10 p.m. Mass a tradition worth preserving

Traditions are important for the identity of every institution. Traditions give members of an institution a feeling of identity, an excuse to celebrate, a timeless tie to past events. Traditions bring people together and give those unions meaning.

The more frequent and ritualized the tradition, the more powerful it is. It is for this reason that Saint Louis University’s 10 p.m. Mass at St. Francis Xavier College Church is one of its most solid traditions.

Since Catholicism is a religion that gives equal weight to tradition and scripture, this Mass is a tradition based on tradition. It only makes sense that 10 p.m. Mass is a beloved student ritual.

It also makes sense that proposals to change 10 p.m. Mass to 9 p.m. triggered panicked responses in some students.

Lisa Reiter, assistant director of Campus Ministry, has facilitated the Mass for 11 years. Yet, she recently announced that a survey of 331 underclassmen showed that 87 percent would attend the Mass more than they do now, or just as much as they do now, if the time changed to 9 p.m.

SLU’s Student Government Association and marketing department are especially aware of how powerful traditions are in building community. It’s for this reason that they established the Billiken Tradition Task Force, meant to create traditions around which SLU students can rally; or the Cannonballers, a gathering of student leaders meant to identify SLU’s existing traditions and implement new ones.

Something rings false about traditions created by the administration for the purpose of uniting a community. Traditions are meant to arise over time after they prove to be meaningful to a group.

There’s something equally off-putting about changing a tradition for the sake of convenience. Though it’s unwise to follow every tradition simply because “that’s the way it’s always been done,” there’s little use in disturbing a ritual that works.

Institutions without established traditions tend to suffer from a lack of identity. Think of the efficiency-driven corporations described in the film “Office Space” or on the American and British versions of the television show “The Office.” Culture without tradition is culture without meaning.

Traditions exist for as long as institutional memory lives. Since universities experience extreme turnover-a quarter of the undergraduate population every year-institutional memory is unavoidably short.

Changing the hour of the student Mass is no big deal, but it would usher in an unsettling shift in undergraduate culture.
Let’s leave the Mass time as it is, if only for the sake of tradition.