On Wednesday, April 22, the Regis community convened virtually for an Easter Mass. Fr. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ, presided in the Regis chapel and was joined on the altar by Fr. Anthony D. Andreassi, CO, Fr. Arthur C. Bender, SJ '67, and Fr. AJ Rizzo, SJ.
Regis students and parents watched live via Zoom. Obi Nwako '20, Colman Tokar '20, and Dr. Allison Tyndall served as readers from their respective homes. It was the first time the Regis community celebrated Mass together since the school transitioned to remote instruction in March.
You can watch a recording of the Mass and read the full text of Fr. Lahart's homily below.
Fr. Lahart's HomilySome of you may know that I grew up in the north shore suburbs of Chicago, went to a Jesuit high school – Loyola Academy – and then went to a Jesuit college – Georgetown. A few times while in college some friends and I would go up from DC to New York to visit friends. Now this was the early 1980s, and New York scared me. I constantly was afraid that I would get mugged or pick-pocketed. Over the years after that, I visited New York occasionally, but never lived here until 2016 when I started at Regis.
After I arrived, I learned that New York was a safe place if you are smart about it, and I’ve always felt comfortable here. I would guess all of you would understand that.
And then the world changed about six weeks ago.
Today, New York is the most dangerous place in the world, and it’s not about muggers or murderers. It’s all about the coronavirus, of course. More people have died from it in New York State than any country in the world outside the US. Yes, in six weeks, the world has turned upside down. It used to be that the bad guys wore masks, now good people do, and bad people don’t. It used to be that you looked forward to a day you didn’t have to come into school, now you long for the day that you can. It used to be that your mother kicked you out of the house, and said, “Go outside and play.” And now, going outside is something to be particularly careful about.
And in an unusual twist, I’m almost relieved that my parents, who both died almost five years ago, almost relieved that they’re gone so that they don’t have to deal with this situation. My dad would have been 92 yesterday.
Yes, our world changed just a few weeks ago.
I know many of you have had to deal with Covid-19 in your own families – parents, grandparents, even some of you have been sick. You may have had relatives who have died, and we aren’t even able to be with them at the end, and we can’t give them a proper burial either. It is hard.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’ve found it to be tough. Quite frankly, I was finding it hard to pray about it, and just ten days ago on Easter, it just didn’t feel like “love conquered death” like we celebrate on Easter.
When I was finding it hard to pray, over a month ago I had started saying Mass here in this chapel every evening before dinner, and my spiritual director suggested that I just spend 15 minutes after Mass quietly sitting here. “Don’t even pray,” he said, “just sit.” I have been doing that, and as he knew would eventually happen, my time sitting turned into a conversation with the Lord, turned into prayer.
I have found prayer has made everything a little easier, and also much easier to notice the work of the Evil One, as Ignatius would call him. The Evil Spirit who leads us into doubt, confusion, despair, desolation. That’s where he succeeds, when he leads us away from truth, hope, joy.
At one point I was trying to pray over where there might be consolation in all of this. At first, I resisted the thought of that. But I started thinking about all the people here – faculty, administration, staff – who have worked so hard to make this remote instruction work. And I was consoled. And I thought of the generosity of our students responding to this challenge. And I was consoled. I thought about all those on the front lines, from Dr. Fauci to the local nurses, who put their lives at risk – literally – for the good of others. And I was consoled. I thought of all those friends of mine who have reached out to check on me and supported me. And I was consoled. I actually found many, many reasons for consolation.
I hope you will reflect on those reasons for consolation in your own life this past month. Who have helped you make it through these challenges? Additionally, you might then think of the times that you have been – or could have been – a reason for someone else’s consolation. An opportunity to be of service to others.
Today we gather to celebrate Easter together as a school community. We can’t come together in the great church of St. Ignatius on Park Avenue, but we can come together in this very real way, as people joined to a common mission. As students who are called to be Men for Others, and for all of us called to the same. Now is the time. Now we are called to be Men (or Women) for Others. We live in a dangerous time, and people we know are hurt by things beyond our control, but we have to believe in the Easter story, that after all the darkness and fear, love does in fact conquer death. This we must believe. The Holy Spirit will prevail over the Evil One.