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Director of campus ministry speaks on authenticity

| Friday, January 26, 2018

Fr. Pete McCormick, director of campus ministry, challenged Notre Dame students to share their vulnerabilities with each other and ground themselves in God‘s love in a talk titled “Can Christianity be Cool?” hosted by Campus Ministry on Thursday night.

The talk was the first in a monthly speaker series, “Taste of Faith,” which aims to promote the discussion of Christianity in a casual environment.

Rosie LoVoi | The Observer
Fr. Pete McCormick delivers a talk Thursday night in the LaFortune Ballroom. The event was the first in a monthly speaker series, “Taste of Faith,” hosted by Campus Ministry.

The talk opened with a reading from the Gospel of Luke, the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. After the reading, McCormick asked the audience to consider the significance of Zacchaeus’ interactions with Jesus.

“What does it mean to be seen [by Jesus] in the way Zacchaeus was seen?” he asked.

Unlike the honest and personable manner in which Jesus treated Zacchaeus, Notre Dame students struggle to be authentic with one another, McCormick said. In today’s culture, individuals have the tendency to “brand” themselves superficially according to how they wish to be seen by others, he added. McCormick said he attributes this inclination to a social pressure to perpetually maintain a facade of perfection. Taken to its extreme, he said, this can lead one to conform to their “brand” completely.

The danger in this, McCormick said, is that in doing so, individuals stray from whom God intends them to be.

McCormick elaborated by drawing upon his own life experiences. He said the greatest barrier which kept him from pursuing the priesthood was his fear of how the decision would be received by his friends and family.

“I let that fear paralyze me,” McCormick said.

In order to combat similar fears, individuals ought to strive to be open about their vulnerabilities instead of keeping them unvoiced, McCormick said.

“In order for us to truly encounter a sense of authenticity, we need to be aware of those aspects of our lives [and] to share them with the people who are closest with us,” he said.

He said he believes sharing insecurities with others is one of the elements of human relationships to be treasured most. A reluctance to share these elements with others, he said, results in not only compromised friendships, but also puts individuals out of touch with themselves and prevents them from achieving their higher purposes in life.

McCormick said this also affects academic life at Notre Dame.

“How can we learn truly and genuinely on campus if the focus is on being something that [we’re] not?” he asked.

A life centered in the Christian faith is the key to overcoming this behavior, McCormick said.

“The reminder of God’s great love for us is what we truly need,” he said.

Anchoring one’s self-image in this idea, he said, prevents it from being swayed by day-to-day highs and lows, thereby promoting a healthy sense of self. If individuals make an effort to internalize this sense of self-worth, he said, they will find themselves more able to open up to others because they will no longer fear how they are perceived by them.

McCormick ended the talk by leaving the audience with another question to contemplate.

“Are we willing to be authentic with ourselves?” he asked. “If so, I believe Christianity can be very cool.”

Subsequent “Taste of Faith” lectures will be hosted monthly until April. More information can be found on the Campus Ministry website.

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About Mary Steurer

Mary is a senior sociology major and journalism minor from St. Louis. An aspiring religion reporter, Mary has spent the last year covering conversations about the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis at Notre Dame.

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