Tag Archives: undergraduates

Selfie Worship

Tim O'MalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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The ubiquitous nature of the selfie has reached a point of becoming comedic. This summer during a baseball game, a number of young women took five or so minutes of selfies, not once looking up to see what was going on during the game. When traveling on planes, it has become normal to see a seatmate pull up her sweatshirt hood, purse her lips, and snap away. Thousands of tourists throughout Rome purchase the selfie stick so that they can take pictures of themselves in front of famous churches, sharing with the world that they were there (yet perhaps never really looking at the church in the first place, only at their own image).


The comedy of the selfie, of course, became less comedic several weeks ago when a young women, Essena O’Neill, revealed the kind of idolatry that the practice had produced in her. O’Neill declared to her followers:

I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance…Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it.

The selfie, for Ms. O’Neill, was a form of self-worship, an adoration of an image that she could present to her online peers for their consumption. Rather than elicit happiness in her, Ms. O’Neill discovered again and again the surprising emptiness of a like, a favorite, a star. The heart longed for further likes, further adoration to take place. And the constant work of “creating the selfie” never ceased.

AcademicsTweetingIn fact, there is a sense in which much use of social media (whether employing imagery or not) is the creation of selfies for other’s adoration. Even photo-phobic academics tweet out their ideas, longing not simply to participate in conversations but to increase their followers, develop their brand, to be favorited and liked and re-tweeted for all the world to see (sometimes at the expense of the truth and charity alike). The person who tweets their wisdom to the world delights at being noticed by those with prominence, in some way becoming a more important self in the process. I matter because my thoughts have been recognized, acknowledged, taken up by others. I matter. This approach to social media gradually takes over one’s life such that every moment of one’s day is no longer an occasion for contemplation, for existence in the world, but a chance to tweet something out that will increase one’s self-image. The world becomes a house of idols.

This kind of selfie worship (whether of an image or thought) is ruining our capacity for liturgical prayer. In liturgy, we do not create a self before God, seeking to be recognized as beautiful, smart, talented, etc.; rather, we give up on the project of self-creation to begin with. We are to become selfless, which does not mean that we are to hate ourselves. Rather, we are to see the self as fully flourishing insofar as we adore the living God.

In this way, we must see liturgical worship as a form of “play,” which is radically distinct from selfie-worship. To create the selfie may look like play; but often enough the use of the selfie is really a conscious way of constructing a self-image for others to enjoy. Whereas in our celebration of the liturgy:

The practice of the liturgy means that by the help of grace, under the guidance of the Church, we grow into living works of art before God, with no other aim or purpose than that of living and existing in his sight; it means fulfilling God’s Word and ‘becoming as little children’; it means foregoing maturity with all its purposefulness, and confining oneself to play, as David did when he danced before the Ark…The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeless activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God, and to be prepared for the sacred game with sayings and thoughts and gestures, without always immediately asking ‘why’? and ‘wherefore’? It must learn not to be continually yearning to do something, to attack something, to accomplish something useful, but to play the divinely ordained game of the liturgy in liberty and beauty and holy joy before God (Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 71-72).

IncenseThe goal of liturgy is not self-creation, self-formation, self-adoration but self-emptying love. It is to learn to be who we are before God–a redeemed sinner, still learning to utter truthful words of praise to the triune God, who is total gift.

Perhaps, here, the novelist David Foster Wallace in his work Infinite Jest is prescient. We seem to have entered a time in which the goal is not the presentation of a real image of ourselves, of who we are, but a product and a brand that others can admire.  It is only those in the house of recovery in Infinite Jest, who can see themselves truthfully. They are the ones capable of love, of giving up on the project of self-projection to begin with. In the midst of the recovering addict, who has given up the project of creating a unique self apart from all others, do you find the possibility of salvation.

The liturgical rites of the Church also offer this possibility. The goal of our prayer is a halfway house for the selfie-loving soul, moving us away from the kind of self-adoration that infects the present human condition. We stand before the living God and acknowledge not simply that we are a sinner but that our flourishing is only possible through the grace we receive at the holy altar. The liturgy forms us not to hate ourselves, to despise our bodies. But instead to stand before God as we are, to give up on the project of creating the perfect self. We play before the living God, offering words of lament and praise, words that we did not create, discovering in the process an identity that we did not know was ours to begin with. We see our restlessness for what it is. Not something to be stopped, ceased at all costs. But the very driver of desire, which enable us to recognize who we really are: creatures made to praise and adore the living God.

Follow Tim on Twitter (ironic in light of topic of article): @NDLiturgyCenter


Liturgical Participation and the Apocalyptic

Tim O'MalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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As anyone who has taught Sacred Scriptures knows, dealing with apocalyptic literature is a perilous affair. Students expect to read in such literature historical prophecies about the end of the world. Does the Blood Moon of late September portend the end of the cosmos? (No). What about the rise of Temple University’s football program? (Perhaps). Are the number of presidential debates evidence that God’s judgment has come upon humanity? (Likely). Because they’re looking for apocalyptic literature that predicts the precise details of the end of the world, students are often unprepared to see the surprising telos of literature like the Book of Revelation: that the wedding feast of the slain and resurrected Lamb is God’s definitive judgment upon history.

The loss of this sense of the apocalyptic, of God’s coming to judge the world in the wedding feast of the Lamb, has been detrimental to our capacity to participate fully, consciously, and actively in the liturgical prayer of the Church. As Annie Dillard has written in an oft-quoted text:

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does any-one have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return (Teaching a Stone to Talk).

EucharisticPrayingWe gather in our parish churches, seemingly unaware that the Eucharistic liturgy we celebrate on a weekly basis is the foretaste of this wedding feast of the Lamb. That the Scriptures we hear forms us to see the world from God’s own viewpoint. That the Eucharistic Prayer we offer to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit manifests to us that God is:

…the Master of reality, Lord, God of truth, who exist before the ages and govern throughout the ages; who dwell in the heights of heaven throughout the ages, gazing down on lowly things; you who have made heaven and earth and sea and everything that is in them. The Father of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, through whom you made all things, those visible and those invisible. Who sit upon the throne of your holy glory in your kingdom; who are adorned by every holy power (Alexandrian Anaphora of Basil).

Our celebration of the liturgy is a sacrament of God’s definitive judgment upon the world, in which the Christian is formed over the course of a lifetime to participate in the sanctified wisdom of the Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One. This participation will involve understanding the various ways that the life of the Church, our family life, our understanding of human dignity as a nation-state–all of these fail to measure up to the terribly festive judgment of the wedding feast of the Lamb.

The loss of this apocalyptic (and thus eschatological) disposition in our prayer is a real problem that the Church must face. Our participation in liturgical rites are not simply a celebration of our identity as Christians (although, they are indeed this). They are not the redeemed of the city, gathering together for self-praise. Instead, our prayer is participation in the sacrament of God’s eschatological judgment of the world in which sin (including the sin of particular parish communities, of nation states) is revealed for what it is: a paltry imitation of God’s power and might.

The renewal of this apocalyptic imagination in the Church need not involve a turning back from the liturgical renewal that took place as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Instead, it requires a remembering by those who practice liturgical ministry that our celebration of the liturgy is not first and foremost about our speaking of a word to God. Rather, it is a response to God’s call, the triune God’s glorious judgment of the gift of the world in the first place. It is because of God’s voice as other, as interruptive of ours, that prayer can take place in the first place. As Jean-Luc Chretien writes:

The space of response is opened only by the difference between speaking of oneself and speaking oneself. There can only be a call and a response if the two are no longer conceived as identical and if the fact that we do not speak of ourselves, out of ourselves, actually gives us a voice rather than condemn us to silence or to a simulation of speech (The Call and the Response, 27).

Therefore, to re-foster liturgical participation today will not (in the end) involve just changing the rites around. It will, instead, involve learning to see the Church’s prayer as actually speaking to, communing with a God who is not us. A God who comes to judge us, the world, not as the inaccessible judge. But as the Lamb slain, who announced that the world’s approach to violence, to destruction, is over. Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus. 

Follow Tim on Twitter: @NDLiturgyCenter

On Tinder and the Project of Human Character

Leonard DeLorenzoLeonard DeLorenzo, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Vision and Student Engagement

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The 2010 film The Social Network opens with Mark Zuckerberg—the now ubiquitous founder and CEO of Facebook—sitting in a bar across the table from his college girlfriend. From the get-go, he’s peculiar and awkward whereas she seems self-aware and grounded. Even so, he’s engaged and, in a strange way, engaging. What he’s involved in is something we all recognize: it’s a date. At least he is until his hyperactive mind leads him well beyond insensitivity and rudeness, so that, in true Aaron Sorkin fashion, the whole scene is flipped upside down within a few minutes of dialogue and he is abruptly dumped.

TinderI remembered this scene as I was reading a stunning new piece on Tinder and the hookup culture that has been making its way through social media over the past week.  Reading about the evolution of the dating scene in New York City and on selected college campuses—or, even better, the apocalypse of that dating scene—it is interesting to remember how Sorkin’s biopic of Zuckerberg begins and ends.  In the film’s closing scene, the man whom we first saw on a date in a crowded bar is sitting alone in a conference room waiting for his ex-girlfriend to accept his friend request on Facebook.  This is, of course, a finely crafted portrait of the man who created the most powerful tool for social connection the world has ever seen: in Sorkin’s eyes, Zuckerberg’s very act of creation was concomitant with his loss of intimacy.  This social network isolates, Sorkin seems to say. And as one of the college students in the Tinder article puts it, “[we have all] grown up on social media [so] we don’t know how to talk to each other face-to-face. You form your first impression based off Facebook rather than forming a connection with someone, so you’re, like, forming your connection with their profile.”

According to the Tinder article, the marketplace of digital personae that Facebook established has morphed into streamlined online shopping for sexual partners.  Tinder is predicated on the desire to keep options open and minimize self-investment. According to this logic, who would want to be stuck in a commitment to eating at a lesser restaurant if you are able to get a table at a better restaurant at the last minute? All reservations are provisional, as are all commitments.  “You can’t be stuck in one line… There’s always something better,” reasoned a twenty-something investment banker.

With Tinder, that better something—or that more of something—may come with the next swipe, or the one after that.  So rather than investing a whole night in dating one person or in hanging out at one bar, you can browse countless potential partners in your vicinity.  The payoff, for some, is that “I can go to my phone right now and no doubt I can find someone I can have sex with this evening.”  Why risk ruining the night with a failed date? Just swipe.

While Sorkin’s depiction of Zuckerberg is certainly open to critique, his underlying point is sound: over time, the manner in which you interact with others changes who you are.  This is nothing new, though the mechanisms for training one in such habits are more accessible and more addictive than ever.  Moreover, this isn’t just about dating.  The lost art of dating is representative of a more widespread diminishment of the importance of human character.

features-profile-createThe issue of human character is something to which I have become especially attuned over the course of the past few years as I have built and taught a course at Notre Dame with my colleague Colleen Moore, entitled “The Character Project”.  As David Brooks argues in his recent book The Road to Character (Random House, 2015), we have come to abide in a culture where we all seem to possess “vague moral aspirations” but are generally devoid of any real “strategy to build character.”  We become expert curators of projected personality traits that contribute to a composite persona, making us akin to something like “little brand mangers”, where the brand is who we appear to be.  The separation between who one appears to be and who one actually is is often blurred and quite subtle, especially without the right categories for judging truth from near-truth or apparent-truth or, as Harry Frankfurt calls it in his famous essay on the subject, “bullshit”.  Crafting profile appearances to interact with other profile appearances—both online and off—doesn’t result from a series of rational or intentional decisions; rather, it results from a whole regimen of formative practices that sharpen some attributes while dulling others.  Swiping between the images of potential partners on a screen is one such practice: it sharpens the consumer instinct and dulls the capacity for—and even the desire for—the challenges of face-to-face human interactions where things may or may not go well. You know, like on dates.

This issue demands much more attention than what I am able to provide here. Nevertheless, I do want to point to three areas that I think serve as small antidotes to the dulling of human character and the sterilizing effects that modern practices like Tinder browsing have upon the capacity for intimacy.  I propose that the art of dating—and the art of developing human character, for that matter—requires and will benefit from the recovery of the art of conversation, the art of responsible speech, and the art of commitment.

In our Character Project course, we place a high premium on conversation.  Along with and in fact as part of the theological education in which we are involved, the students share a meal together every week, they talk about moral issues in pairs, and they gather together in small discussion groups based upon the Notre Dame residence halls in which they live (there are four halls represented in each class, by design).  We take time to talk to each other.  I don’t allow any cell phones in the classroom, which means that from the moment they walk in the room to the moment they leave, they are supposed to be as attentive as possible to the other 25 people in the room with them.  If you were to walk into one of the campus dining halls on any given night, you will find tables full of friends and acquaintances, many of whom, at one point or another, will disengage from the table conversation to gaze into their phones.  I’ve seen entire table’s worth of students looking into their devices at once, all alone together.  Then again, I’ve seen the same thing with families out to dinner at restaurants, as well as in my own living room.  Recovering the art of conversation begins with creating the conditions for conversation to emerge, for the challenges to conversation to set in (lulls, misaligned interests, fatigue), and for the skills of a conversationalist to be practiced and become habitual.

Related to but distinct from the art of conversation is the art of responsible speech.  As I have written elsewhere, irresponsible speech is “speech for which no one is personally responsible,” and which thus allows a person to say whatever they want seemingly without consequence, at least to themselves.  Speaking responsibly requires a lot more work and involves a lot more risk.  Practicing responsible speech is one of the learning objectives of the Character Project.  For example, when we study Thomas Aquinas on the question of grace and human agency, we not only attend to the content of what he says but also the way in which he constructs his argument.  When he, in the Summa, presents objections to his proposition in clear and concise terms, a model is offered for how to listen well and seek to understand others.  When he appeals to the tradition, he provides a model for allowing one’s own understanding to be enriched.  And when he offers his own response, he does at least two things at once: first, he elevates the richness of the question, refusing to give in to flat responses that are as simple as a bland ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Second, and at the same time, he takes responsibility for a view.  He takes up the hard task of saying “I reply that…”  He stakes himself on what he says.  If what he says is wrong, then he is wrong and he will have to adjust accordingly.  When he turns in the end to respond to the objections he previously recited, he is taking responsibility for the consequences of his view and for explaining it to his interlocutors, whether they be real or imagined.  By contrast, Aaron Sorkin seems to have constructed the first 30 minutes or so of The Social Network as a narrative of increasingly irresponsible speech with a broader and broader reach.

SDHFinally, the recovery of the art of commitment is probably the most difficult and the most important dimension in recovering the art both of dating and of developing human character.  To return to Tinder, the entire edifice is constructed upon not just ease of access to potential partners but, as the article emphasizes, the virtually unfettered ability to keep options open.  There is no way around the certain fact that investing time and attention in one event or one place or one person will, inevitably, come at the expense of not being elsewhere with others.  Dinner tables filled with iPhone gazers and weekend nights narrated through Snapchat Stories are, among other things, symptomatic of the now standard Fear of Missing Out. The art of commitment develops with small strokes, beginning with sticking to commitments for projects or groups or plans you’ve made, or at least being honest about why you cannot or will not follow through when such occasions arise.  With a little prodding my students will admit to what is also true about me: when I have to get out of a commitment, I typically at least shape the explanation in such a way as to absolve myself of responsibility.  If I were honest, there are times when I just choose not to honor my commitments.  Even more, we become practiced in making commitments in advance without really considering how exactly we will follow through.  An activities fair on a college campus is as good a place as any to observe this behavior.  Practicing commitment in small matters creates the habits that contribute to becoming the kind of person who makes commitments intentionally and honors them, accepting the costs along the way.

The Tinder article is a rather dark piece, both as alluded to here and in itself. At the same time, though, the interviewees’ notes of regret and dissatisfaction registered throughout are strangely reassuring. If the “dating apocalypse” (and all it symbolizes) is troubling to readers, then what would be even more troubling would be if no one seemed to care, if everyone was satisfied with it. Yet, it seems like even those most caught up in the habitual browsing and swiping and even casual sex are, in some way, unsettled.  It really is reminiscent of that picture of Sorkin’s Zuckerberg sitting alone, longing for intimacy, but seemingly stripped of the capacity for it.  Sometimes, the good news exists as simple and confused desires, which endure even when everything seems bent against them.  Whether in classrooms, on college campuses, or at city bars, building up small cultures with particular practices that respond to those deep-seated desires—for intimacy, for companionship, for being someone—is the personal and communal work of reclaiming the importance of human character and bringing dating back from the brink.

The Sacrifice of Blame

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Last night, while pursuing one last trip through the newsfeed of Facebook friends before bed, I found a rather disturbing piece written by Saint Mary’s College student Ms. Hannah Drinkall. The post describes a cab ride gone awry, one in which two young women from the University of Notre Dame verbally assaulted undergraduates from Saint Mary’s College (the all women’s college with close ties to Notre Dame):

Upon entering our cab, two girls and one guy piled in in front of us. They shouted, “main circle” to the cab driver, and we politely told them that we were going to Saint Mary’s first. The young women turned, rolled their eyes, and said, “Oh of course Saint Mary’s.” And from there, it escalated.  I refuse to repeat the profanities these girls used and the foul language they shouted at us. One of the girls “apologized” to my 3 friends and I, telling us she was sorry she was smart and that she was accepted to Notre Dame and we weren’t. When my friend informed her that none of us had even applied to Notre Dame, she came back at us with, “right because there’s no way you could have gotten in.” We just turned around and tried to ignore the comments that included, “wow we’re actually surprised you guys are going home right now and not staying with some boy…” and other stereotypical phrases I had never heard before. I’ll admit; it was difficult to keep my cool.

SaintMarysCollegeWhat is so  disturbing about the account is the ease in which violent words escaped the mouths of these young women from Notre Dame. For these Notre Dame undergraduates, it seemed automatic to presume that students who matriculate at Saint Mary’s College are intellectually inferior and sexually promiscuous. Of course, one can undoubtedly assume that the young women from Notre Dame were inebriated. But, in fact, this is what is most disturbing. The words that surfaced in this moment are part of an unspoken narrative, a cultural script, that surfaces only through the loosening effects of alcohol. The rest of the year, these students would interact with one another, ignoring the specter of violence that simmers just underneath the surface.

What took place that night in the cab was a verbal, yet nonetheless, violent form of sacrifice. Saint Mary’s women ironically functioned as scapegoats against all those who inflict violence upon women. They were blamed for the way that women are reduced to sexual creatures alone, made to satisfy the desires of men. To insult the intellects of these young women was not, in this case, simply another example of entitled Notre Dame students participating in the kind of self-praise they’re known for (hence the chant common among our students at football games, you’ll work for us one day). Rather, in this instance, it is entirely possible that these Notre Dame women were sacrificing these Belles of Saint Mary’s to distinguish themselves from the primary cultural script that women are often forced to adopt. You are not smart. You are not beautiful enough. You are not attractive to men. You are not.

Of course, Saint Mary’s women are not responsible for this narrative. Advertisers, popular culture, film and television: these are the carriers of this script. Yet, it is hard to blame a nameless advertising firm for depicting every woman as a consumable object for our gaze. It’s hard to blame a media production company that continually depicts women as sexually promiscuous, prone to jump into bed with every man. It’s hard to defeat that cultural script, which lauds men for their sexual prowess, yet refers to women who date too much as “whores and sluts.” It’s much easier to direct our vitriol against those who we have access to. In this case, the women of Saint Mary’s College.

LewisHallWhat to do? It is atrocious to continue this sacrifice of violence, to blame other women for the ongoing telling of this script. Saint Mary’s women are not responsible for violence against women. Every time a Notre Dame woman repeats well worn phrases regarding Saint Mary’s students’ intellect, every time that she views these women as “competitors” in a game of attracting the attention of men (often not worth much time in the first first), she continues to perpetuate the very cycle of violence that she seeks to escape. Violence begets violence begets violence.

Instead, it is only the unbloody, Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church that can release us from this violence. In the Eucharistic rites, we encounter the supreme victim, Jesus Christ, who redeems us from this violence. We encounter a way of being human defined not by our sexual prowess or intellectual gifts but by the way of self-giving love. We cease using language of blame, violent words that pierce the soul, and take up instead the language of praise and adoration directed to God.

The piece by Ms. Drinkall shined a dark light upon relationships between women at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College. This outbreak of hidden violence will not be healed unless exposed as the falsehood it is. It is a form of violence that reduces the other person to less than human in order to raise oneself up. The cure for this is to recognize that in Christ’s unbloody sacrifice in the Eucharist, another narrative of human flourishing is available. A narrative in which each of us recognizes our own responsibility for violence in the world, throwing ourselves upon God’s own mercy. And through the peace of this sacrifice of praise, we find ourselves no longer divided by those divisions that we created ourselves in order to feel better about our own self in the first place. Instead, we become one body, one city of Eucharistic peace, meant to sacrifice our very lives for the salvation of the world. As Aidan Kavanagh writes:

The Christian assembly is equipped for such a frightful ministry with no more nor less power than that with which Jesus the Christ came to the same ministry in the days of his flesh. It is what his Body corporate is here for. In him, and according to his example and no other, the Christian assembly is obliged to do its best. It was in the doing of his own best that he laid down his life for the life of the world–not in cynical disgust or in limp passivity before the Human Problem, but for love of those who caused the Problem in the first place. His Church can do no less. The Church doing the world as God means it to be done in Christ is the greatest prophecy, the most powerful exorcism, of all (On Liturgical Theology, 176).

Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students must work together to doDorm Mass in Lyons Hall the world right. Perhaps, the first step, is to join together regularly not to head out to the bars or to assemble in the football stadium. But to pray around the Eucharistic altar, practicing not a sacrifice of blame, but a self-offering of a wounded heart that seeks to participate in the redemption of the world.




Christ’s Love Gathers Us: A Series on Dorm Masses (Non-Catholic Students)


Samuel Bellafiore

Music, Philosophy ’15

Undergraduate Fellow
According to Admissions, 83% of Notre Dame students are Catholic. Many Protestant or non-Christian students worship at various sites in the South Bend area. Some find a spiritual home at their dorm’s weekly Mass. This second part in our ongoing series on dorm Masses features insights from two such students. Carmen from Pasquerilla East Hall and Joe from Stanford Hall, both seniors, offer a frank and striking perspective on dorm spiritual life.

 When did you start attending Sunday Mass in your dorm? Why?

Carmen: I started attending Sunday dorm Mass about halfway through the first semester of my Freshman year. I didn’t really have a faith community on campus that I was part of up to that point, and I’d been starving for some connection to God. I believe it was sometime in October that I went to my first dorm Mass because I’d been going through a lot with my roommate and with my classes.

Joe: Freshman year. I attend church regularly at home, and dorm Mass was a convenient way to continue doing so while in community with my brothers in the dorm.

How often do you go?

Carmen: I go to Mass almost weekly. There are things that get in the way at times, but I try to make it a point to be there every Sunday night.

Joe: Every Sunday.

Why do you attend? Are there particular aspects of your experience of Mass that make you want to return? Any that discourage you from returning?

Carmen: Part of the reason I attend is the liturgy. I really enjoy the music experience—I am a cantor and choir member in PE. The other part is the community. I feel an incredibly strong sense of connection to my fellow members of PE, as well as to the greater community of Notre Dame. Another aspect is the homilies. In PE we had a priest-in-residence until this year, and seeing Fr. Tom at every dorm Mass and having him bless me during the Eucharist every week was a special blessing in and of itself.

Joe: I attend because I like the sense of brotherhood, the break at the end/start of my week to refresh my connection with God, and the homilies provided by Frs. Bill and Pete. The thing that has nearly dissuaded me from continuing to attend is a negative response from some other attendees in the dorm, who for some reason seem to think I’m not truly welcome at a Catholic Mass as a non-Catholic, even though I don’t partake in communion. It’s also frustrating that I only can partake in communion when I go home for breaks.

Chapel of the Visitation, Walsh Hall

What do you see as the point of having Mass in your dorm?

Carmen: Each dorm on campus is like a small parish, and each parish needs its own place in which to worship together as a community. It brings together the people in the dorm who are confident in their faith, and those who maybe are still going through the motions. It allows us to take a break from our lives and focus, at least for that hour, solely on Jesus with the women—and occasionally men—who are a part of our community on a daily basis. It allows us to see the
faith-filled women who populate our community as children of God. Further, as someone who is not Catholic, it gave me a safe space to experience the Mass. I could ask questions of Sr. Cindy and Fr. Tom, or of my peers and I knew that I would not be judged, but welcomed. By the end of his time in PE, Fr. Tom knew that I was coming to receive the blessing instead of the Eucharist, and he did not even pick up the host. Dorm Masses are a place where those participating in the Mass and those celebrating the Mass come together in true community.

Joe: Mass in the dorm is Notre Dame’s way of encouraging students to continue and reminding students of the school’s unique Catholic heritage. Many students would fall to the wayside if the only options for them were off campus or at the Basilica. Additionally, the Basilica wouldn’t be able to have enough Masses on a Sunday to allow all the Catholic students attending the university to partake.

Has anyone in the dorm ever encouraged you to attend Mass? How? Discouraged you from going? How?

Carmen: My former rectress, Sr. Cindy, as well as many of the members of my dorm encouraged me to come to Mass throughout my freshman year. Though my attendance that year was more sporadic, I knew because of their encouragement that I was welcomed.

Joe: Nobody has really ever specifically encouraged me to attend Mass, but that’s largely a function of me attending regularly from since my first weekend on campus. I have been discouraged from going as a function of being made to not feel welcome by particular individuals of the community, who have confronted me about not being Catholic. I’m very willing to talk about my Christian faith with people, but when certain individuals act like A) Catholics are superior to all other Christians, B) non-Catholics aren’t Christian, or C) non-Catholic Christians have no place in a Catholic community, it is very frustrating to me. It goes strongly against the core of what I believe being a Christian is all about, and it is frustrating to be confronted in a non-Christian manner that suggests that I’m in some way not a true Christian.

What do you think of the music at your dorm Mass? Does it affect your experience? Preaching?

Chapel of St. Catherine of Siena, Pasquerilla East Hall

Carmen: Music is an integral part of Mass for me, and in PE I’m lucky enough to participate in the music as a cantor and member of the choir. I love the mixture of traditional hymns and “Notre Dame” classics. Music was the way in which I was first able to experience the joy of the liturgy. I had no understanding of genuflection, bowing before the altar, crossing oneself, or many of the other practices of the liturgy that are now commonplace, but music was the way in which I was able to experience the Mass. The preaching at Mass is also a very important part of the liturgy for me. Coming from a United Methodist background, I was surprised by the brevity of the homily in the service. The best part about that preaching, however, is that even though the homilies are briefer than the sermons I was used to before coming to Notre Dame, they are more directly relevant to my experiences because they are directed at college students.

Joe: The music my first two years was phenomenal. Last year and this year our choir has been less prominent and we’ve had a little less variety in our instrumentation. Music is often my favorite part of Masses/services back home, and is when I feel most strongly connected to my faith. The preaching since Father Bill and Father Pete took over our Masses has been awesome.

Do you think other dorm residents have opinions about Mass similar to yours? When people in the dorm don’t attend Mass, why do you think that is?

Carmen: I know that there are small complaints that happen—the songs are too high, why do we have to hold hands with everyone during the Lord’s Prayer?—but I also truly believe that those who come to Mass in PE truly enjoy it. Those who don’t attend Mass, I think, fall into two categories: those of other/non-faiths and those exercising new freedoms. In the former group, I think that they feel as though they will not be welcomed or that they will be confused. In the latter case, I think that they are simply exercising the freedom to not go to Mass and then they get into a bad habit, or stop believing.

Joe: I think other people have fairly similar opinions; however, a lot of them have a different awareness of the Mass because I’m coming from the experience of growing up in a non-Catholic home. There are many people in the dorm who aren’t religious, only claim a religion because their parents follow it, or attend non-Catholic churches off campus.

Are there snacks after your Sunday Mass or other practices particular to your dorm? Do you think this/these encourage people to attend?

Carmen: There are snacks on special occasions (near exam time, senior sendoff, etc.) but not on a regular basis after Sunday or website_photo_candlelight_massWednesday Mass. We do have Candlelight Mass on Wednesdays which, unlike other dorms, includes a sharing of the Light of Christ which is a beautiful tradition.

Joe: I don’t think people attend because of our Sunday Mass Snacks. We have a lot of ice cream/soda float style desserts after our Sunday Masses, but it’s fairly inconsistent. Our Thursday Masses are “Nacho Mass,” which I think definitely has higher attendance and encourages more people to attend.

If you could improve one thing at your Sunday dorm Mass, what would it be?

Carmen: I would love to have a larger choir with singers who are not just sopranos, or more LMs and EMs so that there is more variety in who is seen at dorm Mass.

Joe: It would include more fabulous singing.