With a children’s choir singing and a hand bell choir playing the Litany of Saints, Purcell Pavilion at the University of Notre Dame witnessed a small foretaste of heaven Oct. 10 as Catholic schools from the western part of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend gathered together to worship and to celebrate Mass. Superintendent Marsha Jordan captured the feeling in the building when she said in her welcome address, “It is a great joy to join together to celebrate the sacrifice of the holy Mass.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the Mass, and was joined by concelebrating priests from the Catholic schools in attendance. The students were visibly excited to see their priests, and waved as they recognized them processing in.
Bishop Rhoades reminded the faithful at the start of Mass that “God calls us to become saints, to walk the vocation of holiness, to live with God forever in heaven. This is where we hope to go someday.” His words verbalized a vision of holiness that sat in first several rows in front of the altar: the fourth-grade students sitting together, each dressed as their favorite saint. From a Polish bishop, St. Adalbert, to Mary, Queen of Heaven, on the basketball court floor it was easy to distinguish how each had followed the custom and culture of their saint’s country and period and tried to discern the will of God in the saint’s life. Row after row of fourth-graders smiled as Bishop Rhoades spoke especially to them during his homily.
“A saint is fundamentally a friend of Jesus, a disciple of Jesus,” he said. “A friend of Jesus also loves him, serves him and prays to him. A true friend of Jesus loves our neighbor, especially in the poor and suffering and those in need.” He thanked the children for “all the help for the people in need with natural disasters, the hurricanes and earthquakes,” through their prayers and sacrificial almsgiving, and emphasized: “If we are friends of Jesus, we do two things. We serve him, like Martha in the Gospel, and we pray to him, like Mary. A faithful, loyal friend of Jesus talks and listens to him. They pray to him. Every day.
“The saints had the gift of piety,” he continued. “This is why we have Catholic schools, to learn to become friends with Jesus — to become saints.”
He then visited with several individual fourth-grade students, attempting to guess which saint they were dressed as. He briefly interviewed Sts. Patrick and Kateri Tekawitha from St. Matthew School, St. Nicholas from Christ the King, St. Joan of Arc from St. Pius X and St. Thomas the Apostle from St. Anthony of Padua.
Bishop Rhoades also explained how, during Jesus’ earthly life, he had friends too. He described the Twelve Apostles as “really good friends of Jesus,” noting that there was one friend who betrayed him and three who were “really close, like best friends of Jesus; Peter, James and John.” “He also had friends beyond the Apostles, women friends, like Mary and Martha. They often invited Jesus to stay over at their house in Bethany, which was not far from Jerusalem. He really enjoyed being at their house. He could relax and enjoy himself. Do you invite your friends over?” he asked. “Jesus is your best friend, and it is good for us to invite him to our home, into our hearts. This is what happens when we pray. We are inviting Jesus into our lives.”
Although a large endeavor, the annual All-School Mass served once again as a spiritual and visual reminder of the work of Catholic schools in teaching and guiding each student toward God, of the larger whole to which each person and school belongs, and of the beauty that blesses the journey to him.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.