November 29, 2019

National Catholic Youth Conference 2019

Saint Meinrad’s youth liturgy program shares ancient traditions at NCYC

Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, leads youths in chanting the “Salve Regina” (“Hail Holy Queen”) on Nov. 22 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, leads youths in chanting the “Salve Regina” (“Hail Holy Queen”) on Nov. 22 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis during the National Catholic Youth Conference. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

Two years ago at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), monks of Saint Meinrad Archabbey helped lead the youths that filled Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in praying Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours in the ancient practice of Gregorian chant.

This year, youths themselves chanted at various points in the conference’s general sessions in a small schola led by Benedictine Brother John Mark Falkenhain of Saint Meinrad.

Many were former participants of One Bread One Cup, Saint Meinrad’s summer youth liturgical leadership program.

Chant was used at different times during the conference to help its participants enter into an ancient form of prayer called lectio divina (“holy reading”) that involves slowly reading a scriptural text and approaching it in prayer from different perspectives.

Tammy Becht, director of youth and young adult formation at Saint Meinrad, was excited that the gifts of One Bread One Cup, which involves about 350-400 youths per year, was shared with 20,000 youths at NCYC.

In an interview with The Criterion before the conference, she expressed her hope that NCYC participants would be as open to the Church’s ancient liturgical and spiritual traditions as those who come to Saint Meinrad for One Bread One Cup.

“We’ve found that young people are just completely enamored with them and respond really well to the monastic community,” she said.

Lilly Secrest is a two-time One Bread One Cup participant. She is a member of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood and a senior at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis.

At NCYC’s opening session, Lilly, two other youths and a deacon chanted the story from the Gospel of St. Luke of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). The youths that filled Lucas Oil Stadium in that and subsequent sessions were led to meditate on the passage through lectio divina.

In the days leading up to the conference, Lilly spoke about how chant and liturgy have become important for her through One Bread One Cup.

“When I first heard about chant, I thought it was going to be so boring,” she said. “And that wasn’t the case at all. I can’t wait to show so many people that this is cool and can help you in your prayer life.

“After One Bread One Cup when I’m at Mass, I am so mesmerized and pay so much attention to what is going on because I see the beauty of the sacrament that’s happening. I didn’t recognize and appreciate it before.”

Becht said that Lilly is not alone. Many One Bread One Cup participants have been drawn closer to the Church simply through its worship.

“The liturgy is right there under our noses,” she said. “That’s the vehicle we should use and concentrate on to bring young people back to Christ and to keep them in the Church. We have everything we need. We just have to do it well.”

Brother John Mark was impressed by how well the youths in the schola picked up on the chant for the conference. They came together from across the country at Saint Meinrad for a practice in the summer and earlier this fall. Even though they had only sung together twice, they sang the chant well at the conference.

“They’re trying to show the kids that this is part of our tradition and belongs in all our worship,” Brother John Mark said. “It’s alive.”

Josh Russell, a 16-year-old member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in New Albany and a junior at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, was a member of the schola.

Chanting in front of 20,000 Catholic youths from across the country was impressive for the former One Bread One Cup participant.

“It was fantastic,” Josh said after a general session on Nov. 22. “I’ve never gotten that kind of opportunity before. It really opened my eyes to how big the Church really is. It’s really worth it to stay in the Church and to work to keep these people close to the Church.”

For him, chant doesn’t seem like an old form of music but instead shows “how long-running the sacraments have been and how well Christ has lived through the Church. I think it’s evidence enough that Christ has been in the Church because things like chant can survive for so many years.” †

 

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