Tag Archives: Music

Finding My Vision

Dani L’Heureux, Campus Ministry Social Media Coordinator

“Mom, I have been on enough retreats. I am not going on this one.”

As the stubborn 16 year old I was, these words probably were not a surprise to my Mom. She calmly explained, in between my dramatic sobs, that the retreat was already paid for, I was specifically recruited to attend, and that it was at Notre Dame. Oh, and that the plane was leaving in a matter of hours. There wasn’t much of an option.

It was a typical Southern California morning in June – slightly foggy with the sun poking through the clouds, indicating that the fog had every intention of burning off. In the (silent and slightly awkward) car ride on the way to the airport, I thought deeply about this “Notre Dame Vision” thing. I had been on so many retreats it was impossible to count at that point, and to be completely honest, I was burnt out. I was tired of feeling like my emotions were always out in the open, tired of the general structure of a retreat, and was tired of the whole “Catholic” thing after spending 14 years in Catholic school. I was exhausted, and my struggles with the Catholic faith at the time weren’t exactly spearheading any sort of excitement for yet another retreat. I also had visited Notre Dame around 4 years prior for a football game and loved it. I didn’t want to taint that experience with something I was convinced would be horrible.

I composed myself as best as I could before saying goodbye to my Mom, gathered with my classmates at the airport, and began the weeklong journey that would so profoundly affect my life that I often have trouble explaining its magnitude.

Arriving at Notre Dame on the bus, with a friend-recommended Fleet Foxes album blaring in my ears, was the first moment I realized that my outburst that morning was completely unnecessary. Notre Dame’s beauty was absolutely beyond anything I remembered from that rainy football weekend in 2008, and almost instantly my mood shifted from begrudgingly accepting my fate to overwhelming excitement and wonder. This moment was also profound in my understanding and love of music that I carry with me today – it was the first moment that my 16-year-old mind began to tangibly associate music with such a deeply contemplative feeling.

ND Vision 2013
ND Vision 2013

That humid week in July was extraordinarily impactful on my faith and emotional development. I grew close with my mentors, exchanged many memories with my small group (some of whom I’m still in contact with today), and discovered a deep connection to my faith through music. All I wanted after that week was to be in the Notre Dame Vision band. All I wanted was to be able to stand up there on the DeBart 101 stage, guitar in hand, and allow thousands of people to feel what I felt – that connection between faith and music. I wanted to be able to spread my newfound, explosive love of music with everyone.

Fast-forward a few years, two summers into my already unbelievable experience as a Notre Dame undergrad, when this dream came true. In the summer of 2016, I served as the guitarist for the Notre Dame Vision band – an experience that, again, is hard to explain in words. I had the opportunity to craft and read a Witness Talk about a deeply personal part of myself, an experience that allowed me to continue my healing in a community of unconditional love. I acted on stage, bringing me back to my love of theatre that blossomed in high school. And I became friends with 62 truly remarkable people, my fellow mentors, whose expressions of love and support have continued to affect me today.

Looking back on the day of my flight to Notre Dame makes me feel a little strange. Had I not boarded that plane, I would likely not be a student at Notre Dame. I would not have my Campus Ministry job, and would not have met the friends that have already positively affected my life. I would not have been a Music Mentor at Notre Dame Vision in the summer of 2016. And here’s the kicker: I would absolutely not be Music Director of Notre Dame Vision for this coming summer.

When I think of the chain of events that led me to Notre Dame Vision, the opportunities I have had, and my present-day closeness with the program, I picture God smirking up in heaven and saying, “I told you so!” He knew all along – He knew I would put up a fight getting on the plane that summer morning in 2013. He knew all it would take is one look at the Notre Dame campus with one certain album playing through my earbuds to get me completely hooked. He knew I would go on to prove my angsty, 16-year-old self wrong by serving as a Mentor and later having the opportunity to serve as Head Staff. He knew that I needed a struggle in order to fully appreciate the impact this program would have on me. My trust in God’s plan for me and His place in my life has continued to grow while at Notre Dame, both through my Notre Dame Vision experiences and just from the blessing of being a student here.

The Band of St. Cecilia instrumentalists, ND Vision 2016

So, no, I hadn’t been on enough retreats, as I originally thought. I needed Notre Dame Vision, more than any other, to open my eyes to God’s plan working in my life through something I already had a personal connection to – music. And as I look back on these past four years as a Notre Dame undergrad, I truly realize how much He has been present, guiding me every step of the way to seek out those opportunities that would lead me to Him.

I still put on that Fleet Foxes album when I’m feeling nostalgic about that unbearably hot week in July of 2013. I played it the Monday morning of the first week of Vision in Summer 2016, just hours before I finally got to fully realize my guitarist dream coming true. I played it the day I accepted the Music Director job for Summer 2018. And I know I will play that album the day I graduate from the University that has given me more than I ever imagined.

Why We Minister: Patrick Kronner

Dr. Patrick Kronner, Choral Program Director and Organist, Director of the Women’s Liturgical Choir and Community Choir

God speaks to his people in many different and varied ways. For some it may be through the comfort of the Mass, or for others, the silence found when we’re open to it. For me, I’ve always felt God’s presence most in beauty. Whether it’s in his creation, the words of a prayer, or in the kindness that people show to one another. However, the beauty that has taken the deepest roots in my life has been the gift of music.

I vividly remember first finding this beauty in Beethoven’s symphonies when they were originally introduced to me in my second grade music class. From then on I would, as most grade-schoolers do, save up my pennies to buy cassette-tapes of Mozart and Bach (Oh, wait—was that just me?!) I felt a strong pull to immerse myself in this beauty. At the same time, I remember falling in love with the beauty of the Church as I experienced it in my community. It wasn’t until high school, though, that these two areas of my life began to intersect.

Dr. Patrick Kronner and the Summer Community Choir

Through the encouraging guidance and example of a high school mentor, I began to see the peace found in a life devoted to serving God and his people through music. Through my mentor, I was introduced to the pipe organ, the human voice, various monastic traditions, and the vulnerability that necessarily accompanies creativity. This, along with his inspiring love for his family and vocation, became a powerful model of a music minister’s life. It is a life which strives towards holiness through prayer and creativity.

As in most areas of my life, my sense of vocation did not come to me quickly. While I had a passion for music and the Church, it wasn’t always clear that these things should work together in my life. I don’t think I can pinpoint any one moment when I realized my vocation was to be a music minister. Rather, it has been through small moments, encouragement, challenge, and loving examples, that this picture has slowly come into focus.

I feel compelled to bring others to the beauty that I find around me. All of us are created in God’s image and should strive to reflect this beauty in ourselves and in all that we do. I take comfort in the fact that we’re all struggling together as we strive for holiness, just as many saints have done before us.

When I first arrived at Notre Dame for an interview over two years ago, the beauty of this campus was immediately apparent. Despite the gray and cold outside on that particularly frigid February day, I found warmth in all the people I encountered and in all the sights I saw. As I had felt at similar moments of my life, I was drawn to this beauty and curious to explore it further.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Having now spent two years as a campus minister at Notre Dame, I’ve been blessed with many moments of beauty. I’ve experienced it in the musical offerings of our choirs, in the familial care our students have for one another, in the intricate details carefully painted in the Basilica, and in the calm of a walk around the lakes. Most powerfully, I’ve seen it in the examples of service for the body of Christ that many of our choristers are boldly living out through their daily lives. All of this has enlivened my own zeal for ministry here on campus.

I minister because I hope to leave this world more beautiful than it was when I first found it. Jesus, through the greatest act of beauty, gave his life for us that we might fully experience his love and mercy. In the same way that my mentors, choristers, and students have inspired me to delve more deeply into this love, I pray that my work in campus ministry might do likewise for those around me. One of the most loving things we can do is to help others find this in the person of Jesus Christ.

Particularly in the spring, this simple quote from the Greek playwright Nikos Kazantzakis often pops into my mind: “I said to the almond tree, ‘speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” If we use our creativity for the pursuit of beauty, we’ll surely find God.