In the midst of our exclusive coverage of Ordinations, we are still bringing you our regularly schedule programming, which today includes Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., posting from the University of Portland. As always, it’s a brilliant post you will not want to miss!
I worked hard to advertize the Triduum during Holy Week: I announced all the times and gave brief descriptions of each liturgy at the end of our Holy Tuesday Villa Maria hall Mass; I even did the same at the end of my Wednesday class sessions (and these are math classes!). So I was very happy, and not too surprised, to see a good number of Villa Maria guys gathered at the bell tower at 9PM on Saturday night for the lighting of the Easter fire. On Easter Sunday afternoon in the dorm, I ran into one of the most devout students in that group, and we had a great conversation about the night before: the choir’s gorgeous singing; the power of the baptismal rites; our common wish that the chapel had been even a little fuller. As we set to part, he said to me, “Happy Easter, Fr. Charlie!” And as I walked away, I exclaimed over my shoulder, “Christ is risen!” To which he replied, “Yeah He is!”
His was a fantastic, quintessentially UP response. This young man is so full of faith, that he actually gave the RIGHT response, just in 21st century, American slang. And he almost certainly had NO CLUE that I was offering a formula (“Christ is risen!”) to which there might be a formulaic comeback (“Christ is truly risen!”). I was smiling for joy and smacking my forehead at the same time.
In Holy Cross, we remember that when Fr. Sorin and the seven Holy Cross brothers went to northern Indiana in the 1840s, it was still mission territory. And, thank God, the whole Church’s efforts at evangelization there have been incredibly successful. The university we founded, the old Polish and Irish immigrants, and the newer Latino ones have embedded a Catholicity in that town’s very culture. The same definitely cannot be said of the city of Portland, or of any place in the Pacific Northwest. And so, at UP, even the most devout Catholic students probably won’t share a Catholic vocabulary, worldview, and experiential base that many of us bred in Midwest or East Coast Catholic towns sometimes take for granted.
And this reality adds to the excitement and the challenge of our mission at the university, in the diocese, and within the whole region. In my more romantic moods, I wonder whether we in Portland enjoy a small glimpse of what our missionary forebearers experienced. When my mindset is more down-to-earth, I am simply grateful that my experiences here have broadened and deepened my understanding of what it means to be an “educator in the faith.”