Mighty, Awesome, Wonderful: Chaminade Celebrates Mass in Honor of the Exaltation of the Cross

BBy Andrew Donnelly ’20

The students and faculty of Chaminade High School gathered in the Activity-Athletic Center on Thursday to celebrate Mass in observance of the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  Recently ordained Fr. Michael Plona from the Kellenberg Class of 2007 was the celebrant at this first Mass of the school year.

The Triumph of the Cross recognizes the sacrifices that Jesus made for humanity when He died on the Cross.  The feast day was first recognized by the Vatican in the seventh century and commemorates the recovery of the True Cross of Jesus by St. Helena in the fourth century.  Also known as the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, this celebration reminds us not to regard the Cross as a painful instrument of torture, but rather, to glorify it as a means to triumphant victory and salvation.

“The Triumph of the Cross is a feast of the Church that pays special attention to Christ’s sacrifice,” stressed the Director of Campus Ministry Mr. Michael Foley ’99.

Guest celebrant Rev. Michael Plona (KMHS ‘07) consecrates the Eucharist with his concelebrant Fr. Garrett Long, S.M. ‘62.

The first service Chaminade offered in recognition of this day was a school-wide prayer service five years ago.  This service occurred on Ott Field and was followed by refreshments for the students.  This occurred annually for three years until 2016, when Chaminade combined the feast with a Mass.  This year marked just the second Mass in observance of the feast day.

Fr. Michael, his concelebrants, Fr. Garrett Long, S.M. ’62 and Fr. Paul Landolfi, S.M., and the rest of the procession walked to the altar to the harmonious sound of the Glee Club singing the entrance song, “Lift High the Cross.” The first reading was from the Book of Numbers and discussed Moses’ raising the Bronze Serpent so that all who looked upon it and believed would be healed, bringing triumph and salvation to the Israelites.  There exists a striking parallel between this story and that of Jesus’ being raised on the Cross, as our believing in Him brings us salvation and triumph.

Chris Capodanno ‘18 lifts high the cross as he processes down the center aisle towards the altar.

Fr. Michael’s homily had an eternally important and resounding message. When reflecting upon the Cross and its symbolism throughout Christianity, he said, “We should think of the Cross as a war memorial,” citing the fact that although sad, what Jesus did was essential to our salvation. We should therefore venerate and glorify the Cross rather than think of it as a symbol of cruelty.

He talked to the young men about his journey as a young priest and mentioned a visit he took to Louisiana shortly after being ordained. He recalled an experience he had with a woman there who had lived a tough life. The advice that she gave him regarding his recent ordination was the same advice that he gave to the students: “It is not about the gifts you receive, it is about the gift you become.”

To end his powerful homily, the Kellenberg graduate went on to say, “Our mission as Christians is to become a gift. God bless you.”

Students gather for a yearly tradition of light refreshments on Ott Field after Mass.

After the Mass concluded, the student body walked over to Ott Field and enjoyed refreshments (everyone’s favorite: Ssips and Grandma’s Cookies) before they completed the rest of their school day.

The Triumph of the Cross is a feast that holds special significance in our lives as missionaries of Christ. The Mass commemorating Christ’s ultimate sacrifice was a meaningful way to kick off a new school year by reminding students and teachers alike to conduct themselves with faith and courage.