McGrath, Michael P, 1872-1946, Jesuit priest and Irish language scholar
- IE IJA J/1
- 1 February 1872-11 May 1946
Born: 1 February 1872, Aglish, County Waterford
Entered: 22 August 1896, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 28 July 1907, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1915, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin
Died: 11 May 1946, Milltown Park, Dublin
by 1899 in Vals France (LUGD) studying
by 1913 at Linz Austria (ASR) making Tertianship
by 1919 at Hastings, Sussex, England (LUGD) studying
◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Had studied for 5 years at St Patrick’s College Maynooth before Entry
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 1st Year No 3 1926
The Irish Sodality : This Sodality is directed by Fr Michael McGrath. It grew out of the first week-end retreat in Irish at Milltown Park in 1916. After the retreat, steps were taken with a view to the formation of an Irish-speaking Sodality for men. Success attended the effort, and the first meeting was held in Gardiner Street on Friday in Passion Week. The Sodality soon numbered 400 members. In 1917 a second Irish-speaking Sodality, exclusively for women, was established. In a short time it was found advisable to amalgamate the two branches. The Sodality is now in a flourishing condition, and has every prospect of a bright future before it. In addition to the Sodality, there is an annual “open” retreat given in Gardiner Street to Irish speakers. The first of these retreats was given in 1923 by Fr Coghlan, he also gave the second the following year. The third was given by Father Saul.
Irish Province News 21st Year No 3 1946
Fr. Michael McGrath (1872-1896-1946)
Fr. Michael McGrath was born at Aglish, Co. Waterford, on February 1st, 1872. Educated at Mount Melleray, then at St. John's College, Waterford, and lastly at Maynooth, he entered the Society at Tullabeg on August 22nd, 1896, and later went to Vals for philosophy. He taught in the Crescent 1901-5. He was ordained with Fr. William Doyle and Fr. John Sullivan in Milltown Park by Archbishop Walsh in 1907. He made his tertianship at Freienberg in Austria, and then taught for five years at Belvedere. A course of Canon Law under Pére Choupin at Ore Place, Hastings, completed his long formation, and the rest of his life was spent at Milltown Park, where he was Professor of Canon Law from 1920 to 1932, Lecturer in History of Philosophy from 1924 to 1930, Professor of Patrology, Christian Archaeology, Liturgy and Ascetics from 1932 to 1946. The Irish language always remained Fr. McGrath's favourite study. He established the Irish Sodality of the Blessed Virgin at Gardiner Street in 1916, and continued to direct it until 1935. His edition of Amhlaoibh Ua Suilleabháin's Irish Diary for the Irish Texts Society (1936-8) will be a lasting testimonial to his mastery of Irish and English. He was, at the time of his death, engaged on the preparation of many other Irish works, some of which were nearing completion. Among these were an Irish translation of the New Testament (apart from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles) with a detailed commentary, the Irish Missal of O'Hickey brought up to date, the Life of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, and the Lives of Distinguished Celtic Scholars. During his long years in Milltown his encouragement and advice were highly appreciated by many a theologian, and his hard. work and cheerfulness were a model to all.
Fr. Garahy has kindly contributed the following personal appreciation :
My acquaintance with Michael McGrath began at Mount Melleray in 1888. He had been there a year or two before my arrival. We soon formed a friendship which lasted during the year and a half I spent in that romantic retreat at the foot of Knockmealdown Mountain. I left Melleray at the end of the Christmas term for Mungret College. Michael McGrath remained on for another couple of years and then passed to St. John's College, Waterford. Later still he was sent to Maynooth, having won a free place in the National College. He had finished two years of his theology course when, with the leave of his bishop, he offered bimself as a candidate for the Society in 1896.
In Melleray Michael McGrath was of the quiet type, rather shy and retiring, but a sincere friend when one had succeeded in breaking through his reserve. He was a painstaking student, eager to absorb all the knowledge offered us boys in classics, the sciences and history. One advantage he had over the rest of us he had a fair acquaintance with the Gaelic. It was spoken freely in his native townland of Aglish, Co. Waterford. It was also the language of the little mountaineers who attended the National School at Melleray. I used to envy Michael McGrath when I heard him exchanging jokes in Irish with those youngsters on their way home from school. Irish was not taught in the College in those days, though we were living in the heart of an Irish speaking district. Melleray was not singular in that matter. The Gaelic revival did not come till several years later. When it did come Michael McGrath threw himself with all the ardour of his soul into the movement.
He and I met again in the Crescent after fourteen years. I was so taken with his enthusiasm for the language that I accepted his offer of instruction and within a few months found myself appointed to teach the first couple of O'Growney's booklets to & class of small boys in the Crescent. During the year I spent with him in Limerick he held the office of Prefect of Studies although still a scholastic. His whole hearted devotion to the duties of his office during that year was to be expected of the Michael McGrath I knew at Melleray—with his passion for study and his earnestness of character. What I did not expect and what was always a wonder to me was his unsparing self-sacrifice in helping the more backward boys to succeed in the examinations. What this cost him in time and in strain on his nerves only himself knew. We, his fellow masters, knew that he regularly sacrificed the couple of hours so badly needed after a hard day's work in the school room to this work of charity; and the wonder was how he escaped a nervous collapse.
At the end of the year he and I left Limerick for Milltown Park to begin our theological studies. The Gaelic revival was then in full swing. Milltown Park had caught the infection ever before our arrival, Fr, Lambert McKenna, Fr. J. F. X. O'Brien and Mr. Tomás Ó Nualláin were, I think, the pioneers of the movement in Milltown. It was natural that those of us who were anxious to master the difficulties of the spoken language should turn to Mr. McGrath for help. He had what we all lacked, a rich sonorous Déisi blas. I well remember his patience in helping us to acquire the correct sounds of the broad and slender vowels. Fr. B. Coghlan, one of our really great Irish scholars to-day, was an enthusiastic pupil, and so was Fr. Dominick Kelly, now for many years a distinguished professor in Newman College, Melbourne.
When Fr. McGrath returned to Milltown as a professor, I had already been transferred to the Mission staff. From that time forth I had few opportunities of meeting him. May he rest in peace”.
It is hoped to include an account of Fr. McGrath's Milltown career in the October issue.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Michael McGrath 1872-1946
Fr Michael McGrath, while yet a scholastic, was Prefect of Studies at Crescent from 1901-1905.
Born in Aglish County Waterford on February 1st 1872, he was educated at Mount Melleray. He passed on to Maynooth and from there entered the Society in 1896.
Having studied Canon Law for a period after his ordination, the rest of his life was spent in Milltown Park, as professor in various faculties, Canon Law, Patrology, Liturgy and Ascetics. Normally a most kindly and lovable man, he could be most vehement in argument. For example, as Professor of Ascetics, when lecturing on the vice of curiosity, especially in religious, he used to refer to a Father (unnamed) notorious for this fault, and would almost have a stroke, so vehement would be his effort to convey his scorn for such pettiness.
He was a great Irish scholar, with a vast enthusiasm for the revival of the language. He edited the Diary of Amhlaoimh O’Sullivan for the Irish Texts Society. At the time of his death he was engaged in a new translation of the Bible, an Irish Missal, a life of St Aloysius Gonzaga and the lives of distinguished Irish scholars. He founded the Irish Sodality in Gardiner Street in 1916, and he continued to direct it until 1935.
His retreats were famous, being based on John Oxenham “Bees in Amber”, and there was hardly a convert in Ireland that had not heard his opening words : “Yo every man there openeth, a high way and a low”.
He was a model of observance, kindly in advice both as professor and confessor, and many generations of Jesuits owe him a deep debt for his faithful and patient service in their formation. He died on May 11th 1946.
◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959
Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Commnnity
Father Michael McGrath (1872-1946)
Was born at Aglish, Co. Waterford and educated at Mount Mellary. He was accepted by the Bishop of Waterford for his diocese and commenced his ecclesiastical studies at St John's, Waterford. From Waterford he was transferred to Maynooth where he completed two years' theology. With the permission of his bishop he applied for admission to the Society and began his noviceship at Tullabeg in 1896. His higher studies were made at Vals, Milltown Park and in Austria. He was ordained in Dublin in 1907. Father McGrath spent six years regency at the Crescent and was the first scholastic since Father Tom Finlay to be entrusted with the onerous duties of prefect of studies. After the completion of his studies, Father McGrath was employed in teaching for five years at Belvedere College, when his superiors bade him once more return to his own studies: he was sent off for higher studies in Canon Law to prepare him for a professor's chair at Milltown Park. He held the chair of Canon Law from 1920-32 but remained a member of the theological faculty until his death. He was a native Gaelic speaker and deeply learned in the language.