Reunion Weekend is Almost Here

Join us Friday, May 31 – Saturday, June 1! Events are open to all alumni and celebrating milestone anniversaries for classes ending in 4 & 9.

Saint Ignatius High School

The Catholic Church

Join Jim Brennan '85 in "The Catholic Church" as he explores the diverse tapestry of worship within the Catholic faith. Delve into the richness of liturgical experiences, cultural expressions of faith, and the unity found amidst diversity, and attending Church outside of the comfort of our home parishes, highlighting the Church's universal embrace and the joy in communal worship.
The Catholic Church

It’s that time of year again in Sacraments class.

As the boys go deeper into the reality of the Eucharist—the “source and summit” of our Christian life—they will be attending liturgies outside of their Roman Catholic parishes. While not all of our students are Roman Catholic, of course, most of them are. Their experience of the Eucharist has happened within the realm of St Raphael’s, St Dominic’s, St Basil’s, or one of the parishes near to them. Still, one of the objectives of the course is to help them experience the fullness—the “catholicity” of our Church.

Or better, “churches.” The one Catholic Church is actually composed of 6 liturgical rites (ways of worshiping) within 24 unique, autonomous Churches. These particular Churches, all in union with the Holy Father, live out the Faith in ways that have evolved—to a greater or lesser extent over time—with their own historical and cultural flavors. The students are being asked to get out of their comfort zones and participate in liturgy in one of the 23 other Catholic Churches, many of which have congregations in and around the “city of immigrants” that is Cleveland. Others will go to the Traditional Latin Mass where they will participate in the celebration of the Eucharist in the way most of their grandparents and great-grandparents did—and which many of their fellow Roman Catholics do today.

The reason for the exercise is simple: to get our students to church, but also to show them the diversity present in the Church whose title, kata holos, literally means “universal” or “according to the whole” in the sense of encompassing the fullness of God’s revelation and the means of salvation… and all people. Our vision of the faith is oftentimes too “parochial”—too focused on our home parishes. It’s bigger than that—and that is a blessing to us all.

This assignment is one that my students consistently rate as among the best things they do in our course. They come back from these liturgies in awe of the “smells and bells” of Tridentine High Mass, the unique sign of peace made within the Maronite Church, and the art and architecture of the Byzantines. Most note the sense of welcome they felt as they arrived at (and were a bit overwhelmed by) the parishes they visited. Like visiting cousins at a reunion, the initial awkwardness melts into a familiarity.

Because at the core, we are family.

This assignment requires the boys to visit parishes of a different rite, as opposed to going to an ethnic parish for Mass or to Mass in simply a different language. After all, I want them to see the scope of religious expression within the Faith. However, in light of my experience at Mass this past Sunday, I may revise the assignment.

As a prelude to a presentation and discussion on African-American Catholicism by Walsh University Professor Cary Dabney, A.P. for Faculty Formation, Pat Gallagher, 04, invited faculty to attend Mass at St. Agnes/Our Lady of Fatima parish on Lexington Avenue. The parish is largely, though not exclusively, made up of Catholics from Cleveland’s African-American community. The Mass we attended was standard Roman-Rite fare, but it was flavored by the cultures and modes of worship coming from African and African-American religious experience. And it was beautiful.

Fr. James Watson, OFM Cap., presided and preached at Mass, but it was clear from the beginning that this was a communal enterprise. Elders were acknowledged at the beginning of Mass, newcomers were asked to introduce themselves to the larger congregation, and young people were given a host of responsibilities to attend to during the hour and forty-five minute Mass that felt like it took a third of that time. There was the call and response and the singing and clapping that tends to characterize Pentecostal communities. And so it should: as He was in the Upper Room with the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is alive and well at St. Agnes/Our Lady of Fatima.

The Spirit was in the voices of the choir, He was in the movements of the congregation, and His truth came through the readings and the homily of Fr. Watson. St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, spoke of the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” (Gal.5:22-23) where he noted the importance of generosity, joy, and love among others. The people of St. Agnes were indeed generous: they opened their doors wide for us: and we were made to feel welcomed and appreciated. Given the ease with which people reached out, it was clear that this is the normal way of proceeding there. Moreover, the parish invited us to stay after Mass for a meal, lovingly served by a number of people, including parishioner Dr. Deborale Richardson-Phillips, our VP for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Part of the generosity extended to the elders of the community. At our post-Mass luncheon, senior citizens were called up to get their food first. Several members of the Theology department suggested I go to the front of the line... I suggested they take a hike.

There was a palpable sense of joy. Pope Francis has famously said that we have too many dour Christians, that we need to be people of joy. He needs to look no further than 66th and Lexington to see how it’s done.

There are a variety of ways we Catholics can worship. St. Paul reminds us that in the Church “there are many parts, but one body” (1 Cor. 12:20), the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople affirmed that the Church of Christ, in addition to being “holy” and “apostolic,” is also “one” and “catholic.” In their unique worship of the same Lord, in sharing the same Eucharist as they proclaim the same Faith, parishioners at St. Maron Maronite Catholic Church, St. Josaphat Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Cathedral, St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church, and St. Agatha/Our Lady of Fatima Parish remind us of the diversity within our unity.

Because ours is a catholic Church.

A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.