The Holy Death of a Priest: A Tribute to Msgr. Frank McGrath
How fitting for Msgr. McGrath, chaplain of Ave Maria School of Law, to have gone to his eternal rest on the vigil of Corpus Christi, around the time Mass was being offered for him in the Chapel of the Eucharistic Miracle in Orvieto, Italy.
Msgr. Frank McGrath, who for the past eight years more than ably served as chaplain for the Ave Maria School of Law, died June 10 in Naples, Florida. On loan from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, since 2014, Msgr. McGrath was 78. His Masses were always simple and solemn with special reverence for the Holy Eucharist that always allowed the participant to quietly revel in an atmosphere of divine intimacy.
The day Msgr. McGrath entered eternity, a Mass was offered for him at the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, on the vigil of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, at the request of members of the International Catholic Jurists Forum (ICJF), who were on an annual retreat, at the time. News about the terminal nature of his condition had reached ICJF members, but the word was that he had some weeks to live. The Mass took place at 9am in Italy and from my understanding, he either passed at that time of the Mass or some hours later, with rosary in hand.
Every year on Corpus Christi, the Eucharistic miracle of Bolsena (blood on the corporal that appeared during the celebration of the Mass in 1263) is celebrated at Orvieto, Italy, and rendered visible to the public on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, carried in procession to publicly proclaim that the sacrifice of Christ is for the salvation of the entire world.
When the miracle first happened, Pope Urban IV had the corporal transferred to Orvieto for investigation, and then asked St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the Proper for the Mass and an Office honoring the Body of Christ. St. Thomas wrote the Pange Lingua and Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast Day of Corpus Christi, one year after the miracle.
The Holy Eucharist (sacrifice of the Mass) is “the source and summit of Christian life,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1324), and Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. How fitting for Msgr. McGrath, the chaplain of Ave Maria School of Law, to have gone to his eternal rest on the vigil of Corpus Christi; during or shortly after the Mass being celebrated in his honor in the Chapel of the Eucharistic Miracle (1263), in Orvieto. Also, fitting was the fact that a meditation of the Servant of God Catherine De Hueck Doherty, entitled “The Daily Miracle of Love,” was included in the Magnificat Missal for Sunday, June 11. He had close ties to her and the community she founded, Madonna House Apostolate, in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.
He described his way of life at Ave Maria School of Law, in the following terms:
I am grateful to work with the young law students; they inspire me. They have come here for the purpose of becoming informed and skilled attorneys who are empowered by their faith and love for God. They hope to be well informed Catholics who bring their faith into the public square. I should add that not all are Roman Catholics. I relish the extra prayer and study time that I have found. In some ways, I am living like a monk. St. Benedict, founder of Western monasticism, summed up the monk’s rule of life as ‘work and pray.’ A monk’s prayer and contemplation are balanced by his physical and apostolic work. After prayer, ‘I go forth from my little hermitage’ to work with the students.
A wake will be held Monday, June 20, from 3-7pm at St. Matthew Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. A memorial Mass will be celebrated for the repose of Msgr. McGrath’s soul at 7pm, and Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport will celebrate Msgr. McGrath’s funeral Mass Tuesday, June 21, at 11am at St. Matthew’s. Interment will take place at the Priests’ Circle of St. John Cemetery in Norwalk.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
- msgr. frank mcgrath
- eucharistic miracles
- diocese of bridgeport, connecticut