Monday, September 5, 2016

Returning to My Undergraduate Worship Community

Yesterday, for the first time in about 25 years, I attended a mass on Penn State's campus.  I'm actually not sure whether I have attended a single mass on campus since the day I finished my undergraduate studies at Penn State.  If I have attended any the number has been small.

The first thing that is different about worshipping on Penn State's campus now is that they no longer use either the Forum (a classroom building) or the Eisenhower Auditorium for masses.  Instead, they use a spiritual center that has been built onto the building that included the original student chapel and the the building that different religious organizations used for office space.

The next thing that was different was the small size of the musical group and the centrality of piano to the music.  I missed having a flute playing along--that was standard back in the 1987-91 time period that I was there as a student.

The third thing that was different was the relatively small number of students involved in the Eucharistic ministry.  But I did go to a student Eucharistic minister.  I remember the days of being one.

The fact that I was at a campus ministry mass in a space dedicated to worship on a college campus brought back a lot of strong feelings to me about my involvement in the Newman Student Association at Penn State.  Strong memories of the music.  Strong memories of the ministries.  When they talked about the first the start of the year picnic that was upcoming, I thought of my fist exposure to Newman, following a suggestion that my mother had given, and quickly getting drawn into volunteer work with older adults.

It was powerful because my experience at Penn State was a true deepening of my faith experience.  I had grown up in a church without music at the masses.  What I had at Penn State was amazing.  I still remember the sung Our Father and that is one part of mass that I miss quite a bit today.

When we sang Psalm 42 (starting with As the Deer Longs...).  And I don't recall if that was one we sang 30 years ago, but I do remember the power of numerous psalms that were used week after week at campus ministry masses.  I remember briefly being involved with one of the singing groups.  They were welcoming as well.

Finally, the reading yesterday is one of the tougher ones in the cycle of Catholic readings.  The Gospel comes from Luke, Chapter 14 verses 25-33.  The reading talks about having to hate things to follow Jesus.  The priest described this as the "cost" of discipleship.  If the homily had been given by Father Hank Hilton at St. Pius X years ago, he might have called it the opportunity cost of discipleship.  (He is an economist by training, after all.)

What I thought about was the opportunity cost of taking anything seriously.  Why?  Because Father David did not start out just talking about the cost of discipleship.  He led up to it.  He started by talking about a young student from Korea with whom he had been speaking.  He went on about all the things that the student was fascinated with.  He ended with politics.  At that point, he transitioned to the readings.

What was the link?  The link was that the Korean student had commented on the effort that goes into politics in the United States.  The question the priest raised was what Jesus's apostles would have advised him if they were political advisers.  The words about the cost of discipleship are words that the crowd probably did not want to hear.

I think that many people don't want to hear how tough a lot of things in life are.  Of course it is tough to be a disciple.  But there are a lot of things that are tough.

Exercise in general and training for long distance running races in particular is tough.  But I have that taken care of--for myself.  And I join with a lot of others.  And numerous friendships are built around the same passion.

Fitting meditation--time out to think for myself--it tough.  That one I have not mastered yet.  And I have not found a way to make it work.

Being a good parent takes work.  I'm not perfect.  But I work at it.

Being a good spouse takes work.  I like to think I am good at it.

Being a good employer and leader is work.

The key for me is whether I can find a way to take the passion that I show for one thing and carry it over to many others.  To have all the things in my life that I focus on and make them all as alive as my running.  Recognizing how hard each and every one can be.  Recognizing the effort that each takes.  And making sure that anyone who wants to join me in pursuing any of those understands the time and effort required as well.  

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