Sept. 23, 2004 • Volume 13 Number 2
'You Cannot Hide from God'
First Year Convocation, Mass of the Holy Spirit bring pageantry and tradition
Mid-September at Boston College this year was marked by two University-wide ceremonies, one of them a centuries-old tradition, the other a newly minted rite of passage for BC's freshman class. Last Sunday afternoon, a late-summer chill was in the air as members of the University community gathered for the Mass of the Holy Spirit, held in the St. Mary's Hall rose garden.
Near that same spot five days earlier, on a warm, golden evening, the Class of 2008 congregated along Linden Lane for a torch-light processional from Bapst Library Lawn to Conte Forum, where they attended the inaugural First Year Academic Convocation.
Sunday's tranquil setting contrasted with Campus Minister Rev. Tony Penna's pointed sermon aimed at those who maliciously deceive others, whether on Wall Street, Main Street, Beacon Street - or even Linden Lane.
"You clever, well educated and appealing personalities may be able to hide from auditors and boards of directors, but get this straight: You cannot hide from God," said Fr. Penna, reflecting the message of the day's readings from Amos and the gospel of Luke.
"Or if we turn back the clock to before graduation day, you may be able to hide from deans and professors on occasion or from a coach or superior, but you cannot hide from God."
The Mass of the Holy Spirit, typically held at the beginning of the academic year, is a tradition at Catholic colleges and universities that dates back to the Middle Ages. University President Rev. William Leahy, SJ, served as principal celebrant, and was joined by 13 other priests. Music was provided by the Liturgical Arts Group.
The potential for deception exists in all corners of life, warned Fr. Penna, unless people choose to live their lives as though their most private interactions are considered interactions with God.
Elaborating on the many forms that deception can take, Fr. Penna compared the principals in the Enron-Arthur Andersen accounting scandal to those who mistreat family or friends and still volunteer for community service, or those who cheat at school and work and then sing in the church choir.
"You may be able to fool some of the people all of the time," said Fr. Penna. "But you cannot fool God.
"Let us make decisions as if every word and every action would be broadcast in public, as if every whisper would be shouted from Gasson Tower, and as if every piece of print or e-mail would be written across the sky for the world to read."
The Sept. 14 processional and convocation was organized by the Office of First Year Experience as a shared ritual by which BC's newest undergraduates open their college years, much as they end them at Commencement four years hence. The theme of the event, emblazoned on banners displayed during the processional and convocation, was Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola's incitement to missionary St. Francis Xavier: "Go Set the World on Fire."
This year's freshman class was assigned to read Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, a profile of Haiti clinic founder Dr. Paul Farmer. Both author and subject were on hand last week to keynote the convocation, at which Fr. Leahy also spoke.
Freshmen were organized by residence hall for the processional, each group carrying a torch decorated with maroon and gold ribbons, as well as a placard identifying their residence hall.
Vice President for University Mission and Ministry Joseph Appleyard, SJ, and Vice President and Special Assistant to the President William B. Neenan, SJ, greeted each group and lit their torches. With the BC Screaming Eagles Marching Band leading the way, the freshmen processed through O'Neill Plaza, down Higgins Stairs and to the circular drive in front of Conte.
A crowd of administrators, faculty and upperclassmen applauded the freshmen as they arrived at Conte. The torches were placed on the small green near the Eagle statue and the students went inside for the remainder of their formal welcome to Boston College.
-Stephen Gawlik and Sean Smith •