PHOTOS: Empty churches, full hearts

Denver Catholic Staff

Holy Week in the Archdiocese of Denver looked a lot different this year than it has in a long time – perhaps ever. While Colorado was under a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, parishes around the archdiocese broadcasted their Good Friday and Easter Sunday liturgies over the internet for the faithful to participate in from home. It was unusual to see priests celebrate the most joyous Mass of the year in churches that would otherwise be filled, but as St. John Paul II said: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song!” Regardless if we’re singing it in an empty church or within our own living room, it remains our song, because we are still an Easter people. Alleluia!

Bishop Jorge H. Rodriguez celebrated Good Friday Mass in Spanish at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Denver.

Bishop Rodriguez’s Mass was also livestreamed for the Hispanic community.

Father Chris Saliga, O.P., delivers a reading during an internet broadcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

Father Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P., completes a reading during an internet broadcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

A video monitor displays what a camera is viewing as Deacon Antonio Guerrero, back left, and Father Jim Spahn, O.P., deliver by internet broadcast the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

Father Jim Spahn, O.P., delivers Holy Communion during the an internet boradcast of the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

A large bottle of hand sanitizer stands on a table during the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

In response to the new coronavirus, Father Jim Spahn, O.P., back left at altar, joins Deacon Antonio Guerrero in saying the Good Friday Mass at St. Dominic Catholic Church for an internet broadcast for parishoners Friday, April 10, 2020, in Denver.

From left, Deacon Efra Pruneda, Father Jesus Murillo and Father Felix Medina deliver Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Father Felix Medina, front, leads Deacon Efra Pruneda, back left, and Father Jesus Murillo out of the church after they delivered Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

To rows of empty pews, Father Jesus Murillo delivers Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Father Jesus Murillo delivers Easter Mass in Spanish during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Aurora, Colo.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila leaves the altar after delivering Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

The organist plays to an empty Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Concetion as Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila enters the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to deliver Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of the service because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila delivers Easter Mass during a broadcast of services because of the new coronavirus Sunday, April 12, 2020, in Denver.

 

COMING UP: AM[D]G           

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Last November 11, on the centenary of its relocation to a 93-acre campus in suburban Washington, D.C., Georgetown Preparatory School announced a $60 million capital campaign. In his message for the opening of the campaign, Georgetown Prep’s president, Father James Van Dyke, SJ, said that, in addition to improving the school’s residential facilities, the campaign intended to boost Prep’s endowment to meet increasing demands for financial aid. Like other high-end Catholic secondary schools, Georgetown Prep is rightly concerned about pricing itself out of reach of most families. So Prep’s determination to make itself more affordable through an enhanced endowment capable of funding scholarships and other forms of financial aid for less-than-wealthy students is all to the good.

What I find disturbing about the campaign is its “branding” slogan. I first became aware of it when, driving past the campus a few months ago, I noticed a billboard at the corner of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane. In large, bold letters, it proclaimed, “FOR THE GREATER GLORY.” And I wondered, “…of what?” Then one day, when traffic allowed, I slowed down and espied the much smaller inscription in the bottom right corner: “Georgetown Prep’s Legacy Campaign.”

Ad maiorem Dei gloriam [For the greater glory of God], often reduced to the abbreviation, AMDG, was the Latin motto of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Georgetown Prep is a Jesuit school. So what happened to the D-word? What happened to God? Why did AMDG become AM[D]G while being translated into fundraising English?

I made inquiries of Jesuit friends and learned that amputating the “D” in AMDG is not unique to Georgetown Prep; it’s a tactic used by other Jesuit institutions engaged in the heavy-lift fundraising of capital campaigns. That was not good news. Nor was I reassured by pondering Father Van Dyke’s campaign-opening message, in which the words “Jesus Christ” did not appear. Neither did Pope Francis’s call for the Church’s institutions to prepare missionary disciples as part of what the Pope has called a “Church permanently in mission.” And neither did the word “God,” save for a closing “Thanks, and God bless.”

Father Van Dyke did mention that “Ignatian values” were one of the “pillars” of Georgetown prep’s “reputation for excellence.” And he did conclude his message with a call for “men who will make a difference in a world that badly needs people who care, people who, in the words Ignatius wrote his best friend Francis Xavier as he sent him on the Society of Jesus’s first mission, will ‘set the world on fire’.” Fine. But ignition to what end?

Ignatius sent Francis Xavier to the Indies and on to East Asia to set the world on fire with love of the Lord Jesus Christ, by evangelizing those then known as “heathens” with the warmth of the Gospel and the enlivening flame of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith. St. Ignatius was a New Evangelization man half a millennium before Pope St. John Paul II used the term. St. Ignatius’s chief “Ignatian value” was gloria Dei, the glory of God.

Forming young men into spiritually incandescent, intellectually formidable and courageous Christian disciples, radically conformed to Jesus Christ and just as deeply committed to converting the world, was the originating purpose of Jesuit schools in post-Reformation Europe. Those schools were not content to prepare generic “men for others;” they were passionately devoted to forming Catholic men for converting others, the “others” being those who had abandoned Catholicism for Protestantism or secular rationalism. That was why the Jesuits were hated and feared by powerful leaders with other agendas, be they Protestant monarchs like Elizabeth I of England or rationalist politicians like Portugal’s 18th-century prime minister, the Marquis of Pombal.

Religious education in U.S. Catholic elementary schools has been improved in recent decades. And we live in something of a golden age of Catholic campus ministry at American colleges and universities. It’s Catholic secondary education in the U.S. that remains to be thoroughly reformed so that Catholic high schools prepare future leaders of the New Evangelization: leaders who will bring others to Christ, heal a deeply wounded culture, and become agents of a sane politics. Jesuit secondary education, beginning with prominent and academically excellent schools like Georgetown Prep, could and should be at the forefront of that reform.

Jesuit secondary education is unlikely to provide that leadership, however, if its self-presentation brackets God and announces itself as committed to “the greater glory” of…whatever.