Xavier Ateneo officially marked the start of the new school year 2021-2022, last August 25, with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, commonly known as "Red Mass," a long-standing tradition among Jesuit academic institutions dating back to the 16th century.
This year's Red Mass was presided by University President Fr Mars P Tan, SJ who also welcomed all the students enrolled this year and gave an assurance that Xavier Ateneo will do its best to deliver the best quality of Jesuit education inspite and despite the pandemic. “ I appeal to everyone to help us in this endeavor. Be more enduring and more patient this school year. He also requested for everyone’s support in the new campus in Manresa project “ Let us work hand in hand and together realize our dreams ”
Fr Mars P. Tan SJ as Mass Presider, joined by Fr IJ Chan-Gonzaga SJ (left side) and Fr Gabriel Gonzales, SJ, University Chaplain
In his homily, Fr Ismael John III V Chan-Gonzaga, SJ, director of the Campus Ministries Office and rector of the Jesuit Community of Loyola House, emphasized how we should all hope and together pray for a grace-filled and fruitful year ahead. “ We come as community offering the year ahead to this God of ours who never fails to surprise us. We place before the altar of our Lord, the coming year with all its uncertainty and fears, our loved ones sick and struggling in this death trap of a pandemic, trusting in Him who alone knows tomorrow."
The simple yet meaningful event gathered some administrators, staff and a few student leaders who were united in praying for the inspiration, guidance, and presence of the Holy Spirit to grace the academic year.
(All photos by the Communication and Promotions Office)
Below is the full text of the homily of Fr Ismael John III V Chan-Gonzaga , SJ , during the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, also known as “Red Mass”, on August 25, at the University Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Good morning, everyone.
As I was preparing for today’s mass, I couldn’t help but remember how every year without fail, from grade school to college to law school, the Mass of the Holy Spirit was always a constant for me. At every start of a school year, it was hard not to find time to attend the mass & whisper a prayer to the Holy Spirit for inspiration & guidance amidst the uncertainty of the coming year.
My friends, the Holy Spirit mass is an age-old tradition in Catholic Jesuit education where everyone in a school community gather at the start of each school year and together pray for a grace-filled & fruitful year ahead. Today, most especially today, we honor and keep that tradition with our presence here, though, for most of us, virtually. But more than keeping tradition, if asked why we gather still in the midst of such frightening situation, I’d say we gather precisely because of our situation, because we do not know - we do not what tomorrow brings; we do not know what tomorrow will bestow. We can only hope. We come as community offering the year ahead to this God of ours who never fails to surprise us. We place before the altar of our Lord, the coming year with all its uncertainty and fears, our loved ones sick and struggling in this death trap of a pandemic, trusting in Him who alone knows tomorrow.
In today’s gospel, we hear Jesus breathe the Spirit unto His disciples. He gives the Paraclete to His friends & imparts on them His very self, as He does to us today. In the midst of such troubling times, when death and apathy seem to hang over our heads inside school and out there, when fear has become the norm and hatred & division the new paradigm, He breathes unto us, as well, courage/hope.
And so today as we receive and embrace the Spirit given, in such time, I pray may it be for 2 intentions. First, many times, especially for you, my dear students, in your studies, in the excitement of the many possibilities at tomorrow’s end or in the frustrating constraints of learning by looking at thumbnails on a screen, you leave no room to enjoy the journey. Too obsessed with end goals, we lose sight of the peripheries. But they matter. The lessons you will learn and the discipline with which you learn them; the friendships we build, and neglect; the loved ones we snap at or get impatient with, they who might not be here for us again tomorrow - all gifts of this generous God who assures us always of His fidelity. Thus today we embrace the Spirit so it may grant us that humility and grace to recognize & appreciate the present moment & the presences of those whose sweat, blood, and sacrifice brought us all to where we are today.
Second, and more importantly, we embrace the Spirit because we need to realize that we cannot allow our education to be simply for ourselves alone. We come to this great institution because we also believe in what it stands for. And we come together, teachers, educators, formators, support personnel whom you and your loved ones trusted with your lives and futures, knowing that we are here to teach you to learn and appreciate not just the cognitive gymnastics of theoretical discourse but also the formative value of what it means to be fundamentally human, to aid in the wellbeing of that humanity especially in the context of such a country we have today.
Look around, my dear students, and see how our society has grown numb to the cries of so many. Open your hearts as well, as you open your minds, and see that your voices are desperately needed by those silenced by the ambitious few. Our country is at the verge of tearing itself apart and now, more than ever, your future is not as bright as we fought for it to be. And so, yes, we gather too and pray that the Spirit steady our hearts and minds because tomorrow will not always be so kind.
We gather today in prayer for your dreams, your loved ones, our nation – our collective tomorrow. For here lies the difference between a person of faith and a person without faith. The person of faith is able to place even what may seem incomprehensible in purely human terms, as having a place in the larger plan of Providence. We gather believing, hoping that as we offer the year ahead, God will assume where our human frailty stalls. Trusting in the very assurance of God’s ever-abiding presence, in the very assurance that is God Himself, breathing His very courage and hope into us. Trusting that as we offer the journey ahead, He shall walk ever with and by our side, granting us the fortitude to see it through, to be formed in mind and heart to recognize good and evil, right and wrong. And that with what we shall achieve here, beyond the struggles and doubts, we can become God’s very presence in today’s broken world.
And so in this mass, let us stop for while. Let us pray for each other. May we allow our hearts the courage to trust tomorrow because of Him who made possible, today. Ever trusting in the mercy of God, in the very mercy who is God Himself. And be catalysts of a future worth living for. Amen.