Tag Archives: Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Pieces of God’s Mosaic

BrianBrian Florin
Notre Dame Vision Mentor-in-Faith (2014 & 2015)
University of Notre Dame,
Class of 2016

When I was in high school, I had a lot going for me. I was well-known by my peers, found much success in the classroom, was involved in my Church, was a varsity athlete, had a girlfriend, was prom king. I even starred in the school play while helping my basketball team win the state championship on the same day. I felt like Troy Bolton. I wasTroy Bolton soaring. And I was flying. Except for the fact that I didn’t win the state championship. And I didn’t star in any school play…ever. Despite not having a voice as smooth as Troy’s, I still knew what I was better at in comparison to my peers, and I liked that.

Things suddenly changed when I set foot on Notre Dame’s campus freshman year. By the end of first semester, I lacked all the confidence that I had in high school. I felt outmatched and out of my league in every aspect. Everywhere I turned there was someone who did better than me on an exam. There was a better athlete. Someone who told jokes better. A better friend. People were even better than me at praying. I quickly fell into a habit of comparing myself to other people. I gained and lost my self-worth with every failure and success of another. No longer was I top in my class or the best on the basketball court. I found myself overwhelmed by the talent of those around me; with that, I lost sight of my own gifts and abilities. I remember thinking time and time again, “I’m not smart enough, not funny enough, not sociable enough, not even holy enough to be here or anywhere.”

In the summer of 2014, I helped at Notre Dame Vision for the first time as a rising Junior. I joined a group of some of the most faith-filled and talented students at Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, and Holy Cross. For the first week and half, I constantly looked around me and found myself jealous of other mentors. I felt inadequate, and this impacted just about every aspect of the week; I would say to myself, “Why can’t you lead a small group like him or make your group laugh like her?” It even got to a point where my victory waffle wasn’t good enough anymore. The phrase “I’m not good enough” soon became one that I turned over and over in my head day after day.

VisitationOn a Tuesday night, during the Reconciliation service, I gazed at the paintings that lined the ceiling and walls of the Basilica. Just above a group that awaited their turn for reconciliation was the painting of the Visitation that I had seen many times, but never quite from this angle. While I would normally glance over this, I was struck by the way that Elizabeth greeted Mary with such joy and happiness. A sense of peace washed over me as I looked in awe at the depiction of this beautiful exchange. Elizabeth wasn’t jealous of Mary for being chosen as the Mother of God. Rather, she rejoiced in the faith and belief of Mary that allowed for such a miracle to take place. Elizabeth’s joy was so incredible that John the Baptist even leapt in her womb!

In this moment, I began to realize that we too are called to leap for joy at the beauty of one another’s gifts and successes. The jealousy that I’d had of those around me blinded me from being able to recognize their gifts. Not only that, but I had lost sight of what I was good at too. I had become so focused on “not being good enough” according to my comparisons that I rejected the idea that in God’s eyes, I was enough.

Each Sunday at my parish during the collection, the priest invites the children to come forward and place their offerings in a basket at the front of the altar. Some kids immediately sprint up to the front of the altar while others tentatively make their way to the front, looking back at their parents for reassurance. There are always some kids though that stand on the altar and watch in amazement as another child places their envelope in the basket and runs back to their seat. In this moment, these children are content with themselves, yet completely awestruck at the sight of another child. Jesus tells his disciples to be like the children. I began to realize how beautiful it is to have a childlike recognition of others.  “Lord, give me the eyes to see as they do” became my silent prayer.

Now, if you’ve ever seen
Mosaic making a mosaic,
from far away you see a beautiful picture or image. But as you move closer to the image, you begin to see that the mosaic is made up of many tiny pieces that contribute to the larger picture. Without one of the pieces, the image would be distorted in some way. Through our own unique gifts and talents, quirks and idiosyncrasies, you and I are the many tiny pieces that make up God’s grand mosaic; His beautiful picture of creation. Comparing myself to others was in fact distorting my perception of this beautiful image. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to be, nor was I supposed to be exactly like the person next to me, and they weren’t supposed to be exactly like me. We each contributed something unique to God’s Mosaic.

I have definitely realized that comparing myself to others is a lifelong struggle. But, when I find myself falling back into this cycle of jealousy and comparison, I recall the joy with which Elizabeth greeted Mary; I pray to see as the children do when they look with amazement upon one another, and I am reminded of my own giftedness and worthiness in the eyes of the Creator. I am reminded that He calls each of us by our own name, and claims us as His own. I am a piece of God’s grand design. We are all pieces of His beautiful picture.


Surely the Lord is in This Place: Celebrating 125 Years at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Carolyn PirtleCarolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.
Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

Last Friday was a special day in the liturgical life of Our Lady’s University, as the entire Notre Dame community gathered to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the consecration of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Aside from the Golden Dome itself, the Basilica is one of the most visited sites on the Notre Dame campus, and for good reason. Quite simply, its beauty takes one’s breath away. DSC_4622The stately columns and graceful gothic arches, the starry ceiling, the painted angels gazing down serenely alongside witnesses of faith from every age, the scenes from the Gospels, the walls adorned with a stunning collection of stained glass windows that filter and color the sunlight—everything captures the imagination. At the heart of the Basilica stands a magnificent tabernacle: crowned by the Lamb slain and risen, its beauty invites all to contemplate the mystery contained within it—the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Himself, present in the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, the entire Basilica invites contemplation of the splendor and majesty of God, who, in an immense and immeasurable love, desires to be in relationship with his people, the Church.

God’s extravagant love for us inspires an extravagant response on our part. In His ministry, Jesus Himself encouraged such extravagance when it comes to one’s relationship with God, particularly in His praise of the woman who anointed His feet with expensive aromatic nard from an alabaster jar (cf. Mk 14:3-9 and Jn 12:3-8). In gratitude to the God who made, called, and redeemed us by sending his only Son, we ought to offer in return the best and most beautiful of all that God has first given to us; thus, throughout history, splendid and majestic churches have been built as signs of gratitude to God and reflections of God’s splendor and majesty. Most importantly, sacred spaces such as the Basilica provide the locus for that most profound point of entry into a relationship of love with the Triune God: the celebration of the liturgy.

DSC_3092In his homily for Friday’s anniversary liturgy, Bishop Daniel Jenky, C.S.C. stated that “there is nothing meager about God.”* He went on to describe the beauty of creation, only to conclude that it pales in comparison to the beauty of the Creator—the God who loved the world into existence and in that same love redeemed the world by sending his only Son through the power of the Spirit, revealing the divine nature as a Trinity of Persons united in love:

“With amazing generosity, the Word was ‘tabernacled’ among us. With astonishing condescension, the Word ‘pitched his tent’ and ‘made his dwelling place among us’ (Jn 1:14). Jesus, the perfect image or icon of the Father, reveals the splendor of the Father’s love. Christ is the sacrament of the Father, making visible the invisible glory of the Godhead; and the Church, the community of believers, is called to be the image or the icon of Christ—a living sacrament that makes Christ present in this world until He appears again in glory.”

The Church’s desire to fulfill the vocation of manifesting Christ, according to Bishop Jenky, inspired the construction of great places of worship throughout the history of Christianity:

“Catholic Christianity is sacramental and incarnational. That’s the reason for this place. Down through the march of centuries, and in many and various changing styles of art and architecture, our churches are outward signs, material icons of inward spiritual realities where the physical signifies the metaphysical. Glory and beauty are divine attributes, so believers of both the Eastern and Western traditions of Catholic Christianity have always tried to build churches as glorious and as beautiful as possible.”

DSC_3106The beauty of a church should cause our hearts to expand with wonder and awe as it reflects the beauty of a God “who so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). The beauty of a church should stop us in our tracks; it should quell the unimpressed, overly-stimulated voice inside us that says, “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” It should inspire us to look up and around in a spirit of reverent contemplation of all that God has done for us. The beauty of a church should fill us with an awareness of the immensity of God and of our own littleness in the face of that immensity, and in its “sacramentality” and “incarnationality,” it should remind us of that unfathomable Love which became little in order to “pitch his tent” with us so that we may dwell eternally with him in glory.

The church is at once a place where God comes to dwell with his people and where God’s people encounter their true home. When we enter into the liturgical celebration, we are joined to the eternal liturgy that is constantly taking place in heaven, as our voices are joined with the angels and saints in acclaiming the thrice-holy God. The angels and saints depicted throughout the Basilica are vivid reminders of this reality as they surround the worshiping faithful.

Elizabeth of Hungary and ClotildeThe stained glass windows seem to sparkle and brim with life as the sun streams through them, and as Bishop Jenky affirmed, “The worshiping saints in eternity visually encircle us, the worshiping saints of time, in the celebration of the sacred liturgy.” Represented in these windows is the “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), holy men and women of every age who spur us on in the pilgrim journey of faith, and in their company, we “[keep] our eyes fixed on Jesus” (Heb 12:2), whose Body and Blood are made present in bread and wine on the altar of sacrifice by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the liturgical celebration, we are filled with joy as we celebrate the saving love of God through Jesus, and yet we are also filled with longing as we anticipate the eternal banquet of the wedding feast of the Lamb in heaven. The tabernacle of the Basilica calls this to mind in its imagery, inspired by the description of the New Jerusalem from the book of Revelation.  On the upper portion of the tabernacle, angels stand as sentinels; on the lower foundational portion, the Apostles are depicted as guardians of the gates to the city of God (cf. Rev 21:11-14). Over all stands the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Jn 1:36); the Lamb once slain who now lives forever. The altar and the tabernacle together serve as reminders of the “already” and the “not yet”: we participate in the divine life of the Triune God through the sacrifice of Jesus made present in our celebration of the liturgy, yet we continue to await the day when we will enjoy the fullness of that divine life in the Kingdom of heaven. DSC_4625The paintings and stained glass, the Stations of the Cross, the Crucifix, the reliquaries and side chapels, the tabernacle and the altar—all invite an awe-filled contemplation of God’s love and encourage a more reverent participation in the celebration of the liturgy.

Within Friday’s celebration of the Basilica’s anniversary liturgy, the music created aural images as spectacular as those visual images present in the Basilica itself. Brass and pipe and drum and voices combined, enveloping all those present as they joined together in offering sung praise to God in awe-filled thanksgiving for the gift of his saving presence. Several pieces of music had been composed specifically for the anniversary celebration, enabling those gathered to fulfill the words of the psalmist and “sing a new song to the Lord” (Ps 98:1). And just as those who constructed and adorned the Basilica with care and solicitude 125 years ago offered their very best, so too did those who participated in the music ministry offer the very best of their talents, as did those assisting with the liturgical ministries, placing them at the service of the Church for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful. The vaulted ceilings and marble surfaces echoed and reverberated with song, as though the very stones of the church cried out along with the faithful in praise of God (cf. Lk 19:40), and all who sang with full heart and voice became as living stones, building up the Church of God through hymns and songs of grateful praise.

DSC_3107In the end, Bishop Jenky encouraged those present to ponder for a moment the hundreds upon thousands of celebrations that had taken place within the walls of the Basilica—baptisms, confirmations, reconciliations, anointings, weddings, ordinations, funerals, Masses—as well as those instances of personal prayer, devotion, and conversion fostered by the beauty of the space.

He summarized thus of the significance of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

All the outward signs of glory in any Catholic church and the rites of consecration are intended to signify a vocation of holiness to which all the people of God are called. …if we allow this sacred space to do its work with us, there should always be the glorious evidence of our cooperation with God’s glorious grace.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the sacred steward of our best memories, and the sacred inspiration of our most audacious dreams. Notre Dame’s Basilica images the grandeur of the universe, because God fashioned the universe. This Basilica images the beautiful, because God is beautiful. Notre Dame Our MotherThis Basilica images God’s holy Church, because in this church, the members of Christ’s Body are taken up through the celebration of the Mass into the very language and love shared by the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. This Basilica images the communion of saints, because we are all called to be saints, and all saints share a vocation to signify the goodness and the glory of God. This Basilica images God, and God’s incandescent heaven, because our destiny is to see God face-to-face in the eternal splendor of heaven.

How awesome and terrible is this place. Truly this is the house of God and the gate of heaven. For the Congregation of Holy Cross, and for the entire Notre Dame family, may this deep conviction of our Catholic faith never be lost, but ever be lived, affirmed, and gloriously celebrated.

*I am grateful to Bishop Jenky for his kind permission to excerpt his homily in this post. The anniversary Mass can be viewed in its entirety via iTunes; for more information on downloading the video, please click here.