Homily by the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., for the dedication of the St. Louise de Marillac Chapel
September 4, 2007
This is my paten and chalice. To me, they’re twice blessed. Certainly, they were blessed in the usual way many years ago. But in my home parish of St. Hugo of the Hills, in a northern suburb of Detroit, it is the tradition of the parish to give a paten and chalice to those who are ordained to the priesthood.
And rather than give a new chalice, the parish chooses a used one from the cupboard. The reason is simple. The parish wants to hand over a cup and plate that have been used by everyone. The entire parish has taken communion from these vessels. They’re reminding me every time I take from this cup that I come from that community and will always be a member of that community. And so, to me, these will always feel twice blessed.
We’re about to bless this chapel. We’ll use an ancient rite to do that, parts of which go back centuries. We’ll cleanse and purify the space with holy water, fill the air with precious incense, lather the altar in perfumed oil, light candles to acknowledge the sacred presence, and we’ll pray at great length. But most importantly, we will share communion in this room. And that common act, more than any of the events before it, will bless this room.
In time, there will have been many Eucharists in this room. Many readings of the sacred texts. Many reflections and homilies. Uncountable prayers for those in need. Prayers for good grades, I’m sure. But also desperate prayers in frantic hours. Quiet moments in which students can sit and think. Music sung and made. Signs of peace exchanged. Friendships strengthened or made. We gather to bless this room, but in truth, it will continue to be blessed every time people gather within its walls.
This now becomes sacred space, but not in the sense that God can be held within these walls. Our classrooms are also sacred space at DePaul. Our faculty offices in which students turn for advice and counsel are sacred space. Our libraries and laboratories, in which students and faculty seek for new knowledge, are sacred space. Our sidewalks too are sacred, as we meet one another and form the community we name DePaul.
But this space particularly-with the beautiful art, glasswork, furnishings, textiles, the play of light within it-captures something holy. It becomes a space in which we can most immediately acknowledge the presence of the divine throughout our days and lives. But more than any of the lovely things within it, it will be the daily gathering of the community to listen to God word and place our lives in God’s hands and at the service of one another that will hold the sacredness of this space. It becomes a place where we acknowledge that all the world’s knowledge and search for knowledge are caught up in the divine.
May this little chapel, named for a faith-filled woman who brought other women together in powerful ways to serve the poor, be a place where people search for what’s most true. May this be a place of finding purpose and meaning. May it be a place of probing the inner yearning that stretches toward something larger than ourselves. May it be a place of hearing Jesus’ words to us afresh. May it be a place of naming our emptiness when life is lived apart from that God, and entering the holy search for relationship with God. May it be a place of acceptance and invitation, where all are welcome and loved.
So easily seen from the outside by all who pass by, may this space be a blessing for the entire campus community. May it be a quiet, gentle reminder of the God who quietly waits for us.
And having spent time within its walls, may people leave ready to serve God’s people outside its walls. For only in this way could a chapel fully honor the name of Louise de Marillac.
Let us then bless this space.