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One Eucharist, many expressions

Fr. Joe Corpora | Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Today I had the privilege of presiding and preaching at three Masses. All three Masses were attended by Notre Dame students. All three Masses had the same Sunday readings. All three Masses were here on campus. But the Masses were very different from one another in style, feel, spirit and song.

The first Mass was the closing Mass for the annual Plunge. The Plunge is an overnight retreat for first year African-American students. The team, led by Judy Madden of Campus Ministry, is composed of many upper-class African-American students. The wonderful and spirited “Voices of Faith” Choir led the singing at the Mass. The piano is central to African-American worship, and that choir can compete with any Gospel choir I have ever heard. The music just gets into your body. Without planning to, you just start clapping. The “Rejoice Mass” with the Voices of Faith choir is celebrated on the first Sunday of each month at 8 p.m. in the chapel in Coleman-Morse. It is always faith-filled and heartfelt and deeply spirited.

The second Mass I celebrated was in Spanish. Still the Mass, but a very different flavor from the earlier Mass. The Coro Primavera de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe led the music. The guitar, not the piano, dominated. During the Mass, I kept thinking any Latino person from either parish where I served as Pastor – one in Phoenix and one in Portland – could have stopped in during the Mass and would have felt at home. They would have recognized the beat and the rhythm. They would have been tapping their foot, because language is at the core of how we understand and experience ourselves. The Mass in Spanish is celebrated each week in Dillon Hall at 1:30 p.m.

And the third Mass I celebrated was the Sunday night Mass in Keenan Hall. Again the Mass, but a different flavor and style from the other two. The chapel was packed with Keenan residents and a few students from other halls. The music was done very well, with piano, violin, guitar and flute, and the participation was great.

Liturgy is life. Life has many flavors and tastes and many ways to praise and worship God. It’s so important that students at Notre Dame are be able to praise and worship God in a style and flavor that feels at home to them. That was the best part of the day – praying with Notre Dame students who are at home at the Mass, but in different ways. I wish we could find ways for our students to experience the Mass in its various expressions and styles right here on Our Lady’s campus.

As the Church in America continues to undergo a demographic shift, perhaps like never before, every archdiocese and diocese in the country has an office for multi-cultural ministry. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has such an office. The Church recognizes and affirms that our praise and worship of God must be inculturated.

I could not help but think of how rich Notre Dame is – in one day, three Masses with very different flavors and styles and music. Yet the same Eucharist. The same readings. The Gospel says, “To whom shall we go, Lord? You have the words of everlasting life.” Different cultures, different languages, different music, yet it is the same Lord calling us, drawing us to Himself, embracing us and cherishing us and loving us.

Fr. Joe Corpora, is the director of University-School Partnerships at the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE). He is also the Coordinator of Latino Student Ministry. He is a priest-in-residence in Dillon Hall. He can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.