Crusaders decide between spiritual and physical hunger

Edward Hagerty

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The lunch bell rings, and the hallways fill with people. The students leaving their classrooms are faced with a choice: they can either buy lunch at the cafeteria and talk to their friends around Fatima Court, or they can go with their friends to Mass in the chapel. The vast majority of them will choose the first option, leaving the chapel virtually empty. Out of a population of over eight-hundred students, only a dozen or so show up to each Mass at lunch, unless a club or sport requires its members to attend a particular Mass, in which case the number is moved up to about forty attendees. That means even on a busy day, more than 75% of the 180 seats available in the chapel, so why don’t more people come for the weekly Mass?

For many students, the reason they don’t attend is that they feel like they have to choose between going to Mass and eating. “I don’t usually go because it takes up the entirety of lunchtime and I don’t have time to eat,” said Jonas Bongulto, a senior who is involved in multiple clubs. “A lot of things happen during lunch, so it’s just not a great time to have it. I mean, I’m rarely ever free during lunch, and when I am I’d like to eat.”

While there are still five or ten minutes left in the break when Mass ends, many students have club meetings to attend in addition to eating making 20 minutes seem like it eclipses their entire lunch. The opinion that lunch is an inconvenient time for Mass is shared by other students, who see lunch as one time to unwind during the day. “For me, lunch is this valuable time that I really don’t get to have any other time of the day,” said Ericka Tapia, another senior involved in many activities on top of her academics. “Going to Mass takes away the ability to actually relax at lunch. I always have something to do, so I’d rather have my lunch period to myself.”

Mrs. Anthony, the head of the theology department, is not blind to the challenges teenagers at Mater Dei face. “When people go in, they’re hungry because they’ve been in class.” However, from her perspective, the experience of Mass is enriched because of the struggles people have to deal with. “What a great thing to offer! Consciously, to know ‘I’m really hungry, all my friends are out there eating right now and goofing around, but I’m going to offer twenty minutes, that I am very uncomfortable and I’m going to offer this sacrifice.’, then partaking in the Eucharist, makes it that much better. ”

The theology department is increasing its efforts to publicize Mass more, addressing another problem students like Mason Spooneas, a freshman,  have brought up. He couldn’t say what day Mass is available at Mater Dei, which, in his opinion, is the result of a lack of advertising. “Your theology teacher emphasizes it a little, but really doesn’t touch on it too much,” a fact that Mrs. Anthony accepted and is improving with posters throughout the religion classrooms.

How can the problems students have brought up be addressed? One suggestion that Mrs. Anthony had was to encourage teachers to let students who went to Mass eat during the first few minutes of their class. That way, people could go to the chapel without worrying about whether they would have enough time to eat. “It doesn’t take them that long to eat, but at the same time you want them to have a chance to breathe and to get to class on time,” she said.

Though some students may try to take advantage of the system by falsely claiming they’ve gone to Mass just to eat in class. A possible way to address this would be to implement a ‘Mass pass’ system, where students are given a small pass as they walk out of the chapel to show teachers at the start of class.

People can get a great deal of good out of the liturgical experience, so it’s important that it is offered in a way that will easily allow them to participate. The most immediate way for students to make a difference in the attendance of Mass is by experiencing for themselves, which they can do every Tuesday during lunch.

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