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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Observer Editorial: God, Country, Notre Dame

The story of Notre Dame’s founding is ingrained in students’ minds soon after — and sometimes before — arriving on campus for Welcome Weekend. It is a story of inspiration and vision, with our founder, Fr. Edward Sorin, famously proclaiming:

“This college will be one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country.”

From the minute he spoke those words, Fr. Sorin gave the charge: Notre Dame was to be an unmatched force for good.

Years later — 175, to be exact — both the world and Notre Dame’s campus look very different, but the mission and vision of Fr. Sorin have not changed.

With our campus undergoing almost constant evolution and advancement, particularly surrounding football culture, it can be easy for us die-hard Notre Dame football fans to orient our hearts and minds farther away from the heart of campus — the place we call God Quad — and closer to the growing enormity that is Notre Dame Stadium, manifested in the new, towering Campus Crossroads.

As one of Notre Dame’s newest — and certainly largest — multi-million dollar projects, Campus Crossroads represents a great feat for the University, creating a number of new opportunities for students, faculty and other members of the community. Recently, it has become the new star of Notre Dame promotional videos, giving the stadium — and, consequently, football — higher precedence than ever before. While we recognize, and are grateful for, the numerous possibilities this new tool makes available to us as a school and a community, we must also recognize that it is just that: a tool.

We urge you, fellow Domers, to remember why we receive the more intangible gifts we have at this University. They are a means to an end, and that end is the betterment of the world in which we live.

There is a reason why the Golden Dome, the Hesburgh Library and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart cause us to stop and stare for a moment: They stand as visual pillars of the Notre Dame tradition that brings pride to our community — a tradition of active moral integrity that we are tasked, as members of this great institution, with striving for in every aspect of our lives.

Football is an undeniably important part of our culture. As Fr. Hesburgh once said, “There is no academic virtue in playing mediocre football and no academic vice in winning a game that by all odds one should lose ... There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God.”

This game, however, is not what Our Lady’s University was founded upon, nor should it be what it is remembered for.

In the recently created “Moreau First Year Experience” course, which all freshmen are required to take, the five pillars of Moreau are taught to students. These pillars are: zeal, family, hope, mind and heart. The course presents these as the foundational qualities that all Notre Dame students should strive to both possess and embody.

The pillars are defined as zeal for academic and moral excellence that leads to good works; hope that trusts in God’s plan and promise; mind that seeks to reason and understand the lives and beliefs of others; heart to discern what course of action will best serve the human race; and family that encourages one another to keep their minds and hearts directed toward achieving lifelong moral formation within both themselves and the world.

In the midst of constant construction, increased grandeur and a fresh football season, we write to you today, Notre Dame community, to encourage you to keep these pillars at the center of your life, and work to actively allow them to guide you in all of your endeavors. To remind ourselves that it is the light emanating from the golden shine of Our Lady atop the Dome or the tabernacle within the Basilica which represent the heart of this campus, not the lights that will be shining on the field Saturday against Georgia.

As students at the University, we are gifted with many new and advanced amenities meant to encourage us to achieve excellence in both athletics and academics within our community. But at the end of the day, it is not the comfort and grandeur of these gifts that we must bask in. As Notre Dame students, faculty and alumni, we are charged to use these tools as a means of changing the world we live in for the better.

Here at Notre Dame, we learn and grow with the expectation that we will then share our gifts with those in need in the most rational, moral and well-educated way possible. As members of the Notre Dame family, this Editorial Board encourages every student, alumnus and faculty member to keep his or her heart and mind firmly on the expectation and values Notre Dame was founded upon — the ones embodied by the very buildings housed on God Quad.

Our pride for our University, its athletic teams and its beauty are important. But at the end of the day, we call each and every member of the Notre Dame community to remember the order of the three famous words Fr. Sorin engraved above the East entrance of the Basilica 169 years ago: “God, Country, Notre Dame.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.