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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer


Everyone is welcome at Dillon's Milkshake Mass

Is the Church a big tent or a small tent?

Milkshake Mass has been celebrated every Thursday night during the academic year at 10:00 p.m. in Dillon Hall for 26 years. It has come to be the most well attended weekday Mass in any residence hall drawing between 150 and 200 students every Thursday night. It might even be the most well attended weekday Mass on campus.

Students come from almost every dorm on campus, from Saint Mary’s and from Holy Cross. There is a very real Milkshake Mass community.  There is a lot of talking and shaking hands and hugging and visiting before Mass begins. It seems to me that this is how things should be when a community comes together. If a family gathers in someone’s home, they don’t come in, find a seat, kneel down and never acknowledge anyone around them. They shake hands. They hug. They kiss. They ask “How have you been?”


I always begin Mass the same way.

“Welcome to Dillon’s Milkshake Mass. Let’s take a moment to take a deep breath, to relax, to let the cares of the day go by and to remember that we are always in the presence of our God who loves us more than we can imagine.”

After a minute or so of silence, the director of the Milkshake Mass choir announces the opening hymn. When I look around, everyone is singing.     

The Milkshake Mass tends to draw students with many different expressions of faith. This is clearly seen in how students receive Holy Communion. The vast majority of the students receive communion in the hand standing up. Some receive on the tongue standing up, while others receive on the tongue kneeling down. There are some students who wear mantillas. I like the variety of expressions. They are important for the Church and the are reflective of the Big Tent.   

The Kiss of Peace is out of control. But who cares? The Kiss of Peace is one part of the Mass that the people have made their own and, though I have been encouraged to ask students to tone it down, I’m not taking it from them. People hug and kiss and go here and there to find someone and to greet them. It’s a lot better than many daily Masses I have been to where people turn around and give the Queen of England wave to everyone in the Church. Ugh.  

After the closing hymn, the choir breaks out into “This Little Light of Mine” and everyone sings as they go forth from the chapel to the 24-hour space in Dillon for a milkshake. As they leave, it’s very noisy and loud.

Some weeks, students will approach me after Mass and ask, “Is it always this loud at Milkshake Mass?” 

“No, not always,” I say. “Sometimes, it’s louder.”   


The two students told me that this was their first Milkshake Mass and that they were shocked at how loud the congregation was before and after the Mass. They clearly did not like that, and insinuated that I (or someone) should do something about this noise and level of conversation before and after Mass. They went on to tell me that they heard one student cussing during Mass and two students were looking at their phones. Okay, that’s not good. But they were at Mass. They were at Mass! And one thing that we know for sure is that the grace of God is efficacious even when we are unaware that it is at work — which is always!

While I am not in favor of students cussing during Mass or looking at their phones, they were there. They were at Mass. And I will always try to make everyone feel welcome at Mass. When I am not presiding, I look at my phone. I’m actually following the readings since I learn more by sight than by listening. Maybe those students were following the readings. You never know!

We (myself included) all have to be careful about jumping to conclusions too quickly. We have a tendency to think that our way is the only way, and we don’t stop and think about what is “right and just” about something that might challenge our way of doing things.

This asks the question: Do we want Masses with lots of different types of students, with students who practice their faith in many different ways? Or do we want Masses with fewer numbers of students who all practice their faith in the one way that they think is the correct or the only way?  

Another way of asking this question is this: Is the Church a big tent in which everyone can fit and gather and be included? Or is the Church a small tent for the select few who worship in certain ways and are more exclusive?

In addition to the Holy Father’s “Tutti, Tutti, Tutti” (Everyone. Everyone. Everyone), I also love James Joyce’s definition of the Catholic Church. “Here comes everyone.”

Years ago, there was a funny line about Notre Dame, known in many ways for its sports: “Liturgy is an indoor sport played at Notre Dame.” Let our worship spaces all over campus be places where we welcome everyone as enthusiastically as we welcome fans in our athletic venues.     

Everyone is welcome to Mass. Tutti, Tutti, Tutti.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

associate director of the Transformational Leaders Program

priest-in-residence of Dillon Hall

Feb. 18

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.