As a Catholic coming to a Lutheran-affiliated school, I was a bit wary of how the separation between church and college would play out (As an fyi, the school is literally called Luther College, for anyone who was unsure where the school’s allegiances lie). I come from Wheaton, Illinois, which has its own Christian liberal arts college, Wheaton College, so I came prepared for an ultra-Christian atmosphere at the most extreme. I by no means intend to imply that an ultra-Christian atmosphere is bad—I personally love that Luther has Christian ties—I was just initially unsure what Luther would be like.
I am happy to inform readers that Luther College does an excellent job of balancing faith and education. While I normally just attend Catholic masses at St. Benedict’s in downtown Decorah with the Catholic Students Community or CSC (I will certainly be posting about St. Ben’s and the CSC sometime in the near future), I know that there are plenty of opportunities to exercise one’s faith on campus.
One such opportunity presented itself yesterday on Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. While St. Benedict’s had its own masses at 7:00am and 5:30pm, I couldn’t make either of those because of class and track practice conflicts. Lucky for me, Luther hosted an ecumenical mass (one representing a number of different Christian churches) on campus in the CFL at 7:00pm.
While I was a bit uncomfortable during some parts of the sermon (I get a bit confused at times because Catholics in response to “Peace be with you” answer “And with your spirit” while other Christians still say “And also with you”) it was overall a really cool experience. I was able to attend the sermon with some non-Catholic friends and it is really interesting to see how other Christian masses work. For example, I honestly had no idea that other Christians use real bread for the host, rather than the wafers we use! It was also awesome to have several different pastors be part of the mass. Father Phil, the pastor at St. Ben’s, was in attendance so it was a nice surprise that besides ashes I could also receive consecrated host.
Overall, the Ash Wednesday mass was very fulfilling for me. In a world that is so divided by religion and minute differences in belief, it was heartwarming to attend a mass where our biggest belief—that in God—brought so many people together as one.