Monday, September 19, 2011

Mass of the Holy Spirit

Catholic colleges and universities run by the Jesuit Fathers practice a beautiful September tradition of opening the academic year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit.

On Thursday, September 15, Loyola University New Orleans canceled all 11 a.m. classes so that all members of the Loyola community might attend this Mass if they wished to do so, including the international students of the Loyola Intensive Engish Program (LIEP). Before proceeding to a description of Thursday's Mass of the Holy Spirit, we will look at three questions:
  1. Who are the Jesuit Fathers?
  2. Who is the Holy Spirit?
  3. Saint Ignatius Loyola
  4. What is the Mass?
JESUIT FATHERS: The Jesuit Fathers are an organization of Catholic priests founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola, who lived from 1491 to 1556. The full name of the organization is the Society of Jesus, usually shortened to Jesuit. The special mission of the Jesuit Fathers is the education of high school boys and of college and university men and women. In front of the Danna Center (Loyola's student center) stands a stature of Saint Ignatius Loyola.

The Holy Spirit represented as a dove
HOLY SPIRIT: The Holy Spirit is God Within Us, inspiring us as we live our lives. The Holy Spirit is often represented as a white dove of peace. 

The Mass
MASS: Mass is the great prayer of the Catholic Church. During Mass, Catholics remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The climax of the Mass is the consecration of the bread and wine as the body and blood of Jesus and the receiving of this consecrated bread and wine in Holy Communion.


The Mass of the Holy Spirit at Loyola is not only a prayer but also a glorious pageant. It is held in the beautiful Holy Name of Jesus Church on Saint Charles Avenue.

Holy Name of Jesus Church
The Holy Spirit as tongues of fire
The Mass begins with the entrance of a long red streamer carried by two dozen students and stretching up and down the aisles of the church. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit's inspiration is often represented as fire. When the Holy Spirit first came upon Jesus' followers, observers saw tongues of fire burning above their heads.

Once the red steamer is in place, the faculty of each of Loyola's five colleges process into the church, carrying the banner of their respective colleges: College of Business, College of Music and Fine Arts, College of Law, College of Natural Sciences and Humanities, College of Social Sciences. Student organizations follow in procession, wearing their distinctive t-shirts.

Then come the Jesuit Fathers, robed in red vestments for celebrating Mass. Finally, Loyola's ballet students dance down the aisle in colorful tulle skirts. During this procession, the organ resounds and the Loyola Choir sings, as they do throughout the Mass.

When all the Jesuit Fathers have reached the altar, the Mass begins. We pray for God's blessing on our academic year, listen to Bible readings, observe the consecration of the bread and wine, and if we are prepared to do so, receive Holy Communion. We enjoy the uplifting music of the Loyola Choir and the Genesis Gospel Choir.

Then, the final blessing is given, and we depart to carry on our lives and work with new inspiration.

The Mass of the Holy Spirit is an Ignatian tradition. Our next post will highlight a project of the Advanced LIEP Listening & Speaking class, focusing on the Ignatian values that a Jesuit education strives to instill.

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