Friars and Knights Celebrate the Beatification of Blessed Michael McGivney
By Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe, O.P.
Fr. Michael J. McGivney, diocesan priest and founder of the Knights of Columbus, was declared “Blessed” in a Mass celebrated on October 31. Beatification is the penultimate stage before a candidate is formally declared a saint by the Church.
Fr. Gabriel O’Donnell, O.P., vice- postulator for Blessed McGivney’s cause and Director of the McGivney Guild, explains, “Beatification and canonization are acts of the Church that celebrate the goodness and holiness of God as reflected in the lives of those who followed Christ heroically during their earthly life. Beatification is possible because this person came to know and believe in the reality of God’s love for him, while still walking the streets of our towns and cities.”
Blessed Michael McGivney, the son of Irish immigrants, was widely known in his day for his love for the Church and his care for families in need. As a young parish priest, Blessed McGivney served as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut, where his remains are now entombed.
The beatification of Michael McGivney was advanced when the Holy See approved the miraculous healing of a now five-year- old boy, Michael Schachle. In utero, “Mikey” was diagnosed with down syndrome and fetal hydrops, a life threatening condition. After receiving the diagnosis, Mikey’s parents began to pray to Fr. McGivney, asking that their son would live.
While on pilgrimage with the Knights of Columbus in Fatima, Portugal, the Schachles attended Mass in the basilica. At that Mass, Mikey’s parents heard Fr. Jonathan Kalisch, O.P., Director of Chaplains of the Knights of Columbus and Prior of St. Mary’s Priory, proclaim the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel: “Go, your son will live” (John 4:50). They returned home, confident that through Fr. McGivney, their son would live. A subsequent ultrasound revealed that Mikey had been healed.
The beatification weekend was marked with a number of momentous celebrations including a prayer vigil for priests at Blessed McGivney’s tomb, the Mass of Beatification in Hartford’s St. Joseph Cathedral, and a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mary’s.
Despite the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the friars at St. Mary’s welcomed pilgrims for a weekend of prayer and celebration. “We know that the second miracle for the canonization of St. John Paul II came on the day of his beatification,” said Fr. Kalisch. “We wanted to create opportunities for prayer, so that the faithful could visit Fr. McGivney’s tomb.” Thousands participated virtually in events at the parish, which included all-night prayer vigils, a candlelit procession with a relic of Blessed McGivney, and a family rosary.
On the evening of the beatification, eighty some young adults gathered in the church for Eucharistic Adoration and to pray at the tomb. Members of the friars’ musical group, the Hillbilly Thomists, led the pilgrims in song. Fr. Kalisch noted the importance of the young adult gathering saying, “Blessed McGivney drew young people to him; young men looked to him for leadership and inspiration. It’s remarkable that he is the third youngest American to be beatified.” Blessed McGivney, who directed plays and organized athletic leagues for the youth of St. Mary’s, will continue to enkindle the faith in Catholic young people by the example of his life and his intercession.
Blessed Michael McGivney was a friend of the Dominicans, who began to serve St. Mary’s in 1886, two years after Fr. McGivney received a new assignment. Blessed McGivney was devoted to the Holy Rosary and, when his body was interred in St. Mary’s Church in 1982, he was found wearing the white scapular of St. Dominic. His friend, Fr. Arthur Higgins, O.P., preached his funeral Mass, delivering a sermon “with such great feeling” that “many were moved to tears.” Today the Dominican Friars at St. Mary’s are proud to safeguard and promote the legacy of America’s newest blessed.
Pope Saint John Paul II has said, “The world looks to the priest, because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord!” Anyone looking for Christ can catch a glimpse of Him in Blessed Michael McGivney.