“Et vidit Deus quod esset bonum” – (“And God saw that it was good”)
While the modern age has seen many colleges renounce their religious origins and mission statements, the University of Notre Dame proclaims by its very name its Catholic heritage. Few other colleges may claim to be as religious, as fundamentally Catholic, down to their very bones. (Indeed, one can hardly walk around this campus without accidentally passing over the buried Catholic bones of a beloved departed Holy Cross priest.)
And yet, the truest testament to the very Catholicity of this university is found in the inescapable religiosity of its every brick. The architecture of Notre Dame does not simply pull our eyes up to heaven, like the peaks of Gothic arches; instead it pulls images of heaven down to us, that our daily habits may be sanctified by their presence.
The outer doors of Debartolo Hall point in each of the four cardinal directions, such that every student who exits them imitates the four rivers of Eden or the great commission of the Apostles to go to every corner of the world.
There are stairs in Lafortune which ascend from the dark depths of Taco Bell and end at the feet of the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Starbucks; who, in this anabasis, does not experience that same heavenly pilgrimage as Dante?
The southern staircase of the Main Building invites the uninformed and the irreligious to take the wide and easy way; and yet those who heed Christ’s Sermon on the Mount know better. We prefer the lower entrance: “for the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life.”
Many enter the library seeking to ascend its fourteen stories, which remind the novice freshman of pluperfection, which is double the perfect number of seven. However, the more erudite professors know in the secret places of their hearts that fourteen is the number of the generations which lead from Abraham to David, from David to the exile, and from the exile to Jesus himself. And the asceticism of the scholar is reinforced even when he enters the concourse of the library; for he knows that he lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God, and not au bon pain seulement.
Yet, noblest of all these mysteries is to be found in a sacred grotto: the men’s bathroom on the first floor of Debartolo. For here resides a great testament to the humanity of our God, and it is hidden away in this lowly place, not unlike the cave which held our Lord in his manger. Here one may find a simple and profound attestation of God’s providence, forethought, and compassion. Here one will find six urinals, proud and triumphant, declaring the might of God in his act of Creation. And to their right, one will find a seventh and sabbatical urinal, which sits neither high nor triumphant, but low and solemn. Where can one find a better monument to the humane Rest of God than in a restroom of Notre Dame?
James Whitaker is a graduate student in the Theology department, hoping that he may someday be Josh Gilchrist’s TA. He is often to be found in CoMo or the Medieval Institute; if you see him elsewhere, he is surely procrastinating and should be given a stern reprimand at email@example.com.
Image: The crowning jewel of Notre Dame’s campus: DeBartolo Hall