Tuesday, October 05, 2021

A Sorority Girl Tells Me About Ritual

Not long ago I was talking to an acquaintance of mine, a young woman who is a college junior. I saw her in town and we were standing by her car catching up. She came from a respectable Methodist family, but of very secular attitude. She told me a little bit about how college was going, and from what she said I gathered that she had regrettably fallen into the lifestyle that is so common in many American colleges: frequent partying, drinking, promiscuousness. She mentioned a boyfriend she was "staying with", and also told me she was struggling in some of her classes because she was always staying out too late with friends drinking and having a hard time getting motivated in the mornings. Typical college girl stuff.

But that's not what this story is about. This story is about something else she told me. She mentioned she was heavily involved with one of the college sororities. She was one of the committee officers. I asked her what her role was and she said Master of Ceremonies. This piqued my interest. "Ah, you're a ritualist?" I asked. She said yes; her job was to coordinate the ceremonies of the sorority for all its various occasions, like the initiation of new members, promotion of members, commemorative events, etc. I asked if she liked it and she said very much so. In fact, she told me she was just then at the store picking up some ritual items. She showed me the back of her car and it was full of candles, satins, what looked to be robes or gowns, and various other ritual objects one could imagine a sorority making use of. I wanted to ask if she had giant paddles but I thought that would be cliché.

Anyhow, I was curious about their ceremonial. Obviously, being a sorority, this was "secret" and she couldn't tell an uninitiated outsider the details. But she told me the rituals went back to the founding of the sorority, which was in 1896. So, by American standards, the organization was quite old. I asked, "How closely do your rituals today reflect the rites as created by the founders of the sorority?" 

"Oh they're exactly the same," she answered. I was very surprised. I said, "They never thought to change or amend them? They never felt they needed to update them for modernity?" She made a disgusted face, as if the very suggestion that the rituals be changed was offensive. "Oh heck no," she said. "It's very serious for us to carry on the rituals as the founders intended." Then she explained that performing the rites as handed down from the past provided a vital link with the history of the sorority, its previous members, and kept it grounded in its mission. It created historical continuity. She was very zealous explaining this to me; whatever else was going on in her life, I could tell that she attached great importance to her office as Master of Ceremonies.

Then she told me that the sorority's by-laws actually punished members who were found to be guilty of deviating from the received rituals of the organization, including expulsion from the sorority for repeated infractions. "So, yeah, we take it pretty seriously!" she said. 

I thanked her for her time, wished her well, and was on my way. But as I left the encounter, I had a startling thought: This young woman—a junior in college living a secular lifestyle shacking up with her boyfriend and getting plastered every night—understands and values liturgy more than the current Successor of St. Peter.

"Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Matt. 11:25)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

This young woman—a junior in college living a secular lifestyle shacking up with her boyfriend and getting plastered every night—understands liturgy better that the current Successor of St. Peter.

I disagree. The current Successor to Peter understands liturgy very well. He simply does not value it highly.

Vetusta ecclesia said...


She also instinctively understands tradition as “ traditio” , handing on intact that which has been received, a concept fundamental to the Church but which some find hard to grasp.

Ad Jesum per Mariam said...

Ave Maria!

May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you. Please edit out the uncharitable and scandalous description of the young lady given in the last paragraph. It would suffice to say that this young lady lives a secular lifestyle, but the second and third descriptions are beyond uncharitable and do more to scandalize readers against tradition than call them to a deeper love of God and His Church. As Catholics we must never employ such vulgar language as this when describing children of God. May the Holy Ghost Who enlightens every heart guide you in the way of authentic charity, that is the glory of God and becoming speech for all of His little ones lost in this world.

In corde matris Mariae