By Christopher Lushis
NOTRE DAME — “Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades repeatedly emphasized these words of action from the Letter of St. James to more than 4,000 Catholic school students from the South Bend area of the diocese in the annual all schools Mass celebrated at the Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Bishop Rhoades told students from the 20 schools represented at Mass, including 18 from the South Bend area and two from the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Mich., that he “looks forward to this liturgy every year” and remarked on “how beautiful it is to gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The bishop stressed the importance of contemplating Sacred Scripture to understand how we are being called to live as faithful Christians.
“We are all one body in Christ,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We are all being nourished by the same Word of God. But it is important that when we listen to God’s Word do not let it go in one ear and out the other.”
The Gospel reading proclaimed at the all schools Mass was of Jesus healing the blind man at Bethsaida, in which Jesus lays His hands upon the man’s eyes twice in order to fully restore his sight.
This unique occurrence in the Gospels where the individual who seeks assistance from Christ is not immediately healed calls attention to a profound element of the narrative.
Bishop Rhoades explained, “Jesus laying His hands on the man’s eyes a second time indicates something spiritual — not just a physical blindness. It has to do with the disciples, because at that point, they didn’t see clearly who Jesus was.”
“But it also has a deeper meaning for us, because all of us can be blind,” Bishop Rhoades added. “Yes we can see physically, biologically, but sometimes spiritually we don’t see and understand our faith as clearly as we should. That is why we ask God to give us sight, to help us to understand our faith, to help us to grow in our understanding of the faith.”
Bishop Rhoades further correlated the Gospel to the sacrament of Confirmation, which many of the students in attendance will receive later this year.
“Just like there were two stages of the cure of the blind man, in our lives there are the two sacraments — Baptism and Confirmation — where God gives us the grace to understand our faith. When we were baptized, we were first enlightened by Christ — but that is not the end! Later we have to be confirmed, where we receive the Holy Spirit and even more grace from God to see more clearly the Lord Jesus and to understand more fully His life and His teachings.”
The bishop remarked that “this is why we have Catholic schools, to help you further grow in your knowledge of your faith.”
Bishop Rhoades also encouraged each child to have a Bible of their own so they would be able to enter more fully into the mystery of the Gospels.
The bishop focused not only on understanding, but also on truly demonstrating faith that is lived out.
“If we are disciples of Jesus, it is not just enough to hear the teachings of Jesus, we have to do it,” Bishop Rhoades said. “We have to practice our faith, live our faith, do the Word, and not just hear it. To be a follower of Jesus means to especially reach out to those who are sick, to those who are suffering. We feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, welcome immigrants, take care of the sick, give comfort to those who are in sorrow and those who are hurting, and we pray for the living and the dead. Doing all those things is putting your faith into practice.”
Students and faculty from area schools participated in various aspects of the liturgy, demonstrating great devotion and unity that all Catholic schools seek to instill through their education.
Steve Donndelinger, principal of St. Jude School said, “It’s important for the students to see what we are as Catholic schools, that it is about more than just one school, to see that we are one Church. It helps them to see the size of the undertaking of Catholic education in South Bend and it is important they see and hear from their bishop. In many ways we often hold a competitive spirit with other Catholic schools through athletics. It is important that our students see that those in other schools are just like them.”
Jeremy Hoy, Carol Flora, Megan Hartz and Julie Van Meter beautifully directed the music for the Mass. The music ensembles included fifth and sixth graders from each school and the handbell choir was comprised of students from St. Pius X and Mishawaka Catholic.
One of the four cantors at the Mass, Hannah Golichowski, an eighth grader at St. Pius X, was supported by the attendance of her mother, father and grandmother.
Hannah remarked that she looks forward to this every year, and really likes when everyone comes together and to singing and celebrating Mass. “We are all united, and it’s a very good community,” she said.
Hannah’s grandmother, a parishioner at St. John the Baptist Church, who was attending the all schools Mass for the first time, said the Mass was “a wonderful experience and was so happy to be able to witness and take part in it.”
Chris Samuels, a kindergarten through eighth-grade resource teacher at Corpus Christi School who has spent 25 years teaching, observed, “Look at this! Where else can the bishop speak to so many children and have them all listen? It is something the kids look forward to every year. To see friends from other schools and see students from throughout the diocese praying together, it is fantastic.”
Sixth graders from St. Joseph School, Teddy Maginn, Ryan Hruskovich, Luke Woodward and Josh Wasierski all indicated that they enjoyed coming to worship together. They also said they appreciated Bishop Rhoades’ homily because it was one that “people of all ages could relate to.”
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