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Photo: Felix Carroll
'Asking the Lord for His Mercy'
By Father Angelo Casimiro, MIC (May 12, 2010)
I first got to know Michael Gaitley in August 2005. During that time, he and Jim McCormack entered the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception as novices, and James Cervantes and I entered as postulants.
Fast forward to 2010 and Deacon Michael and Deacon Jim are now transitional deacons preparing for their priestly ordinations and Brother James and I are temporarily professed brothers preparing to make our final vows.
So it was a great joy for me to see Br. Michael Gaitley, MIC, finally ordained to the diaconate at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on May 1, 2010, the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. It seems fitting that he was ordained a deacon on this particular day — first, because St. Joseph is the saint he chose when he was confirmed and second, because Deacon Michael is one of the hardest-working Marians you will ever meet.
For Deacon Michael, God's call to the priesthood and religious life has not been easy. But even though his vocational journey has looked like a long and winding road at times, he has persevered.
Following his diaconate ordination, I asked Deacon Michael to share his thoughts on his ordination, his first homily, the support of his family in his priestly and religious vocation, what inspires him about the Marians, and what he sees ahead as he prepares for the priesthood.
Deacon Michael Gaitley is one of the most down-to-earth people you will ever meet. It is refreshing that despite the amazing gifts God has given him, he never takes himself too seriously.
There is a natural goodness and a sense of humility about him. One minute he may describing his latest skateboarding adventure or telling a joke and the next minute he may be discussing John Paul II's contemplative outlook or unpacking a deep theological concept.
Ordained to the diaconate by the Most Reverend Barry Knestout, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, D.C., Deacon Michael describes the experience: "It's humbling. I spent most of the time during the ordination Mass asking the Lord for His mercy, because I deeply feel my unworthiness. When people ask me to bless things and call me 'deacon,' it makes me realize more fully that God truly puts His treasures in weak, earthen vessels. I'm amazed at His humility."
A 'Change-of-Homily' Experience
Deacon Michael is a seasoned veteran when it comes to giving talks, especially on the subject of Divine Mercy. As a matter of fact, his new book, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, came about after a retreat he gave to the parishioners at his home parish, St. Peter Chanel in Hawaiian Gardens, Ca., eight years ago. He is a dynamic speaker and has the ability to synthesize difficult theological ideas so that they are easy to understand.
However, delivering a homily for the first time as a deacon was something totally new. After Deacon Michael proclaimed the Gospel during his first Mass serving as a deacon in Brookeville, Md., he was about to go into his homily. At first he admitted how he had written his homily a week ahead but that he had a "change-of-homily" experience, as he calls it.
Deacon Michael suddenly remembered something Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, D.C., said to him one time about never finishing a homily before he gives it so as to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, he took Cardinal McCarrick's advice and rewrote his homily the night before.
As with preparing a talk, Deacon Michael soon discovered that preparing a homily is an arduous task as well and that it never gets easier. Cardinal McCarrick told him that once he feels like it's getting easier, then he's not doing his job.
But preparing for a homily is different from delivering it and this is what Deacon Michael discovered. Commenting on what it was like to delivery his first homily, he says: "It was a joy. Thanks to the Gospel of the day, in my homily, I was able to proclaim the Lord's love for us in the Eucharist. That love, which I have the pleasure of receiving every day at Mass, is what keeps me going, and it was an honor to speak about it."
Keeping It Real
Deacon Michael Gaitley is close to his family. Born and raised in sunny southern California, he is the second of three children born to Michael and Linda Gaitley. He has an older sister, Heather, who lives with her husband, Michael McGrath, and their six children in Virginia and a younger brother, Joe, who lives with his wife, Tracy, and their daughter in Virginia as well.
For any young man who has a priestly and religious vocation, it is a consolation to have the love and support of family members behind you. This seems to be the case with Deacon Michael who says: "I've been blessed with an amazing family. They've faithfully walked with me through some extremely difficult times during my vocational journey, and I've been able to walk with them through difficult times, too."
Deacon Michael's unassuming personality and wry sense of humor runs in the family. He says about them: "I'm especially grateful to them for keeping me down to earth. In the seminary, there is sometimes the temptation to live up in the clouds as if one were completely separated from the joys, sorrows, and responsibilities of the rest of humanity. My family has helped me to stay connected to the reality of those who live in the world, those for whom I've been consecrated to serve. They've helped me to keep it real — honest, humble, and real."
Humility — That Beautiful Virtue
In the five years I have known Deacon Michael, he has always had great love for his Marian brothers, especially for those who are in formation. He gives of himself and is constantly willing to serve.
Both he and Deacon Jim McCormack, MIC, were novices under the guidance and care of the late Fr. Mark Garrow, MIC, who died from cancer in October 2007. They consider Fr. Mark their spiritual father who still continues to guide and care for them. The spiritual bond they share with him is very strong.
When asked what inspires him about the Marians, Deacon Michael says: "I'm inspired in my Marian vocation by our special mission of making known the great mercy of God and the love of Mary Immaculate. I'm also inspired by so many of my Marian brothers. One of the things that blew me away when I first entered the Marians was the humility of the men in formation. It's not always easy for priests and religious to be humble, but it is so important, and the guys I met when I joined the Marians are so full of that beautiful virtue that I'm deeply humbled simply by being around them."
Deacon Michael's priestly ordination is scheduled for Oct. 16, 2010, which happens to be the Memorial of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque, to whom the Lord Jesus Christ revealed His Sacred Heart. It is a God-incidence that this day was chosen, considering the connection between the Sacred Heart and Divine Mercy devotions. It is through the Sacred Heart of Jesus that Deacon Michael discovered the Consoling the Heart of Jesus spirituality.
Looking ahead to his priestly ordination, Deacon Michael says: "I see myself spending a lot of time asking the Lord for His mercy and His Blessed Mother for help. The grace and responsibility of ordination is awesome. I know that no one is worthy of it, but it really hits you when you're the one who's preparing to receive it. It can be overwhelming. I feel a greater need to trust in the Lord for everything."
Something to admire in Deacon Michael Gaitley is that he always gives credit where credit is due. He shows gratefulness to God and to other people who have helped him.
When it comes to his priestly and religious vocation, he says: "I am 100 percent certain that my vocation is where it is today because of the hidden prayers and sacrifices of others. Those who pray for priestly vocations rarely get interviewed or have their photos in books, magazines, or on the internet. (In that sense, I think they're the lucky ones.) But they deserve to be recognized and thanked for their many 'yeses' to God that have strengthened the yeses of people like me. So, to all those people who have prayed for me and my vocation — both those I know and don't know — I thank you from my heart. May God reward you and bless you … and please keep the prayers coming!"