Archbishop William E. Lori celebrated Mass Nov. 24 in the chapel of St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore in thanksgiving for the beatification of Father Michael J. McGivney, an alumnus of the seminary, the oldest in the United States.
Welcoming seminarians and about a dozen priests to the Mass, Sulpician Father Phillip Brown, president rector of the seminary, noted that Blessed McGivney had attended St. Mary’s from 1873 to 1877, when the campus was on Paca Street in downtown Baltimore.
Father McGivney was ordained in 1877 by then-Archbishop James Gibbons at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He then began ministry in Connecticut, where he was pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven and founded the Knights of Columbus.
Father Brown and Archbishop Lori welcomed those watching the Mass via livestream, including members of the Knights, and seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg and St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C.
A portrait of Blessed Father McGivney stood near the altar for the Mass. A relic of Father McGivney – a gift from the Knights of Columbus – was placed before the altar and blessed by Archbishop Lori at the beginning of the Mass.
Deacon Christopher Pinto, a fourth-year theologian for the Archdiocese of Baltimore who assisted at the Mass, said that processing into Mass behind the deacon carrying the reliquary was a touching moment.
“There are a lot of thoughts that run through your head – the history of this seminary in particular, all the people who’ve passed through these halls, all the very holy priests and even the lay people who have passed through these past 200-and-something years. You know, it’s pretty incredible,” he said after the Mass.
“It really makes you focus on not only the future of the church, but at the same time the past of the church,” he said, noting that the church continues to live out “this history of touching people, touching their lives, bringing souls to Jesus Christ and how that ministry is enduring – and will endure – until the end of time.”
In his homily, Archbishop Lori reflected on the Gospel reading of the Beatitudes, part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s account.
He said Father McGivney was less a theorist of holiness than a “practitioner, as he allowed the seeds of holiness, planted in his soul at baptism, and nurtured in his seminary formation here at St. Mary’s Seminary, to germinate in the midst of his many duties as a parish priest in New Haven.”
He presented the life and ministry of Father McGivney through the lens of the Gospel reading, calling him “the priest of the Beatitudes. This is the priest we long for! This is the priest the church needs today!”
The archbishop noted that Father McGivney “gave up everything to serve the Church – his time, his energy, his health, his resources – taking very little in return, and giving of himself until his last moments.”
Noting that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled,” the archbishop said Father McGivney, as a young priest, mourned for families that lost husbands, fathers and breadwinners, one of the inspirations for the Knights of Columbus offering life insurance to members’ families.
“Do we not find him often by the bedside of dying parishioners, many of them young, sharing, like a good shepherd, in the grief and sorrow of the people he served?” the archbishop asked.
He said Blessed Father McGivney did not seek fame or advancement, but the opportunity to serve. He intended the Knights of Columbus to be lay-led and stepped away from the limelight rather than become the Supreme Knight of the fledgling order. “Today, Father McGivney’s legacy, his ‘inheritance,’ numbers millions of men and their families whom he put on the road to holiness.”
Archbishop Lori noted that the priest guided a man on death row to conversion to Catholicism and later walked with the condemned man to the gallows.
“As a parish priest, Father McGivney heard thousands of confessions and in those moments of intense grace, helped his parishioners to experience the freedom and joy that come when we accept God’s mercy,” the archbishop said.
Deacon Scott Kady, another fourth-year theologian at St. Mary’s who assisted at the Mass, called the liturgy moving and amazing. Also a member of the Knights of Columbus, Deacon Kady said he is inspired by Father McGivney’s example.
“What I take away is his message of service and care for the poor and the vulnerable, that I will always incorporate his words, his actions into my own,” Deacon Kady said.
Deacon Pinto said he also hopes to follow in the blessed’s footsteps. “It’s also an example for me to live by. As a hopeful future priest of Jesus Christ myself, to try to emulate that ‘priest of the Beatitudes’ is a profound challenge, but an exciting one to grasp and to go forward with,” he said.
Attendees and those participating in the Mass wore face masks and were strategically distanced in recognition of pandemic restrictions due to COVID-19. The archbishop noted that the Mass was the last in-person event for the first semester for the seminarians who were on campus and he extended to them a special blessing as they returned to their homes for Thanksgiving.
Kevin J. Parks contributed to this story.
Watch a livestream of the Mass below:
Email Gunty at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2020 Catholic Review Media