Being a Beacon at Our Lady’s University

Growing up in a Catholic and sports-minded family, I was raised to cheer for Notre Dame football.  I proudly wore my too-big Notre Dame cheerleader costume from the age of five until the age of 11, at which point it had become decidedly too small.  I taught myself to play the fight song on the piano and faithfully pounded out its staccato rhythm after every touchdown.

But I didn’t decide to come to Notre Dame because of football or school spirit.  I chose Notre Dame because I have hope for her mission as a preeminent Catholic university, and I aspire to be a part of the fight for our Catholic identity.

All too often, I meet students who seem to have decided on Notre Dame with football as one of their main considerations.  Notre Dame students are undoubtedly intelligent—many much more so than myself—but many people I know appear to have more zeal for a Friday night party than they do for the issues that plague our country today.

Millions of legal abortions since 1973, the ongoing debate over the definition of marriage, the prevalence and addictive effects of pornography—these seemingly insurmountable challenges go unnoticed by the average college student, even at a school like Notre Dame.

During my freshman year, I was somewhat content to go along with this complacency.  “I’m only a freshman,” I would tell myself as I skipped another College Republicans meeting.  “I can always start writing for the paper next semester,” I promised my mom over Christmas break.  I easily slipped into this idle mentality by telling myself that I was still just a kid, that I would never be this carefree again, that I had only just started college, that I could not possibly “make a difference” while still in school.

I only realized this year that I can, in fact, have a tremendous impact on my friends, this campus and perhaps even the world outside of the Notre Dame bubble.  In all of my activities, most notably with the Irish Rover and the Right to Life Club, I have come to appreciate my ability to affect others, and the unique opportunity I have to communicate my beliefs to a wider audience through the written word.

Becoming more involved on campus has reminded me countless times of the fact that I am a part of a minority, perhaps not in my beliefs, but in my willingness to stand up for and vocalize them.  Being explicit about my controversial opinions is a challenge in college, but I want to do my small part to convey the truth about the most central issues facing our nation.

A passage from the Gospel of Matthew always inspires me when I consider the challenges that the world faces today.  Jesus tells his disciples,

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Mt 5: 13-16).

It is our responsibility—as both stewards of His Word and students at a visible Catholic university like Notre Dame—to bring the light of His truth to as many people as we can.

Crossing Main Circle one night as I walked home from a meeting, I glanced to my right purely out of habit and caught sight of the dome, its faithful gold shining resplendently against the pitch black of a stormy February night.  The sight made me pause for a moment and realize that I am at Notre Dame for a reason, a God-given purpose.  He has a plan for my time here, and a plan for each and every student at this university.

As our founder Father Edward Sorin sagely predicted in an 1842 letter to Blessed Basil Moreau, Notre Dame has become “one of the most powerful means of good in this country”—and perhaps even in the world.  Each student here has particular gifts and talents, and with the good fortune to be at a university as blessed as this, we are all in the unique position to be a part of this movement for the good.

A lot of darkness is encroaching upon today’s world, shadows of sin and selfishness casting a pall upon the tireless efforts of countless numbers of good people. But what though the odds be great or small, we at Notre Dame must fight to let God’s light shine.