Michael Hagan ’15
In my years as a student at Providence College, I have found particular joy in the first few campus Sunday Masses of the academic year. I am one of many Friars for whom worship at St. Dominic Chapel has been an integral part of life at PC, and this has everything to do with the centrality of the sacraments and prayer to our lives as Christians. I am not alone in believing that St. Dominic’s is the hearth at the center of this campus we call home.
But at the dawn of my last undergraduate year, an annual experience largely unique to campus communities like our own reminded me so clearly of what really happens when we gather for Mass. Sunday night I attended the first 10:30 Mass of the semester, and I found comforting and valuable lessons in an unlikely fact: there were hiccups in the liturgy. A new year of congregants and liturgical ministers put their best effort into giving due reverence to God. Much like any first attempt in a new environment, we experienced bumps along the way. There was great timidity among new congregants when it came to chanting back the Kyrie. There was uncertainty as to which Eucharistic ministers would administer to what aisle. Occasionally the tempo would unduly pick up as the congregation nervously sang hymns. The joy in these hiccups does not come from imagining Fr. Cuddy’s chagrin at minor bumps in the road. It rather comes from a very real sense of shared humanity stirred up by those moments when we ‘don’t quite get it right.’
We believe that the Mass is the intersection of the human and the divine. Human error, however innocent, may drive stricter liturgists up a wall; I tend to think that, in moderation, it plays an important role of reminding us who we are and whom we gather to worship. We are clumsy. We are easily distracted. We are timid. But God is perfect. God is attentive. God is fully and unreservedly present in the Eucharist. Over time, congregations work together to correct human error and celebrate Mass in a way most reverent and conducive to the work of God. At St. Dominic Chapel, we have the exciting and humbling blessing of undergoing this process each year. It keeps us humble and our worship vitalized.
Sunday night, we very human Friars encountered Christ in the breaking of bread. No liturgical hiccup negates this. Fr. Cuddy and the liturgy and worship team led a beautiful and authentic celebration of the Mass, but they would be the first to acknowledge that their work is good only insofar as it is moved by God. There is no such thing as a ‘bad Mass,’ because what makes it Mass is the work and presence of God in and through those who celebrate. In our high-risk world, there is great solace in the fact that the core of the Christian life is something we lack the power to screw up. Through participation in it, we stand only to grow deeper in contemplation of God and his mysteries.