Encountering God’s Light: Lucernarium

When we think about Holy Cross spirituality, we often think about the life and writings of our founder. These documents are a key part of our spiritual heritage, but we have also been building upon this foundation for nearly two centuries. “Holy Cross spirituality” is also authentically found in those texts and practices that have developed and taken root in our common life together as Holy Cross religious since the time of our founder.

One such practice is the service of Lucernarium, often affectionately called “luc” [looch.] Lucernarium is essentially sung night prayer. The name, derived from the Latin word for “light,” comes from the fact that we celebrate it in a darkened room with the only illumination initially coming from the Paschal candle. As the service progresses, more and more hand candles are gradually lit. This service, incorporating many traditional elements of Catholic worship during the night, was formalized by Fr. Peter Rocca, CSC, as a young priest. It has been regularly celebrated at Moreau Seminary during his long tenure as Director of Music and Liturgy there.

Many of us in Holy Cross have been deeply formed spiritually by regularly celebrating Lucernarium. Through this service, we encounter God’s word, especially the psalms, proclaimed in song and brought to life by various musical settings. Some of these were composed by Fr. Rocca, some are from published sources, and others were created by various Holy Cross members over the years, including Fr. Bill Dorwart, CSC, (a former novice master). The ritual elements of Lucernarium speak to us on a level deeper than words, reminding us that the light of the resurrection can pierce any darkness and that God calls us to share this light with others. Many of us had our first experience preaching to a substantial congregation during a Thursday night Lucernarium at the seminary, which is often attended by many Notre Dame students.

Lucernarium’s significance in Holy Cross spirituality is evident in how it has spread beyond the seminary to other apostolates. At Stonehill, where I teach, we always invite students to Notre Dame for the priestly ordination of deacons who serve at the College. These weekends include a Lucernarium celebration as a pre-ordination vigil. During a recent visit, some students asked why we don’t celebrate Lucernarium at Stonehill. Realizing there was no good reason for this lacuna, we began celebrating Lucernarium once a month after the main student Sunday Mass!

Our celebrations at Stonehill provide a place for us to live out our Holy Cross call to collaboration with the laity. We invite lay campus ministers and students to preach at Lucernarium, allowing us to hear how God’s actions are experienced and articulated by a broader range of disciples. For first-time preachers, this experience is powerful: when you proclaim God’s call to others, it echoes within you, often awakening a deeper understanding of God’s call in your own life.

(Rev.) Adam Booth, C.S.C.

Published on June 5, 2024

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