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Magic at the sound of her name

| Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I started full-time work at Notre Dame at the beginning of August. And I have to admit, those first weeks were a bit odd, especially in comparison to the times I spent as a student.

My time spent as an undergrad and as a graduate student was always filled with visible activity and energy. Now, I found the paths (and campus itself) quieter, save for the cacophonous cadence of hammers and drills, a tantalizing foretaste of the expanding campus, what will soon serve as Notre Dame’s physical foundation for “making God known, loved and served” in the world.

Now, the echoes of construction no longer ring through deserted halls, echoes since muted by the joyful reunion of old friends and the meeting of new ones. Sounds of laughter and energy have permeated all ends of campus. And they have — I’m willing to bet —caught the attention of some of our smallest friends. Surely no one is filled with as much joy and energy during this time as the campus squirrels. I’m sure even the first sounds of student life were enough to trigger their glee as they anticipated the months of fabulous feasting that lie ahead of them.

While I may not be able to match the energy level of the squirrels, returning to work here has filled me with joy and energy, too. I am excited I will have the opportunity to continue to share the fruits of my education. This is made even sweeter because I am back in the place where it all began. I do not exaggerate. Here at Notre Dame, I really think I learned how to live.

In the months that followed my admission as an undergraduate student in the fall of 2007, I remember listening to the song “Here Come the Irish” over and over again.

There’s just something about that song that always got to me. It’s not just that I found the song catchy. It’s that the music evoked something in me, specifically the lines, “There’s a magic in the sound of her name.” That song, like so many things associated with Notre Dame, had an ethos, an ability to pull me out of myself. Somehow, when I was listening, I got the sense that I was being invited into a greater story. It was never completely rational; it moved me in a way I couldn’t explain.

You see, that song is one of the reasons why I am here at Notre Dame. Back when I was making my college decision, I wanted to think Notre Dame wasn’t for me. I was a hard-nosed kid; I doubted God. I figured I had a pretty good direction for my life and it didn’t involve living in South Bend, Indiana. In my head, it made too much sense not to come here.

But I’d listen to that song, and for about five minutes at a time, I’d let the music into my heart. I’d think about this place and all the people who had been formed here.

Most of all, I’d think about my dad, a 1976 graduate. In the way that Hesburgh stood for Notre Dame to some people, my dad was Notre Dame to me. Whenever I heard “Here Come the Irish,” I couldn’t help but think of my dad.

He’s never known “success,” if we judge success by fancy cars, lots of money or a high-ranking job. But his joy (like my mom’s) has always come through his children. I realized that what made him truly joyful was building and caring for his family. Despite his own ups and downs, it was never too much for him to say “yes” to us, to sacrifice in some way, if it meant our betterment or growth.

Beneath all my stubbornness, I guess I realized that I really wanted all that, too. If Notre Dame had helped make him the man and the father I saw, it just might be able to do something for me too.

And now, after close to eight years here, I have to say that my hunch was right. There was (and still is) “magic at the sound of her name.” My dad showed me that to ponder Notre Dame is to ponder the decision to stand up and place our will at the service of another’s good.

Here at Notre Dame, we live and work under a tangible reminder of that good — the open hands of Mary on top of the Golden Dome. She is the one who placed not just her hands, but her mind and heart in total surrender to God’s designs for her good. And her openness, allowed Christ — love itself — to become incarnate in the world. This year, wherever we are, may our hands be always open to receive God’s great designs of good for us.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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