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Candlelight prayer service honoring MLK kicks off Walk the Walk Week

| Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Students and University leaders gathered late Sunday evening in the Rotunda of the Main Building to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with a candlelight prayer service.

The prayer service was the first event of Walk the Walk Week, a series of events celebrating the life and legacy of King and reflecting on inequality in America. This is the fifth consecutive year the University has held the service.

“We turn to God to guide and strengthen us as we seek to answer the Gospel call, and in doing so become a Notre Dame community that is evermore welcoming, just and inclusive,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said at the service. “As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding and goodwill that can transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love that will bring about miracles in the hearts of women and men.’”

Jenkins acknowledged this evening prayer was an important time for each individual to reflect on their own actions and shortcomings.

“Night prayer in the Christian tradition has always been a time to acknowledge before God what we have done and what we have failed to do,” he said.

After performances from the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, service attendees listened to a recording of King’s speech, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” Following the recording, a speaker read an excerpt from II Corinthians.

Eric Styles, rector for Carroll Hall, used King’s speech and the scripture reading to speak about Notre Dame’s obligation to improve the community.

“Saint Paul founded the community in Corinth that was just heard. We know that they experienced real setbacks,” Styles said. “… So perhaps Saint Paul’s experience with the Corinthians might help us to listen with greater clarity to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was surely for us, the great American apostle and the refounder of the American Dream. [His sermon] was about his opposition to the Vietnam War. He goes on to say, ‘I have not lost faith, I’m not in despair, because I know there is a moral order.’ In truth, we know that Dr. King struggled with despair and nihilism.”

In his speech, Styles also mentioned the unique culture of Notre Dame and its tendency to serve as sanctuary from the outside world.

“There is a spirituality of place here in Notre Dame, where the tranquility of the campus and the key of the spiritual life and academic life is preserved and kept familiar as a respite from the hectic, difficult and sometimes disparaging outside world,” he said. “In other words, a glorious Notre Dame bubble.”

Styles said the members of the Notre Dame community need to commit themselves to a mission of solidarity with those who are experiencing persecution or oppression.

“We thank Fr. Moreau, whose feast day is tomorrow — or even minutes away — for telling us to ‘Hail the cross, our only hope,’” Styles said. “ To live in solidarity with those who are on the margins is to pick up one’s cross and follow Him. To pick up one’s cross is to commit to the sign of hope.”

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