Waking Up to Jesus

 It’s 7:10. Students huddle in small groups scattered throughout the cafeteria while a few sit by themselves, trying to finish the previous day’s homework. The low voice of Brother Richard Sanker over the intercom interrupts this peaceful scene with the first announcement of the day.

Every morning around 7:10, Brother Richard invites all students to daily Mass. Soon after, Father Patrick Friend celebrates Mass in The Our Lady of Perpetual Health Chapel, located right across from the cafeteria. At the front of the chapel is a mural of Jesus with the Eucharist, and on the far side, stained glass windows depicting the twelve Apostles and the Eucharist turn the early morning sunlight into vibrant colors.

The chapel did not always hold daily Mass. “When I got here, Fr. Fred had Mass every Wednesday and Friday plus all-school Masses,” said Fr. Friend, “and  I wanted to say Mass every day for myself, so I thought we may as well have Mass here every day.

Fr. Friend wakes up early and spends time preparing for  Mass. “I get here around 5:30 in the morning and look at things I have to work on that day. I pray two of the prayers we say as priests, Office of Readings and the Morning Prayer, and then I sit down at the computer in the teacher’s lounge. I read the Mass readings that day and typed up a reflection, praying with the readings and thinking about what the Lord is speaking to us as a community. That will form the basis for my homily that day.” said Fr. Friend. “About 15 minutes before Mass, I come down to the sacristy, and I pray a vesting prayer, the prayer a priest says as he gets dressed for Mass. I wash my hands in a ritual way and then put on the clothes for priests, and after that, I stand in front of the chapel to greet people as they come in until Mass starts at 7:15.”

Since daily Mass is not obligatory for Catholics, it can be hard to find a reason to participate. “Our obligation as Catholics is that we must go to Mass on Sunday unless you are sick or it is impossible. We have it because God has a particular day on which we are supposed to keep holy, and that is brought to fulfillment for Christians with worship on Sunday. We need that because it is when we come together as a community. God saves us as a people, not only as individuals. Daily Mass is an extra act of devotion to God. It is more stripped down. It is more simple and quiet with fewer people.” said Fr. Friend. “And because of that, it really highlights parts of the Mass that are not as highlighted on Sunday. We need the pomp and circumstance of Sunday because we offer God our best as a community, but it is also nice to do things more simply, and daily Mass offers the ability to do that.”

Having a chapel has been central to the school’s tradition ever since it started. “The old school had three buildings: the main building, a classroom building, the gym in a separate building, and the third building was the library chemistry and physics labs,” said Father Lawrence Frederick. “On the third floor of the classroom building, there was a small room in the right-hand corner of the building. In that room was the chapel, and it was smaller because the whole student body was 150 students.”

Many alumni donated money or even artwork for the chapel. One such example was the mural of Jesus on the back wall. “In 1993, somebody donated money, and the mosaic was done on big sheets of plywood. They built the mosaic in the cafeteria,” said Brother Richard Sanker. “Then they picked the boards up and pasted them to the wall. Fr. Tribou asked an artist to design as far as I know.”

For Fr. Friend, daily Mass provides a time close to God. “It is hard to think of anything that can be more meaningful to do. I love preaching and all of the other parts of the Mass, but just the moment of consecration where I hold the bread and the chalice,” said Fr. Friend, “and I know that the veil between Heaven and Earth is as thin as it could be possibly be and that God at that moment miraculously gives us his Son again. That makes it the best part of my day.”

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