Sunday: Mass by Candlelight

Sunday, December 8: 10:30AM in Wills Hall Chapel and 7PM in Connelly Chapel

Traditionally the final Mass of the Fall Semester is celebrated by candlelight.

An explanation of this tradition was written by Kathleen Corrigan-Chovanes, ’10, who was serving as the Campus Ministry ‘beat writer’ for a Communications class in 2008:

“As with all tradition, there has to have a beginning.

The first Candlelight Mass took place by utter happenstance on December 16, 2007.  The DeSales students all shivered their way up to the 8:00p.m. Mass that night, as a severe winter storm had been anticipated all weekend.  Signs of the storm became evident by Sunday night, with gusts of wind up to 50mph.  As students hustled into the doors of Connelly Chapel, they were instantly warmed by the added candles extended above the ends of every other pew—an unexpected, aesthetic treat to the normal Sunday Mass routine.  The candles had not yet been taken down from Gaudeamus, the DSU Choir’s annual Advent concert, which had taken place the week prior. 

While it certainly was a beautiful touch, the few students in attendance that night seemed to be more concerned with getting back to their rooms to join the rest of campus in studying for the slew of final exams that would ambush them over the next few days.  Students shuffled into their seats, knelt down to say a quick prayer, and eagerly anticipated the start of Mass; the sooner it started, the sooner they could go.  Before long, Fr. Hanley was heading to the back of the chapel, ready to begin.

It was just like every other Sunday until Father took his first step down the aisle.  With that step came an audible gust of wind from outside.  The lights began to flicker as he made his way to the altar.  Once he had reached the front of the chapel and greeted the congregation, the lights stopped flickering and shut off completely, leaving everyone in a sea of dim gold light thanks to those few extra candles.

The congregation went silent in awe of the beautiful, candlelit aura that surrounded them.  It wasn’t long before everyone realized that the lights weren’t coming back on, but no one seemed to want them to anyhow.  Mass had gone from a routine, and at the current time inconvenient, obligation to an incredible spiritual experience in which the congregation contemplated the meaning of Christ’s birth and how He truly brought light to the world, as Fr. Hanley’s impromptu homily had so beautifully pointed out. 

All left Mass that evening touched by a real sense of the message of Christ, His light, and His mission; touched in a way that would never have happened had we not been forced to physically experience the power of a subtle light in the darkness.  Christmas was but a week away and meant so much more than it ever had before.  Students now understood that Christmas is more than just a break from school–it is the celebration of a subtle, yet powerful light entering the darkness of the world.

Tradition is a big part of the DeSales experience.  Whether it’s academic, extra-curricular, or spiritual, this university is rich with tradition.  However you support DeSales, whether you are student, faculty, or benefactor, it is important to appreciate and understand the many traditions present within this school, for they are what makes up the truly unique community that we have all grown to love.”