By Sam Aitchison
The Church is Alive!
Each Sunday at 8 p.m., about 450 college students walk into an old, big building with stained glass windows and wooden pews in the heart of St. Louis. An hour later, those same students head back to their dorms and apartments transformed, renewed and inspired by Christ.
I am blessed to attend Saint Louis University (SLU) in St. Louis. Our parish, St. Francis Xavier College Church, has a weekly Sunday evening student-led Mass at 8 p.m. These Masses are vibrant, invigorating and spiritually enriching. You can’t attend these liturgies and not be enraptured and inspired by Christ. We hear God’s word, receive wisdom and guidance from our fantastic Jesuit priests, become transformed by Christ in the Eucharist and praise God through uplifting and contemporary song.
For me, Mass has been extremely formative in my time as a college student. I am blessed to be a part of a beautiful liturgy that helps me to spend time in prayer, learn about Christ and contemplate how I can live that out in the coming week.
These Masses point us toward something bigger. A church is more than a building, it is the community and people that make a church so special. Coming together to worship the Lord with such a large community of 18- to 22-year-olds is beautiful. It is easy to fall into a despairing state about our Catholic faith, as it often seems like the Church is dying. In my corner of the world, the Church is alive and vibrant — young people are being formed by Christ’s grace.
This is both an exciting and challenging time in the Church! It is exciting because it is time to rethink, reimagine and rediscover who we are and what we are about in order to build the kingdom in 2023. It is also a challenging time because we need to walk away from some of the structures and strategies that have been in place in order to build more relevant ones to continue fulfilling Christ’s mission to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We don’t need to change the faith — but we can enhance the ways we evangelize and present the faith to the world. Staying consistent to the truth that Jesus instituted, we each have a calling to cultivate Christ’s love in all that we say and do.
To those of you who are older: thank you for teaching, inspiring and conveying to us younger folk what the Church is about and why embodying Christ is so important. Please know that amid negative trending news and numbers, we will keep the flame of our faith burning brightly. For over 2,000 years, the faith has been entrusted and passed down from generation to generation, and we will keep that going!
Many are coining the phrase that we live in an “apostolic age” in 2023. An apostolic age is what the early Church founders and apostles found themselves in — societies where religion was not at the forefront. We live in an apostolic age today because we, just like the apostles, live in a society where Christianity is often deemed unimportant and irrelevant. We have the opportunity to bring this faith out of the church pews and to every corner of the world. We have a choice to be creative in building Christ’s kingdom in 2023. We have the possibility to permeate the secular with the sacred and live our witness of faith through Christ’s love in our families, communities and the world. Let’s do this!
(Sam Aitchison is a sophomore at St. Louis University. Feel free to reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To view a YouTube livestream and recordings of SLU’s Masses go to: https://www.youtube.com/ @slucampusministry8381/ streams.)