“God, Country, Notre Dame”
Tobias Hoonhout | Thursday, November 3, 2016
No matter how tough the week is, how difficult midterms went, how good or bad things are going at home, I’ve always found a sense of peace from one of the highlights of the week: dorm Mass on Sunday night. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton chapel in Knott Hall is no majestic wonder of church architecture, but there is a sense of homeliness and closeness that I have yet to experience in another church setting. And on Sunday nights, the small room fills with people who come from all different backgrounds and walks of life, but are all there for the same reason: to grow closer to God.
Coming to a school like Notre Dame from going to Catholic school my whole life, I think in many ways I took for granted the fact that I would be surrounded by a Catholic environment. However, after over a year, I am extremely grateful that Notre Dame is a place with dozens of chapels, masses every day and a grotto which, in many ways, is the heart and soul of campus. While not everyone is Catholic, nor is every Catholic practicing, I have realized that having that overwhelming presence is such a great opportunity to explore and deepen my faith. Meeting people who share the same goals is not to be taken for granted.
For while Notre Dame is a place of faith, it also is one of community, and Sunday night Mass blends them both into an incredible atmosphere. In Knott, thanks to a number of very talented individuals, the music is amazing, and the a powerful aspect of the experience comes alive when everyone joins hands for the sign of peace and the whole room swells with the singing of the Our Father. For not only am I there with Christ, I’m there with my brother and sisters, in a community in which people truly care for one another. Seeing so many of my friends and dormmates all together in one place to celebrate as a family is a testimony to the bonds that Notre Dame creates, with faith at its center.
While there are many things that separate Notre Dame from the other elite institutions of higher education, this is the biggest. Notre Dame isn’t solely about getting an education: it’s about growing as a person, and faith is an area where one can always grow. Whether it’s in Knott, Dillon or any other dorm on campus, Mass in a community where everyone comes together as big family creates the environment to truly grow. Those times are amongst the ones I value most, and it’s a privilege to call myself part of a university that makes it possible.
I remember seeing an admissions video before I came to Notre Dame, titled “Any Given Day,” and among the number of different facets of Irish life that they highlighted, one was a dorm Mass. There was a quote that said, “That’s a moment where you know on a Sunday, you know you may have had a bad week … but that’s a moment when you’re able to stop and say, ‘You know, I’m going to be okay.’”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.