No lights on the Dome
Andrew Lynch | Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Anyone who crossed God Quad after dark this weekend should have noticed an odd peculiarity: There were no lights on the golden dome. The Office of Sustainability announced that the lights on the golden dome and the Word of Life mural on the Library would be turned off over the weekend as a sign of support for International Earth Hour. As Executive Vice President John Affleck Graves explained, the university was supporting the initiative “by keeping the lights off on these symbols of our campus for a span of 60 hours instead of 60 minutes.” While I’m sure it was well intentioned, the decision to turn the lights off on the images of Our Lady and Christ was poor and disquieting.
The image of Our Lady on the dome of Main Building is not merely a symbol of the University of Notre Dame, but is a sacred image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The statue is a sign of Our Lady herself. Given that the nature of a sign is to point towards the thing signified, an image of Our Lady should be given honor and reverence — not for its own sake, but for the sake of Mary who is signified. Likewise, an insult to the sign is an insult to the thing it signifies. Turning the lights off the images of Our Lady and Christ disrespect Christ and Our Lady because we are not giving the signs that represent them due honor and reverence.
We would not turn the lights off Stonehenge because it is a symbol and memorial of the sacrifice made by great citizens of our nation. Further, we would not turn the lights off an American flag, given that the flag is a sign of the United States. Turning the lights off would disrespect our nation and the people who fought for it.
Dr. Graves’ statement and the University’s decision were poor but telling signs of the administration’s ambivalent attitude toward a true Catholic identity. We have put the lights out on enough of our Catholic tradition already. God forbid that we turn the lights out on Our Lady as well.