On Thursday, September 9, Boston College celebrated its annual Mass of the Holy Spirit at noon. Due to rain, it was held inside the Conte Forum rather than O’Neill Square. Nonetheless, students, faculty, and staff flocked to seats in the hockey stadium to partake in this longstanding Jesuit tradition. The gloomy weather hasn’t hampered attendance, especially since last year when, due to COVID-19, the congregation was limited to reservations at St. Ignatius of Loyola Church or online streaming. The fact that Mass of the Holy Spirit was held this year in one of its usual locations on campus seemed like a welcome return to normal.
University President Fr. William Leahy, SJ presided over Mass, while campus pastor and visiting professor at Boston College Law School, Fr. Nathaniel Romano, SJ, delivered the homily. The Mass was concelebrated by Haub’s Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, Reverend John T. Butler, SJ, and other priests from Jesuit communities at Boston College.
The Mass of the Holy Spirit is a tradition of opening the school year in Jesuit institutions that dates back to the Middle Ages. It was first celebrated in 1548, when Saint Ignatius of Loyola sent 10 priests to establish the first Jesuit school in Messina, Sicily. Centuries later, the Mass of the Holy Spirit is still celebrated in Jesuit institutions around the world and is an important part of Boston College’s identity as a Jesuit university. During this Mass, the University calls upon the third person of the Holy Trinity to impart wisdom, understanding, guidance, courage and knowledge to students and faculty as they anticipate the new academic year.
Frank Wilhelm IV, CSOM ’24, for whom this year’s Mass of the Holy Spirit was his first, commented, “To be welcomed into this year filled with new opportunities surrounded by the religious community of Boston College has been a wonderful experience.” .
During his homily Fr. Romano said: “As we gather here at the beginning of our academic year, we invoke the Spirit of the living God… to gather us together, form us, renew and remake us” .
He returns to the words of the prophet Ezekiel from the first reading: “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26) Romano also reminded the congregation that because of the great diversity of the Boston College community, inviting the Holy Spirit to bring it together is vital.
Throughout the Mass, the Liturgical Arts Group, led by Campus Minister Meyer Chambers, assisted in worship singing hymns that echoed the University’s call to the Holy Spirit and to reading of Ezekiel, as Come, Holy Spirit and O breath on me, O breath of God. Finally, the Mass ended as it began, with an academic procession featuring members of the Jesuit community and professors donning their religious and academic attire.
Image courtesy of Ethan Byrne, Campus Ministry