Celebrating Life at Mass

mike bayard head shotMike Bayard, S.J.

Mass is a way to connect on many levels

Written by Mike Bayard, S.J. | Photography by Chris Joseph Taylor
I remember the day as if it were yesterday: November 16, 1989. I was at Creighton University, sitting in our community living room when we heard the news. I was with a few other Jesuits and our provincial, who knew many of the Jesuits martyred earlier that morning at the University of Central America–San Salvador. We were stunned and horrified that our Jesuit brothers, their housekeeper and her daughter could be killed in cold blood in the middle of the night in the rose garden of their Jesuit community.

Twenty years later to the day, I prayed alongside my Jesuit brothers in the Jesuit community garden at the University of Central America. I was moved by the witness of these men and women, their faith and their capacity to speak the truth in the face of injustice that existed for so many of the poor in El Salvador. Standing there in the rose garden, I cried and became aware that my Jesuit brothers, their martyrs’ spirit and their hope continue to live on in the lives of students—not only at the University of Central America but also here at Seattle University. Their spirit is still alive in students who are engaging and persevering in works of justice to bring about a more humane world.

I have often wondered what drew these Jesuits to engage the culture, to challenge the injustices and speak the truth in the face of the harsh realities that existed among the El Salvadoran people. They were fully aware that what they taught could get them killed. Again and again, I come back to the same thought: that each one of them held onto a great hope in Jesus; Jesus who labors through our lives; who yearns to bring healing, peace, reconciliation, wholeness to a broken world. Central to the profound faith of these men was their daily prayer at the Eucharistic table in their Jesuit community chapel.

Over the last year, I have found myself drawn to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the Chapel of St. Ignatius at Seattle University. Sitting in the chapel I often look toward the IHS window with its shattered sunrays. Having toured the chapel, I am reminded of what one of the docents said of this window, that it “is meant to remind us that our world is broken and yet Christ is found present there, the Real Presence rising in our lives in our midst.”

It is that Real Presence, the Body of Christ, that we celebrate in the Chapel of St. Ignatius every Sunday at the 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Mass. Gathered around the Eucharistic table, our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university receive and become the Body of Christ. Christ’s presence becomes part of us as we are sent out the front doors of the chapel into the realities of our daily lives.

That Real Presence, through our hands and voices, touches so many in any given day, bringing the sun of justice, peace, solace, reconciliation, humanity, dignity with its healing rays to each encounter. Believing that we are that Presence we can, like those martyrs of El Salvador, engage the culture, challenge present injustices and speak the truth in the face of harsh realities.

Mike Bayard, S.J., is director of Campus Ministry. Alumni and the greater community are invited to attend the Celebration of Hope Mass remembering the martyrs Nov. 16 at 12:05 p.m. at the Chapel of St. Ignatius.




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