGivney at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. Beatification is a step toward sainthood.
In his homily, Cardinal Tobin elaborated on Blessed McGivney’s attributes as a parish priest.
“Father McGivney’s life is an illustration of how a holy priest can provide that necessary and intimate connection so crucial in the life and mission of a parish,” the cardinal said.
Blessed McGivney “knew the simple, indispensable requirement for a pastor: to love his people. He was with them in their sorrows, in times of death and bereavement. He was sanctified by doing what parish priests still do, day in and day out.”
His parish was not bound by names on his church’s registration rolls, Cardinal Tobin said. “He was not a stranger to jails and hospitals. He fostered respectful relationships with other Christian churches and civil authorities. He was a bridge-builder who shunned walls.”
The founding of the Knights of Columbus, in 1882 while Blessed McGivney was pastor of St. Mary Parish in New Haven, “grew out of his ministry as a parish priest,” he noted. And “long before his exhausted body surrendered to disease, he died daily to his own desires,” the cardinal added, and “he laid down his life for his friends.”
“We appreciate that true worship is centered on a right relationship with God and others, particularly those on the margin of society, and that Christian unity is more than simply adherence to a common belief,” the cardinal said. “We accept that like him, God calls each of us — in our own day and our own way — to be vessels of mercy and so enter into our heavenly inheritance.”
The beatification rite came shortly after the beginning of the Mass. After Cardinal Tobin read the rite in Latin, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the Knights’ supreme chaplain, read the English translation of the letter. A giant tapestry of Blessed McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral sanctuary.
Michael “Mikey” McGivney Schachle, together with his parents, Daniel and Michelle, and several of his 12 brothers and sisters, carried a relic of Blessed McGivney and presented it to Cardinal Tobin. The relic was placed in the sanctuary and censed.
Mikey, now 5, is the child whose in utero healing from a life-threatening condition that, under most circumstances, could have been fatal, was confirmed by Pope Francis; it was announced in May as a miracle that occurred through Father McGivney’s intercession.
This miracle paved the way for the priest’s beatification. In general a second miracle is needed for canonization.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson read a brief biography of the Knights’ founder, saying that by establishing fraternal order he “presented to the Church a paradigm” for an active and engaged laity.
The priest embodied the order’s core principles of charity, unity and fraternity, he said. His holiness directed him toward parish life, “not away from it,” and did not separate him from others but “drew him to their lives,” because he knew his people’s hardships firsthand, Anderson added.
The apostolic letter of beatification also announced Aug. 13 as the feast day for Blessed McGivney — the day between Aug. 12, the day he was born, and the date of his death, Aug. 14.
A priest of the Beatitudes
Blessed Michael J. McGivney was a priest of the Eight Beatitudes because he lived them “so consistently and thoroughly” as a parish priest and as the founder of the Knights of Columbus, said Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, the Knights’ supreme chaplain.
“Father McGivney led his parishioners to holiness and continues to provide for parish priests a model, a pattern for the renewal of priestly life — a renewal that is so urgently desired by the people of God,” the archbishop said in his homily during the Nov. 1 Mass of thanksgiving for the beatification of Father McGivney a day earlier.
Archbishop Lori was the principal celebrant of the Mass at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, the parish where Blessed McGivney served for seven years and founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. His remains are entombed in a sarcophagus near the entrance of the church.