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Editorial: McGivney beatification reminds us to thank our clergy
The evening before the beatification Mass of Blessed Michael McGivney, priests and bishops from across the country gathered for a prayer vigil at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Connecticut. The parish is the place where Father McGivney served for seven years, where he founded the Knights of Columbus and where his body is entombed.
At the vigil, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, spoke of the “surprisingly contemporary cast” of Father McGivney’s ministry. “For that reason, we who are diocesan bishops and priests … can rightly claim Father McGivney as the parish priest of our souls. We can do so because he lived a life not unlike our own, but he also did so with extraordinary holiness, the kind of heroic virtue and holiness that lies within our reach.”
Following his Angelus address on the solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis recognized this heroic virtue and holiness that Father McGivney embodied throughout his priesthood. From the customary window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the pope said: “Dedicated to evangelization, (Father McGivney) did everything possible to provide for the needs of those in need, promoting reciprocal aid. May his example be an impetus for us to always be witnesses of the Gospel of charity. Let’s give a round of applause to this new blessed.”
Pope Francis smiled as he clapped, and hundreds of others in the square below joined him in applauding for the humble 19th-century parish priest, who walked with his flock amid the numerous challenges of the day.
Like the faithful in Connecticut in the late 1800s, we, too — today — have saints among us in the good and holy priests and bishops who are faithfully accompanying their flocks amid what seem like constant and, in many ways, unprecedented challenges. Earlier this year, as COVID-19 infections began to sweep across the country, there was no playbook for how to handle closed churches and canceled events. The need to minister to those who were isolated, lonely and afraid, or even sick and dying was greater than anyone could have predicted. The same is true for the urgent need for priests to foster unity in communities being torn apart by political tension, racial strife and strong ideological differences within the Church. Along with these, priests too often have been called upon to keep buildings safe from arsonists and statues protected from vandals.
Before these latest challenges, priests were still reeling from the continuing clergy sexual abuse scandals within the Church — most recently, the fallout from the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report and the revelation of sexual abuse of minors and adult seminarians by former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Yet despite these struggles, our clergy has persevered. Through personal loss and suffering, heartbreak and anger, uncertainty and stress, today’s bishops and priests, like Father McGivney, have courageously and faithfully been carrying out their mission to bring people to Christ.
In May, Our Sunday Visitor shared the story of Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, who contracted COVID-19 while helping a coughing man up off the street outside his cathedral. As he was recovering, Bishop Mansour said: “I don’t regret the suffering; I don’t regret the difficulties in it. It has really made me, I think, a better person, and a person more in tune with others and more at peace with myself and my relationship with God.”
Bishop Mansour is not alone. We have also shared the stories of priests who have died, priests who have been on the frontlines ministering to the sick, priests who are desperately struggling to pay the parish’s bills. And we know that these are just a fraction of the stories we could be telling, as so many parish priests have bravely and selflessly cared for their flocks over the past several months.
And so, like Pope Francis, we applaud the efforts of our priests and bishops in these unprecedented and unpredictable times. We thank them for their selfless witness to the Gospel. And we ask Blessed Michael McGivney, who joins Blessed Stanley Rother and Blessed Solanus Casey as ideal intercessors for America’s clergy, to pray and intercede for his brother priests — for their mental and physical health, and for God to reward them for being bright lights in the Church during a time when it needs them the most.
Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young