Note: According to the Catholic Church’s General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, the anniversary of the dedication of a church is to be celebrated as a solemnity by the members of the community in which it exists. Thus this day — the fifth anniversary of the dedication Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel in 2009 — is a solemnity at Thomas Aquinas College. Head Chaplain Rev. Joseph Illo offered a special Mass at 11:30 a.m. this morning, complete with hymns sung from the choir loft. Dispensed from the obligations of Lenten abstinence, students have delighted in a Friday menu of bacon at breakfast, hamburgers for lunch, and a lasagna dinner. Thanks be to God for the gift of the Chapel!
Below is the full text of Fr. Illo’s homily from this morning’s Mass:
This House of God Is Our House, Too
By Rev. Joseph Illo
Homily, March 7, 2014
Dedication of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
On this day five years ago Cardinal Mahony, then Archbishop of Los Angeles, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, then an auxiliary bishop of San Diego, concelebrated the Dedication Mass for our College chapel. The next day, being a Sunday, Fr. John Berg, alumnus and superior general of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, offered Mass at 8 a.m. in the Extraordinary Form, with Bishop Cordileone assisting in choir. At 11a.m. that day, Bishop Cordileone offered a solemn sung Mass in the Ordinary Form with a memorable homily on the dual purposes of Thomas Aquinas College: that of Catholic spiritual formation and that of great books intellectual formation — a true liberal arts education in the fullness of the western tradition.
When Dr. Ronald McArthur and the other founders of our College envisioned a new Catholic liberal arts college 45 years ago, they kept ever in mind what the chapel of such a college might look like. Dr. Thomas Dillon joined the college shortly after its founding and became the president who would bring that vision into a steel and concrete reality — concrete faced with polished and precious marbles from around the world.
When Cardinal Mahony dedicated this chapel on March 7, 2009, he announced that henceforth this day would be kept as a Solemnity at the College. Hence, even though this is the first Friday of Lent, we sing the Gloria at Mass and are permitted — nay, encouraged — to “eat rich foods” (including meat) and “drink sweet drinks” (including wine, if you are of legal age, of course). Today is holy to our Lord. Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength, as the prophet Isaiah exhorts us in the first reading.
Last year I had dinner with Cardinal Mahony and some other priests. When I told him I was a chaplain at Thomas Aquinas College, he expressed his esteem for the College and described wistfully the day of the Chapel dedication. He described our chapel as a beautiful jewel and conveyed his delight in dedicating it.
Indeed our chapel is a jewel. But it is not just a museum piece to be admired — it also our home, the House of God and our house too. We are no longer strangers and sojourners, but members of God’s household, as St. Paul describes the Church in our second reading. Any time of the day and far into the night I come into this chapel to see at least a few, and sometimes dozens, of students sitting with Jesus. Some study in the loft, where the light is stronger, and hundreds attend Mass here every day.
This chapel is our home, because Jesus has made it His home. In today’s gospel, Zaccheus has scrambled up a sycamore to get a better look at Jesus passing by. The Lord stops and looks up quizzically, probably bemused, at the short man perched in a tree. “Zaccheus!” He calls up. “Come on down. I’m staying at your place tonight!” And the little man rejoiced. Certainly Dr. Dillon, God rest his soul, and the entire College rejoiced that day, five years ago, when Jesus first spent the night in this house. Ever after it will remain a place of prayer and consolation for all peoples.
Dear students and tutors and all who love Thomas Aquinas College: Make it your home too. Keep coming to this chapel often, when you are happy and when you are sad. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. Take the trouble to stop by between classes. Pray often with the angels and saints, with our Lady, with Jesus himself, in the house of His Father and ours, this chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Dedication of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel On March 7, 2009
“By discussing the great books you learn how to think for yourself and how to come to your own conclusions — how to discover the truth. And it’s tremendously satisfying.”
– Brian Murphy (’14)