On Thursday, September 6, the Boston College community came together in faith to celebrate the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, a Jesuit tradition that commences the academic year. University President Rev. William Leahy, S.J. presided, and Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Rev. Jack Butler, S.J. was the homilist. Due to an excessive heat warning, the Mass was moved inside to Conte Forum, where students, faculty, and other community members gathered to celebrate the liturgy.
Offering a Mass of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of a new academic year is a longstanding Jesuit tradition. The first Mass of the Holy Spirit was celebrated when St. Ignatius of Loyola commissioned ten priests to Messina, Sicily to establish the first Jesuit school in 1548. Characterized by rigorous academics and deep faith, this school, now the University of Messina, attributed its success to the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, almost 500 years later, Jesuit schools still celebrate Masses of the Holy Spirit to offer and dedicate the school year to the work of the Holy Spirit and to ask for comfort, direction, and inspiration in the upcoming year.
Boston College’s Liturgy Arts Group lead the university in worship and song, opening with the traditional hymn “Come Holy Ghost,” as faculty entered in an academic procession. Following the faculty adorned in their academic dress, BC’s many beloved priests processed in, with Fr. Leahy, the principal celebrant, at the end.
“It's that little voice that’s deep within, that spurs you on,” Fr. Jack Butler, S.J., preached in his homily, explaining the bold and faithful lives we can lead with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “Take on the challenges. Make the Good News real; make the dreams of others come true. Be the voice for those who don’t have a voice, be the hands for those who aren’t able to grasp or walk, become the intellect who helps the others move ahead. You can make love real.”
This Mass is a reminder that the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost as a real and tangible source of power in the Christian life. Oftentimes called “the Comforter” or “the Paraclete,” which means advocate, the Holy Spirit is our guide. All inspiration, wisdom, passion, acts of service, and ultimately love, flow from the Spirit. St. Ignatius himself in the Spiritual Exercises explained that the Holy Spirit is the one behind our journey from fear to joy and from gift to mission. The Holy Spirit is simultaneously a gift to accompany us as well as something that calls us to a mission. Our mission– to “set the world aflame,” as St. Ignatius put it– is the reason the BC community gathers in prayer, especially at the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, to glorify God and surrender to the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Jesuit tradition of the Mass of Holy Spirit allows us this year, and always, to invite the Holy Spirit to accompany and empower us as we embark on a new academic term to boldly serve, learn, and worship with our lives.