By Christine Rousselle
Catholic News Agency
November 1, 2020
HARTFORD, Conn.— Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, was beatified October 31, at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. He will now be known as “Blessed Michael McGivney” and his feast day will be observed August 13 in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
Fr. McGivney was formally beatified through an apostolic letter from Pope Francis that was read on Saturday by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, the appointed representative of Pope Francis. Tobin was the principal celebrant of the beatification Mass at Hartford’s cathedral.
“Fr. McGivney’s life is an illustration of how a holy priest can provide the necessary and intimate connection, so crucial in the life and mission of a parish,” Tobin said. He described McGivney as a priest who loved his flock, and was happy to see them work together as a community.
“The signature accomplishment for which he is remembered, founding the Knights of Columbus, grew out of his ministry as a parish priest,” Tobin added.
“This great brotherhood of 2 million now spanning the globe was born from the pastoral ingenuity of a parish priest to respond to the twin challenges faced by the people he served. Because he knew his people well, so well.”
“We accept that like him, God calls each one of us in our own day and our own way, to be vessels of mercy, and so, enter into our heavenly inheritance.”
Cardinals Sean O’Malley of Boston and Timothy Dolan of New York were cardinal concelebrators of the Mass. Several other archbishops and bishops, including representatives from the Ukrainian Catholic Church, were also present.
Pope Francis said that McGivney’s “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” that “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”
The pope concluded that the Connecticut priest “henceforth be given the title blessed.” The letter was dated September 13, 2020.
The date selected for McGivney’s feast, August 13, is the day between his birth, which was August 12, 1852, and his death, which was August 14, 1890.
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore read an English translation of the letter. McGivney was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s cathedral in 1877.
A tapestry of Father McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral’s sanctuary immediately after the letter was read.
Before the letter was read, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson read a biographical letter of McGivney’s life, and detailed his earthly ministry.
After the portrait was unveiled, Michael “Mikey” McGivney Schachle, accompanied by his parents and many of his siblings, presented a monstrance containing a relic of McGivney to Cardinal Tobin. Mikey Schaecle’s live birth after a prenatal diagnosis of fetal hydrops, a rare, typically fatal, condition, was confirmed by the Vatican to be a miracle attributed to the intercession of Bl. McGivney.
Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford read a letter of thanks to Tobin for presiding over the beatification Mass, and requested that Tobin relay his thanks to Pope Francis.
“I believe that Fr. McGivney is truly Pope Francis’ kind of priest,” said Blair. “A model of his time of closeness to Christ Jesus on the peripheries of life and society.”
In his homily, Tobin said that early Christians, weary due to the demands of a Christian life, were consoled that there was a “cloud of witnesses who would give them courage to go on” and reminding them that their fidelity would be rewarded in heaven.
“In his beautiful reflection on holiness Pope Francis dares to name some of those witnesses. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, gideon, and others,” said Tobin.
“Today, in the name of the Church, Pope Francis recognizes one more face among those witnesses: the serene and youthful countenance of Fr. Michael Joseph McGivney.”
Today, explained Tobin, is a celebration of the faithfulness of God to the body of His Son, the Church. He said that the beatification of McGivney coincided with “timely signs of God’s providential care that can speak in a personal way to each one of us, especially in this moment of our history.”
McGivney, said Tobin, was someone who “worked to keep families united in dignity, and security,” and took special care for members of his flock who were immigrants to the United States.
“We are in the presence of an apostle, who cared for victims of an epidemic, before he himself would die of the disease,” said Tobin. “We acknowledge gratefully the providence of God by confirming in the holiness of this witness by the miraculous cure of an unborn child, healed in utero of a fatal, multi-organ failure, after prayer by his family to Fr. McGivney.”
“We praise God for the timeliness of the celebration, because 130 years after his death, the brief life of this holy man speaks eloquently to our own path to holiness. We should listen to his testimony,” said Tobin.
While August 13 is the date of McGivney’s feast in the Archdiocese of Hartford, priests outside the archdiocese will be permitted to celebrate votive Masses for Knights of Columbus gatherings on this date with permission of their bishops.
Blair closed the Mass by thanking those who had assisted with the beatification process and the logistics of planning and broadcasting the Mass amid a pandemic. He requested that people pray daily for McGivney’s continued intercession in the world.
“First, that with Bl. Michael McGivney as our model, and with his intercession, that many more men will heed God’s call to serve as priests,” said Blair.
“And second, that at Bl.Michael McGivney’s intercession, we may be blessed with a further miracle leading to his canonization as a saint for the whole Church.”