Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fraction, Part I: 800 Candles

We all knew this time will come, though very little was ever said about it.

When you sing and laugh, walk a journey of years, watch each other grow up, pray for each others' family members, lead people in prayer even though you're new to it – when you do all these things, there is an unspeakable bond that transcends the normal bounds of "friendship."

On Thursday night of Senior Week at the University of Notre Dame, a Fraction Liturgy took place: something was broken into many pieces. It was not a vessel, at least not the kind made of clay or glass. What began to be broken apart was the community of the Folk Choir, as we begin this yearly, agonizing process of saying good-bye to those we have grown to love.

The awful and amazing thing: this breaking is precipitated by the mere turning of a calendar page.

Thursday night we celebrated a uniquely Notre Dame event: the Last Visit to the Grotto and Basilica of the Sacred Heart. More than 800 seniors packed themselves, like sardines, into the Basilica. There they shared Scripture, sang to one another, laughed (a lot) over the antics of the past four years, apologized to Fr. Jenkins and Fr. Doyle for making their lives a bit crazy. And when this was all over, they links hands and arms, this mass of talent and promise, this class of 2012, and they sang together, one last time, the "Notre Dame Lord's Prayer."

We, in the choir, watched all this take place from the loft. We, in the choir, held on, too. And at the end, when the last song to be sung was Newman's text, "Lead, Kindly Light," we approached each one of our Seniors in the choir, blessed them on their foreheads, and tearfully dispatched them from the loft.

The fraction has begun. These dozen singers, now beginning the breaking-apart from those of us left behind, left our presence as we sang over them. They will go on pilgrimage with us to Ireland and Scotland, but we know well that a breaking is transpiring before us.

But here is the difference from the "break-ups" of the world. This fraction does not lead to hearts that are broken. We are broken, rather, that others may be fed. What left that loft a couple of nights ago will travel out from our campus. And where that yeast lands, good things will come from it. Three of them are going to Wexford, to help build up the church. One of them will go on to organ study. Another into a Master's of Divinity degree. Others will go to the marketplace, where they, too, will bring their song among the merchants and captains of industry of this world. Two of them will stay behind and become interns in the Office of Campus Ministry.

No, this is not a fraction that renders our hearts broken. In that most profound of mysteries, this breaking apart leads to wholeness.

Eight hundred candles graced the Grotto that tranquil May night. Class rings were blessed. Charges were laid upon the graduates, charges to be good stewards of what they had been given.

And for us in the loft, who have sung the "Lamb of God" through the fraction rite at Mass every week, tearing apart took on yet other meanings, meanings that, in the gloom of evening, spoke of wholeness, of being fed, of stability and purpose.

Let the breaking begin.

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