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Mass in the Residence Halls

April 15, 2011

Friday, April 15

Have you ever thought of the Mass as an occasion for “mixing it up”?  It might seem like the liturgy is a strict process of chanting words and reading from holy books, but I learned something different at the student-led Mass in the Residence Halls on Wednesday, April 13.  Presided by Fr. Richard Woods, this Mass was a special opportunity to celebrate the word of God and the body of Christ in an unconventional setting, and to reflect in a special way on the meaning of the Gospel and the body of Christ.

A small congregation of students eagerly joined in the Coughlin Commons Multi-Purpose Room for Mass, and it was wonderful to see so many friends who might not usually join in our campus’ Sunday evening liturgy.  For me, there was an element of home, springing from the CCMPR’s familiarity and close proximity to the place I sleep, study, and spend my weekends.  It reminded me of other times I have celebrated the Mass outside of a traditional church:  once in a picnic area, another at a friend’s home, and even in the middle of a park off of the Turnpike.  There is something fun about bringing the liturgy to an unconventional setting.  First of all, it’s unexpected for passers-by, so the reactions of people who see us are usually a mixture of respect, curiosity, and most of all confusion.  The different setting creates a unique mindset, which leads to diverse thoughts about the Gospel and the Eucharist.  For instance, the time I celebrated Mass in a park allowed me to watch the clouds, hear screaming voices of children from the jungle gym, and dig my toes into the grass.  It might sound like I wasn’t paying attention, but there is something about being outside that lets me have peace and appreciate things more fully.  As we celebrated Christ in an exposed, natural environment, I reflected on the goodness of God in all of creation and the gift of our beautiful world.

This week’s Mass in the Res Halls was also different because Fr. Woods brought new elements of interaction into the service.  After presenting his homily, Fr. Woods sat down and asked us what we thought about it.  Hmm.  An interactive homily?  I haven’t heard one of those since grade-school when the priest would quiz the uniform-clad parochial school students on Jesus fun facts like “how many days was Jesus in the tomb?” This time was a bit different, for instead of cutesy explanations of the day’s Gospel, we delved into a discussion about truth, bullying, and real-world examples of persecution.  Now that’s a worthwhile homily.  Sometimes life picks up so quickly after Mass that we forget about the message of the Mass’ readings, so having some time to think about it in my own terms cemented the Gospel message more strongly in my heart and mind.

Fr. Woods then invited us to join him by the altar.  I stood right by him during the liturgy of the Eucharist, and though the words were the same as always, there was something special about seeing the consecration from a different angle.  Another special part of this was the way the Eucharist was brought around the group.  No lines were formed and one repetitious song was sung a cappella.  It was simple, respectful, and powerful.

Wherever we are, whatever mindset we are in, and whoever we are with will influence the reflections we have about the Mass.  It is what we bring to the liturgy that is enriched by the words of the Lord and the body of Christ.  We are the body of Christ that celebrates and is fulfilled by the body of Christ in the Mass.  With this in mind, I welcome you always to come as you are:  sweatpants or dress clothes, exhausted or ready to go, spiritual or unconcerned with the divine.  God will take you where you are and bring you to where he wants you to be (which I promise is better than anywhere you’ll get on your own).  I was surprised and delighted by my experience with Mass in the Res Halls.  Reflection, community, and comfort were the highlights of this special opportunity, which I hope will become a regular tradition with University Ministry.

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