Weekly Worship in Cannon Memorial Chapel

May 22, 2023

Enter the Chapel on a Tuesday evening at 8 p.m., and you will hear quiet, contemplative piano music that beckons you to the choir loft where students are gathered.  As you listen to the prelude music, Kairos community members check in on one another about how the week is going.  A student serving on the Kairos Leadership Team (KLT) welcomes all to the service, inviting congregants to pass the peace.  Kairos student musicians quiet the chatter of the congregation and invoke God’s presence by beginning to play and sing a contemporary Christian song.  Students read a passage from the Christian tradition and a scripture text, and one of the chaplains shares a reflection on the weekly theme and question.  After a brief period of silence, the quiet piano music resumes, and congregants come forward to light candles for the silent prayers that they are holding. When the music concludes, a student KLT member voices the prayers of the people.  Following a hymn and benediction, students scatter from the Chapel as they return to their studies and activities.

Kairos is a Greek word meaning “the opportune or proper time for action” or simply, “sacred time.”  “Kairos” is distinct from “chronos,” which is chronological or sequential time.  Amidst busy schedules filled with class, study, and work, students spend a lot of time oriented to chronos, and finding time to stop and reflect is difficult. Ask the students who attend Kairos, and they will tell that you the candle lighting is their favorite part of the service because they can be still for a few moments. Kairos invites them to pause for thirty minutes, rest their souls, gather in community, examine their lives, reconnect with their faith, and offer prayers of gratitude and intercession. It is a reminder that every moment in life is an opportunity for transformation.

Enter the Chapel on Sunday evening at 5 p.m., and you will hear a quite different array of music.  The joyous sounds of the Catholic liturgy fill the Chapel as the student musicians play the organ and piano and sing the hymns of Mass. Priests from nearby St. Bridget Church preside at Mass, assisted by Deacon Tom Mullen, the university’s Catholic chaplain. Student lectors proclaim the daily readings, and the priest or Deacon Mullen offer the homily.

Ask the students who attend Mass, and they will tell you how critical it is to have Mass on campus, not just on holy days, but on every Sunday throughout the academic year.  For the 50 percent of Christian students who are Catholic, having a place to receive the Eucharist, go to Confession and to worship with fellow believers is essential.  The student-led music is excellent, and the presence of a Catholic Chaplain on campus and a priest of a local parish at Mass each Sunday provides continuity and sustains their faith while in college. 

Two very different services, but both with the same purpose:  To nurture and develop students’ faith during college. Whether it’s a quiet, reflective time to pause and pray or a vibrant expression of familiar liturgy, Kairos, and Mass complement one another and offer students opportune moments to connect with the living God.