Vocations and the 11:15 pm Mass.
Scott Holmer, a Georgetown contemporary of mine, was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington earlier this month. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, now-Father Holmer traces the roots of his priestly vocation to the example of Father Thomas M. King, S.J., whom I wrote about here last Sunday. Here is more from Father Holmer, as interviewed by WaPo religion writer Michelle Boorstein:
Q: Tell me a little about your faith background.One can find more details in this story from the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington:
A: Growing up, I went to Mass, but my own faith wasn’t something I really valued. I wasn’t that much of a religious guy, per se. Then I went to Georgetown [University] for college in 1998 and was really impressed with the intellectual honesty of the Jesuits. I had never known the intellectual depth of the Catholic faith and was blown away. . . .When you go to Sunday school [as a child], they’d just say: 'It’s a mystery. It’s a mystery,' and I wanted to know more. And the Jesuits had spent their lives exploring the more.
What were your questions?
How do you reconcile science and faith in your own mind? [The Jesuits] wrestled honestly. The thing that stuck out most for me was Father Thomas King [a popular Jesuit priest and theology professor who died in 2009]. He'd celebrate Mass by candlelight at 11:15 p.m. every single weeknight, and it was the most spiritually moving experience I had ever had. And I wanted to be a part of that.
In a darkened chapel at Georgetown University, the sight of a priest standing at the altar and reverently celebrating a late night Mass by candlelight made Scott Holmer first think about becoming a priest. . . .As I have written here before, I owe my vocation as a Jesuit not merely to Father King's influence as a teacher and as a starets but also and most especially to the 11:15 pm Mass that Father King celebrated six nights a week at Georgetown. At the time of the fortieth anniversary of the 11:15 pm Mass, Father King's list of '11:15 alumni' who had either been ordained or were studying for the priesthood had over forty names on it. Though most on Father King's list had either joined the Jesuits or entered the diocesan clergy, other religious orders like the Dominicans and Franciscans were represented as well; the men on the list whom I know personally are notably diverse in background and temperament, and I doubt that many who knew us as undergraduates would have figured us for future priests.
As a student at Georgetown, the future priest was invited by his teacher, Jesuit Father Thomas King, to join other students at an 11:15 p.m. Mass he celebrated at the university's Dahlgren Chapel.
"That would be a good way to end the day after studying," said Deacon Holmer, who said it was clear that for Father King, his love of the Eucharist was the source of his life, and that love was contagious for several students who were inspired to become priests by his example. "I wanted to experience the same joy and happiness that he exuded in his priestly ministry," the deacon said. "I wanted to be like him. I still do."
The 11:15 pm Mass helped to lead many Hoyas to the priesthood not merely because it got us into the habit of doing to daily Msss but because it was a Mass like no other on campus. As my fellow Hoya Joseph Grieboski once wrote in a tribute to Father King, "Tom's 11:15 pm Mass introduced us to a beauty and majesty of the liturgy with which we were not previously familiar." The 11:15 was celebrated with gentle solemnity and quiet reverence, providing ample stretches of silence and incorporating traditional elements like the Last Gospel. Though he always gave long, theologically rich homilies on Sundays, the weeknight 11:15 usually included no homily at all, giving the liturgy an opportunity to speak for itself. The overall effect of the experience was to teach us that the Eucharist is the true center of the Christian life, and that offering the Eucharist as Father King did six nights a week in Dahlgren Chapel was a joyful and noble endeavor. Had I not learned those lessons at that particular time in my life, I'm not sure that I would have been able to discern the call to religious life. Thus, as I continue to pray for Father Tom King four years after his death, I do so with a very deep sense of gratitude. AMDG.