Tag Archives: Mass

Mass Beyond the Wall

Flora Tang, Senior Anchor Intern

To get to Sunday Mass in the holy city of Jerusalem, where I studied abroad last spring, is a walk not for the fainthearted. I walked down a rocky hill, through a gate, on a dusty road, past a few dozen heavily-armed Israeli soldiers, through a military checkpoint that cuts through a 25-foot tall concrete wall, enter the city of Bethlehem, walk along said 25-foot tall cement walls for 20 minutes, and then down the sometimes-nonexistent sidewalk of a busy main street for another 40 minutes before reaching the Church of the Nativity where Arabic-speaking Palestinian Catholics gather for Mass. Yep, just a slightly longer walk than the whooping four flights of stairs I must take from my dorm room to Mass in the chapel of Breen Phillips Hall.

The Separation Wall between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Credit: Shannon Hendricks

Living beside a Separation Wall and crossing it on the way to Mass is disheartening, to say the least. Even the Church of the Nativity itself bears the marks of bullet holes and repaired statues once shattered by bombs. The Separation Wall and all the everyday division, violence, and injustice in Israel-Palestine became a living reminder of the age-old problem of evil, of violence in the world, and of injustices committed in the name of religion. The walk to Mass every Sunday seems to shatter the very hope and certainty that my faith has always given me. What helps is that at the end of this long walk, at least there is Mass, where I can find just enough peace in the Eucharist. What doesn’t help, however, is that the Mass is entirely in Arabic, a language in which I could barely carry a conversation beyond “how are you,” let alone understand a single word of the readings or homily.

“But there are two words that I do understand at Arabic Mass!” I would sometimes joke. And those would be the only times when I can (finally!) participate with full heart and voice.

Salaam. “Peace.” A common greeting used by Arabic speakers of all faiths, a word I learned before even learning the Arabic word for “hello.” When I hear the priest repeat the word salaam for the third time in a sentence shortly after the Eucharistic Prayer, I would know that it’s my cue to turn to my neighbors and offer my “salaam” to them.

And, unsurprisingly, “Amen,” a word pronounced more or less the same in most languages. Well, technically, there’s only one “amen” that I know when to say. Whereas the rest of the “amen’s” during Mass erupt at completely unexpected times since I don’t understand any of the priest’s words preceding them, I would- almost out of habit- utter Amen before the Priest places the Eucharist in my palms in the communion line.

Soon enough, I came to realize that even as I do not understand the readings, the homily, or the rest of Mass, these two words alone perhaps have the power to illuminate the essence of my faith in a land -and in a world- marked by violence and injustice. Perhaps God does speak to my infuriated and hopeless self, even in a language I do not understand.

Peace. God’s call.

Just as we are called to offer one another the sign of peace during Mass, we are called to bring forth peace in the lives of others and in the world. As Jesus Himself said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” The violence and injustice I see in Israel-Palestine or in our own home communities are not reasons to be hopeless, but reasons to more actively live out Christ’s call to us to be peacemakers amidst this violence and amidst all forms of structural violence.

Flora and her study abroad group in the divided city of Hebron, Palestine.

Yet this peace that we are called to bring is not a pretense of peace that can be easily achieved by hiding away from violence in our own comfort zones. Nor is it through constructing massive walls that feign peace by dividing and silencing the other. “Peace is not the silent result of violent repression,” Blessed Oscar Romero writes. Christ’s peace, which differs from human peace, is a peace built on the foundations of justice, mercy, and love. And we, as Christians, are called to be agents of this peace.

Amen. Our response.

Uttering “amen” before the Body of Christ is not a simple word, but a weighty, radical response to God’s radical love for us. When we say amen, we make the radical choice to recognizing Christ’s own body, broken for us out of His radical love, under the appearance of a little white host before our eyes. The same “amen” also calls us to recommit ourselves to living out a Christ-like radical love by recognizing and healing the many broken “bodies of Christ” under the appearance of those in the world who are most afflicted, like Christ Himself on the Cross, by violence, rejection, pain, and brokenness. To say “amen” and kneel before the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, and then to go out into the world and ignore the many broken and rejected “Christ’s” among us is the opposite of what the very same Christ demands of us.

Up to this day, I still do not understand why God allows for violence, for humans to divide one another and to commit injustice against one another, or why violence is often committed in the name of religion itself. I still do not understand why a 25-feet tall wall stands between Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth, and Jerusalem, the place of His resurrection. But just like the only two words I do understand amidst all the incomprehension at Arabic Mass, the only thing of which I am certain is Jesus’ eternal demand for us in this broken world to be peacemakers through living out justice and mercy, and to radically love the most wounded “bodies of Christ” as a response to His Eucharistic love for us– whether on campus, in our home communities, or in other corners of the world.

The Importance of an Invitation

Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern

“Hey man, how you doing? You going to mass tonight?”

The text flashed across my phone. It was my friend Ryan. I waited a few minutes before responding.

“I’m alright. Kinda tired. Think I’m just gonna stay in.”

A minute later another text came through.

“You should come to mass.”

I sighed. I knew he was right. It wasn’t like I had any homework to do or anything. It was just that my couch was so comfortable and the blanket that I was wrapped up in was so warm.

I had said I was tired, and I guess that was kind of true. I hadn’t really gotten enough sleep the night before, but then again that was nothing new. The main reason I wanted to stay in was because I wanted to watch some TV or play video games.

Digging deeper, I think the reason why I wanted to stay in instead of going to mass was because I was in a bit of spiritual dry spell. I figured it was easier to just avoid going to mass or thinking about my faith life than having to deal with it. Ryan knew this too, and that’s why he was taking the extra step to invite me to daily mass that night.

The key word in that last sentence is invite.

Often, we think of invitations as being for large events. As a child, you might receive an invitation for a birthday party.  As an adult, they probably come for things such as weddings. They usually have some fanciful design that announces the importance of the event and they include some RSVP information. While certainly these invitations are important, there are smaller invitations that occur daily, and which form the foundation of community, especially communities of faith.

An invitation to a birthday party or a wedding is as much if not more about the person sending the invite than the one receiving it. The invitation signals an important event that the inviter wants someone to know about. In addition it includes RSVP information so that the sender of the invitation can know exactly who and how many will be attending.

There is another type of invitation to which we are called though. This is the invitation modeled by Jesus on the cross. With his arms outstretched, Jesus invites us into relationship with the God of love who is our creator. It is a selfless invitation, focused on what the recipient can get out of it instead of the sender. There is no expectation of an RSVP, only a hope that we will reach out and accept this invitation for our own benefit.

Each of us is called to embrace this model of invitation, which asks for nothing in return. This is how we build up the Body of Christ. For while faith is inherently personal, it is also rooted in community. Communities of faith gather to pray and worship together, to rejoice with one another in times of consolation and to support one another in times of desolation. But if you feel lonely, or you if feel like you don’t know how to pray, or that you are less holy than others, it can be difficult to find the courage to take the step to join a community of faith. How then, are you expected to ever find a community? The answer is in invitation.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be there.”

After a few minutes of indecision, I finally texted Ryan back. He was right that I should go to mass and I had realized it. I got up off my couch and got ready.

Students pray together during a Residence Hall Mass

In this interaction, Ryan embraced the kind of invitation that we are all called to. It was a selfless invitation. On the surface, he got nothing out of the exchange. My response to his invitation wouldn’t have changed his own plans of attending mass. But, by the extending of this invitation and my subsequent acceptance, a community was strengthened.

If I tried to count the number of times over the past three years that I have received invitations – to mass, to go to the Grotto, to night prayer – I wouldn’t be able to come up with a number. I’ve simply lost count.

Many times, when I have received these invitations I was teetering on the edge of going to something and the invitation made all the difference. Other times, I have received the invitation and turned it down or otherwise ignored it. Even in these instances, the community was still strengthened. I might not have been ready at that moment to accept an invitation, but I had more confidence to accept the next time I was asked.

Invitation is an integral part of my faith experience, as I suggest it probably is for many of you reading this. Whether it is an offer to join someone for mass, an encouragement to sign up for a retreat, or an offer to walk to the Grotto, an invitation can make a big difference.

So, at the end of this post, I want to invite each and every one of you to think of the people who have invited you into faith over the years. Not only that, but I also invite you to do likewise and to extend an invitation to someone else. There are so many people – around this campus, throughout this country, and throughout the whole world – who are searching for something more. They might be just an invitation away from finding it. Of course there is always the possibility they turn it down but imagine the joy you’ll both feel if they accept.

As I put on my shoes and a jacket to head out to mass, another text came in.

“Good. I’ll see you there.”

Why We Minister: Allie Greene

Allie Greene, Assistant Director of Liturgy

I sat in the Basilica alone on a freezing winter evening, in need of a quiet place to pray. I chose a pew, sat down, crossed my arms, and glared daggers at the tabernacle. My silent prayer went something like this:

“Really – nothing? It’s been months. Which part of my prayer was unclear? I’m out of patience and so tired of this. No more gentle ‘I trust in your will’ prayers. It’s your turn.”

Both satisfied in my silent reproach of God and defeated that I had come to that point, I genuflected and exited the church. It wasn’t my finest moment of trust in God’s providence and grace.

It was, however, one of the most honest moments of prayer I’ve ever experienced. Before then, I believed that giving my intentions over to God would feel good-natured and graceful, easy to do with answers to follow quickly. I was wrong: it felt more like exhaustion from running out of other options.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart // University Photographer

The answer to why I minister is rooted in my experience of prayer. I try to be a faithful disciple, and I hope to help our students do the same, to grow in faith here at Notre Dame and far beyond. Specifically, my ministry is to help our students to pray well together, and there’s a phrase I use to describe this work: serious joy.

It’s serious because this ministry is no small task: to teach students how to pray and how to lead communal prayer, to offer formation as they plan Masses and prayer services, and to encourage them to grow in their faith long after they leave Notre Dame.

At the same time, this ministry is abundantly joyful. I’m privileged to see what happens when students — while praying together — encounter God. I hear them give reflections on Scripture and listen as their words bring new light to old passages. I watch as students give their time, energy, and boundless courage to lead music during their hall’s Sunday Masses. I see their heads bowed, eyes lifted, hands folded, hugs of peace, and other postures and gestures of prayer expressed. It’s a true joy to pray with, for, and among our students.

I have a personal investment in working with students to plan liturgies because it was in the Mass that God and I first found each other. In effort to grow in faith, I’d gone on service trips, attended many retreats, and prayed with Scripture; however, it was in Mass that I first encountered God and that encounter is what compelled me to return.

At different points in my life, I’ve found great comfort at Mass — even if I’m distracted, even if I don’t know the songs, and even if I only caught the opening line of a homily before my mind raced in another direction. I have strong memories of events that took place in the context of Mass, some monumental and some rather routine: I’ve witnessed my college friends become ordained priests, and received chrism oil on my forehead at Confirmation; I’ve run straight from the lake to church on a summer Saturday, and celebrated the beautiful sacrament of my sister’s wedding. Like my prayer, Mass takes different forms and shapes, but it is a constant in my life. Mass was both fifteen-minutes before starting my high school day and the three-hour Vigil on the night before Easter. Mass sounds like a packed residence hall chapel of women’s voices and like echoing silence after communion in a French cathedral.

Truthfully, going to Mass doesn’t always feel like the most thrilling activity in which I participate. I can’t compare it to rollerblading, kayaking, or watching Notre Dame football. But I don’t go to Mass because it’s always thrilling. I go to Mass to meet God there, again and again. And I keep going back because of what the liturgy compels me to do after: to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and love in the world.

I’m grateful for this ministry in helping students to pray well together. I hope that they will always want to return to God in different moments of prayer, as I do, and never to be far from that encounter.

Student Prayer in Ryan Hall Chapel

About a month later, I felt overwhelming gratitude when I received an answer to my despairing, wintry-day prayer. So I returned to that same pew in the Basilica, this time for a different style of prayer. I found there a place to pray when I was exhausted and felt unheard, so it made sense to go back when I was grateful and filled with hope. I was honest with God before in my pain and confusion, and honest with God again in amazement and joy. I minister with the hope that our students will do the same and find faith in the constancy of God’s love, particularly in the way it is revealed to us through the Mass.

Finding God in the Everyday

Kate Walsh, Senior

Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame
Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

If there is one thing I have come to expect as a Notre Dame student, it is an amazing summer. Despite not being able to see the golden dome on a daily basis, or being deprived of make-your-own-pizza-night at South, I can count on Notre Dame to provide for me in different ways during the summers. But this past summer, my final summer before becoming an alumna of this wonderful University (God willing!) was different. It was not, by my quite high standards, amazing.

My tasks this summer were to take the MCAT. Complete the primary med school application. Drive almost an hour to and from a lab for my unpaid internship. Work on med school secondaries. Repeat.

While I am still grateful for the opportunities I had this summer, and I feel extremely lucky to have worked in a lab near my home and apply to medical school, my overall experience was not as life-changing or fulfilling as say the summer I spent working at my SSLP, or being a small group mentor at Notre Dame Vision. Rather, the daily routine wore me down. Commuting filled me with frustration. As one would probably guess, retelling my greatest challenge and what I learned from it on ten different med school applications exhausted me. And most importantly, I fell out of touch with God. I was so used to the accessibility of Mass and chapels on campus that without them, I was praying much less. But even though I was putting Him to the side, God didn’t forget about me this summer, and one way He showed me was through daily Mass.

If I wanted to, I could have gone to daily Mass at my parish most mornings before making the commute to the lab. Unfortunately, because I typically wanted more sleep, I regretfully didn’t go very often. But one morning I pulled it together and went to 8 a.m. Mass. When I got there, I followed the lead of the almost exclusively elderly congregation and picked my own pew. To begin Mass, the priest started with the Prayer to St. Anne, which alerted me to the fact that it was Novena week. Before I could debate whether it was worth it to take the long walk back to the door to pick up a booklet of prayers, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a married couple behind me offered me one of their books. It happened so fast that it was nearly a reflex for them, and though my first instinct was to feel embarrassed, I quickly remembered that this was no place to feel self-conscious, so I expressed my gratitude instead, and then was able to recite the prayers that followed in unison with the congregation. That morning, I got to receive Jesus Christ in the Eucharist before I headed off to work. My day was centered on God. My commute was less frustrating, as I thought more about the people inside the cars than the traffic jams produced by the cars themselves. Later in the day, as I was pipetting cells and spreading them on a petri dish, I finally remembered that God really is in all the work we do as long as we do it with Him in mind. After attending just one daily Mass, my day turned out radically different, and it was because God filled me with His Grace after I started my day with Him.

(Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)
Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

After that lovely day, I definitely didn’t make a perfect attendance record at my parish’s morning Mass, but the monotonous, tiring days were more bearable with a heart full of gratitude. I focused more on God and prayer and decided to try something new which was to read more spiritual texts. I think God used this summer to challenge me to mature in my faith, since we both know that I only have one year remaining at the University of Our Lady of the Lake. Still, with school starting back up, I am reminded of how challenging and monotonous the days here can be too. I love Notre Dame, and I am thrilled to be back, but I know football season will end and winter will come, bringing with it projects, exams, and stress.

It is possible that you might already feel overwhelmed or in a rut. If so, I urge you to find your own way to spend time, on a daily basis, with God. We are so lucky to have access to incredible opportunities for growing in faith here at Notre Dame, and God wants us to include Him in all that we do. Whether it is attending daily Mass, finding time to light a candle at the Grotto, going for a nature walk with a friend, or reading a book and praying and reflecting on it, there is something you can do every day, alone or with community, to maintain your relationship with God. I promise you there is enough time, and I know that God will bless your busy-ness with His presence. If this summer taught me anything it’s that it’s a lot easier to find God if you give yourself a chance to look.