By Bertrand Fitzgerald
NOTRE DAME — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades’ admonition that “we are all called to be saints” had a distinctly Marian tone on Oct. 7 as he celebrated the annual all schools Mass at the Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The themes were not lost on the assembled children of the South Bend area’s Catholic schools. Per a long tradition, the fourth graders came dressed as a saint, inspiring Bishop Rhoades to state that processing in, “I felt like I was in heaven, because I saw all of these saints.”
To his delight, Mary the Mother of Jesus was best represented.
Addressing the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Bishop Rhoades invited the 4,000 gathered in prayer to understand themselves to be part of the bigger Catholic Church that began as another community in prayer, the community that gathered together in prayer after the Ascension to wait and pray for the promised Holy Spirit.
To emphasize that the disciples of Acts, who represent the Church at prayer, are also the foundation stones of the Apostolic Church, Bishop Rhoades invited all the fourth graders who had dressed as Apostles to come up and share the stage with him.
When prompted, a student dressed as St. Peter volunteered that his saint was special because, “he was the first pope.” Bishop Rhoades responded that as a bishop, he is a “successor to the Apostles,” as part of the Church structured around the leadership of Peter’s successor, which “keeps the Church one.”
Bishop Rhoades then proceeded to invite all the girls dressed as Mary to the stage, to follow the day’s Scriptures in emphasizing that while “the Church is Apostolic,” it is also “never separated from Mary,” as indeed, the Apostles at prayer “were gathered with Mary” in the first reading. To the assembly’s delight, the day’s Gospel — the Annunciation to Mary — was broached when Bishop Rhoades asked a young student what made Mary special, and she had the presence of mind to respond with a quotation of Mary’s fiat: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”
After the congregation erupted in applause, Bishop Rhoades affirmed that Mary’s act of total trust is “the greatest response of faith any human being has ever made.” In giving it, he said, “she is our model of faith,” and “it is up to us to respond in kind” to our own vocational calls.
Appropriately to the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, Bishop Rhoades told the assembled that Mary is not only a model, but is in fact, “praying with us now” and “we can always ask her for help,” for after all, “she is our Mother.” He explained that when from the cross Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother,” John “represented the whole Church,” and Jesus was giving her to us as our mother.
Turning to the rosary, Bishop Rhoades reminded all present that the narrative of the Annunciation to Mary, the day’s Gospel, is also the first mystery of the rosary, which the bishop called “one of my favorite prayers.” To pray it in its 20 mysteries, “to meditate on the whole Gospel from beginning to end,” as it were, “learning at the school of Mary.”
In closing, Bishop Rhoades led the assembly of Catholic students and educators in reciting a list of the four things that we hear the first community of disciples in Jerusalem were devoted to: the teaching of the Apostles, the prayers, the breaking of the bread and taking care of the poor.
The bishop noted that “we are doing the same, drawing out the fact that Catholic schools continue the Apostolic teaching,” that the Eucharistic Liturgy represents, the prayers, and especially the breaking of the bread and that the students’ offertory gifts of food for the poor to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, fulfills the directive that “there be no needy among you.”
After the Mass, fourth-grade teacher Lee Jolly of Christ the King School, South Bend, shared her thoughts on the tradition of students coming to the liturgy dressed as saints as a way to emphasize role models other than athletes and rock stars, ones that live lives closer to how the students want to live their lives. The lesson for her students is that, “saints are normal people who lead every day lives, and we can be every bit as great!”
Her student, Maria Goffinet, who when prompted during Mass by Bishop Rhoades, had told the congregation that she dressed as Mary, “because my name is Maria,” and after Mass added that Mary inspired her with her faithfulness, as “she was faithful even when others were not.”
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.