Annual Spirit Celebration braces the rain

By: Nick Bergeman ~Staff Writer~

spirit day color
Photo courtesy of Thomas vonAhlefeld | Xavier president Fr. Michael Graham led the sermon this past Wednesday despite inclement weather conditions.

Xavier’s 2015 Spirit Celebration could have easily become a nonevent when it started raining, but it turns out that it takes a little more than a drizzle to stop it.

As it continued to rain, it became clear that remaining in front of Alter Hall might not be conducive, so the mass was cut short and only the Liturgy of the Word and blessing of Alter were completed.

The celebration still offered a blessing to students as they start the year, even if it was in shorter form than intended. The abbreviated mass continues the tradition of the Jesuit Mass of the Holy Spirit.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is celebrated annually at the beginning of the school year across hundreds of Jesuit high schools and universities. The times and dates may vary, but the start of the school year at Jesuit institutions around the world is marked by communities praying for the Holy Spirit to bless students and teachers in the new year. Catholic teaching associates the Holy Spirit with knowledge and wisdom, which the mass asks the Holy Spirit to bestow on a school community.

The longstanding tradition of a mass asking for assistance for students began many years ago, with the founding of Catholic universities, but the specific Mass of the Holy Spirit has roots in the very first Jesuit school in Messina, Sicily in 1548.

Xavier has been celebrating an annual Mass of the Holy Spirit since 1840, according to the Office of Mission and Identity. Although a multitude of changes in the mass at Xavier have occurred since then, one of the most dramatic changes occurred last year, with the beginning of the “Spirit Celebration.”

The shift from “the Mass of the Holy Spirit” to “the Spirit Celebration” represents Xavier’s commitment to opening the tradition of blessing and prayer to the diverse faiths of Xavier students who are not Catholic.

In this new attempt to foster inclusion and interfaith unity, clerics of different denominations and faiths were invited to be a part of the blessing over the student body and Alter Hall, though the actual mass is still of the Roman Catholic rite.

Even though the rain truncated the celebration, hundreds of students, faculty and staff braved the weather to stay through the abbreviated service and the blessings. Rachelle Kramer, principle organizer for the service and assistant director of liturgy and music at the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice, said that she was unhappy that the celebration could not be finished, but believes that the conclusion was not entirely unfortunate.

The choir at the mass was populated by an array of Catholic and non-Catholic singers who had come together for the service. Kramer said that with the shortened service due to the rain, several rehearsed songs were unable to be performed.

However, when the service was over and many were leaving the open area to seek shelter, the choir began to sing again. Started by a student and sung a capella, Kramer said that the energy and spirit of the last song developed “a really great feeling of camaraderie” that translated into a bonding experience.

Also due to the rain, the diverse choir chose to withhold certain pieces of their performance until the mass on Family Weekend. This may never have happened without the rain, according to Kramer. This would carry the spirit of religious unity further into the year, in accordance with the goal of rebranding the mass as “the Spirit Celebration.”

Despite the challenges that poor weather caused the Spirit Celebration, the Xavier community charges into the new school year with the same spirit that it has had for the last 175 years, and with a few more bonds over some challenges in receiving that spirit.