If Notre Dame is a Family, it should pray like one

Allow me to make a criticism of Notre Dame not often found in the pages of the Irish Rover: this university is far too monastic.

This is not to say that Notre Dame is too Catholic; rather, it practices its Catholicism in a way that is against its character.

To explain this criticism, I must begin with what can best be described as an extraordinarily lay understanding of the monastic life: It is very rhythmic, with the monks waking at specified hours, doing their work for specified hours, eating at specified hours, all of which occur in an orderly cycle throughout the week.

Punctuating that cycle are periods of liturgical prayer, during which the monks enter the choir stalls in what can only be imagined with an exceptionally cinematic shot, complete with hooded clerics and beautiful chant. For a time, they pray the Liturgy together and then they exit, returning to their labor.

Replace the hooded clerics with hoodies and the choir stalls with a dorm chapel, and you have liturgical life at Notre Dame. It is insular, kept inside the walls of the chapel or the Basilica.

An example of this point comes every December 12th, a day when Latino, and particularly Mexican, communities burst in celebration of the miraculous Virgin of Guadalupe.

Processions are held, music is played in the streets, and roses litter communities as they celebrate the beauty of the Blessed Mother, who chose to present herself in the appearance of a mestiza and to don symbols of the native Nahuatl.

There are numerous reasons to celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, not the least of which is her importance to Latino Catholic culture. And, yes, at Notre Dame we do offer a Mass, during which the Latino community is given the opportunity to venerate Our Lady in a traditionally Mexican fashion.

However, this opportunity, like the vast majority of liturgical ceremonies at Notre Dame, does not exit the walls of the basilica. While the faithful in Los Angeles are parading with an icon of the Virgin in a beautiful bout of raucous faith, in South Bend we give a polite and somber nod.

There are many issues with this preference for leaving the liturgical in the church proper, not the least of which is the missed evangelical opportunity or the prejudice for a (particularly bland) brand of Anglo-American Catholicism which ostracizes many traditionally charismatic communities (Latinos aren’t the only culture who love processions—so do the Germans, the Italians, the Filipinos, and many, many more!).

Those issues must be saved for other columns, however. The claim made today is that a more insular liturgical life is against the character of the University of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame is a Holy Cross institution, and as such, it bears a resemblance to the character of the Congregation of Holy Cross. The Congregation of Holy Cross, in turn, is modeled on the Holy Family—and as such, it bears the character not only of its three patrons, but of the institution of the family itself.

This resemblance to the Holy Family is already demonstrated in many ways, even by the language which surrounds life at Notre Dame. We are all members of the Notre Dame family; we are members of brother and sister dorms; we are loyal sons of Notre Dame, marching forward to victory. However, when it comes to liturgical life, we are missing the mark.

In monastic life, the liturgy is the fruit and the fire which is fueled by and sustains the contemplative life, a life which is beautifully interior in its approach to God. Family life, however, is not contemplative (at least, not in the same sense as monastic life) and is certainly not interior. As such, the liturgy is fueled by and sustains it in a different way.

Think for a moment of the life of the venerable Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, a man who championed family liturgical life like no other. His Family Rosary Crusade, which lives on today in the wonderful Holy Cross apostolate Family Rosary, was built on the motto, “The family who prays together stays together,” and focused on a very particular liturgical prayer: the common Rosary.

But simply getting the family to pray the Rosary together at home, alone, was not enough for Fr. Peyton, and thus was not where his ministry or liturgical model ended. Rather, he wholly believed that the entire world and all its cultures could be evangelized and converted if families prayed the Rosary together—both together as a family and together as a community of families.

Look back to the Family Rosary Crusade. Often, Fr. Peyton is remembered as the “Rosary Priest” simply for encouraging people to pray the Rosary more, but his model was so much more invasive than just a cloying phrase on the radio.

Fr. Peyton, along with his team, would go to local communities and for weeks encourage and support families in praying the Rosary together as a family every day. The culmination of that endeavor, however, was never kept inside a house or a building—it couldn’t be! After weeks of insular prayer, all the families would join in a public spectacle of veneration for the Blessed Mother, and millions would give testament to their faith in external liturgical prayer.

This is the liturgical model which we need to foster—a familial model which looks at liturgy as something which must be periodically eructed onto our nearby community. Those great moments of communal celebration strengthen our daily liturgical lives and are, in turn, strengthened themselves.

I don’t intend to end this column as an aimless tirade, but rather as a pointed challenge. Therefore, I would like to point out an excellent opportunity for public liturgy and celebration of the faith: On Friday, November 2, join Campus Ministry, the Institute for Latino Studies, and the Latino Student Alliance at 8:15pm at Notre Dame cemetery for a Dia de los Muertos procession and liturgy.

With your support for public liturgies like this one, maybe this year the Virgin of Guadalupe will also get the procession she is due.

Evan Holguin is a 2018 graduate of the Program of Liberal Studies and the former Executive Editor of the Irish Rover. He apologizes to any monks he may have offended, especially former roommates named Greg. He would appreciate you sending pictures of processions on the Notre Dame campus to eholguin@alumni.nd.edu.