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A Holiday Challenge: Finding Cause to Rejoice


Father McShane sought reasons for rejoicing at a time of pain. Photo Michael Dames

As parting advice for the end of the Fall 2012 semester, Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, asked students to be patient with their parents on their return home.

“They will want to hug you, and hug you, and hug you again, for reasons that you will understand,” he said. “Be patient with them and hug them back.”

Father McShane addressed the Fordham community at the Gaudete Sunday Mass on Dec. 16 at the Rose Hill University Church. Gaudete, a moment during the Advent season with a liturgical command to rejoice, was overshadowed by the Dec. 14 carnage in Newtown, Conn.

“We would normally receive this command with great joy,” Father McShane said. “…Normally, but not this year.”

Things are very different this Christmas season, he said. With the metropolitan region still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, the area, along with the rest of the nation, is coping with the tragic events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few miles north of the Rose Hill campus.

Father McShane, called into question the use of the word “tragic,” adding that “devastating, incomprehensible, haunting, diabolical and even obscene… don’t capture the enormity of evil that swept through that school on Friday morning.”

Students sang Silent Night followed by a moment of silence. Photo by Michael Dames

Finding reason to rejoice was the homily’s challenge, and Father McShane relied on readings from the Mass and a meditation from the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. The meditation he cited invites the prayerful to view a cruelly chaotic world through the eyes of the Trinity.

Rather than abandoning the human enterprise, the Trinity sent Jesus, said Father McShane. And while Christmas is traditionally good news for the faithful, it’s not good news for Him, for He came on earth to confront evil, which should be reason enough for the faithful to rejoice.

“Let us remember that the rejoice of this Gaudete Sunday is not the whimpy feel-good rejoicing of those who expect a party, rather let it be a rejoice in the realization that the Son of God did not become human to hang out with the good guys,” said Father McShane. “[He came] to redeem and heal those that are broken, to walk with those that are hurting, and to console those who live the margins.”

“So let our rejoice  . . .come out of that realization,” he said. “I encourage all of you: Be creative in love, deep in faith, and defiant in generosity and in hope.”

The Gaudete Mass was also celebrated on the Lincoln Center campus, where John P. Schlegel, S.J., president of America magazine, presided.


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