“Catholic Disneyland” was a term that I heard tossed around during my first couple of weeks on Notre Dame’s campus. Initially, I laughed at the idea. Sure, there are statues of Jesus dispersed on campus and crucifixes in every classroom, but don’t all Catholic/Jesuit schools have that?
While the answer to the prior question is yes, Notre Dame is definitely a school like no other in terms of Catholicism.
I grew up Catholic, I attended Sunday School, made my first communion and was confirmed in High School; but oftentimes, I feel as though this is not enough in comparison to my peers on campus. Despite my Catholic upbringing, Church was usually on a biweekly or a “whenever you can get there,” schedule. I never felt insecure about my relationship with Catholicism until I truly started living the Notre Dame life.
I would say the most apparent example of insecurity comes with the weekly masses within my dorm. When I am able to make the 9 pm mass down the hall, I enjoy myself. However, at 9 pm on a Sunday, I most often find myself bunkered down somewhere in Hes. This, in itself, is another source of conflict – are those who are able to make it to mass on a Sunday inherently better Catholics than me? Am I able to make up the difference?
Secondly – Sex. The idea and especially the action is a big taboo in the Catholic faith and therefore can be a touchy subject on campus. Personally, I learned about sex in the 4th grade and immediately had a conversation with my mother about it when I got home. Additionally, as a part of our sex-ed in high school, we listened to J. Cole’s “Wet Dreamz,” only to later talk about how relevant and realistic his lyrics were (granted, I went to an independently-owned boarding school, so we had a bit more freedom in the materials we covered in class). Nonetheless, experiences like these tend to make me forget that a good portion of my peers had limited to no school-sponsored sex-ed because they attended Catholic schools. Obviously, people have different levels of comfort when it comes about talking about such an intimate topic, but the idea of sex and the Catholic restrictions behind it is definitely portrayed on campus. The most obvious reason being parietals.
While I understand that parietals help maintain the sense of community and comfort within a given dorm, they also severely restrict the relationships formed between the genders. I have several great guy friends on campus, but due to parietals, they are not welcome in my room past the hours of midnight and 2 am on weekends. I decided to go into this topic due to the personal conflict that I tend to have – am I a bad Catholic for thinking pre-marital sex is not terrible? What if I think parietals are a bit outdated?
Finally, I sometimes find myself lost in terms of academics whenever religion is brought up. Again, I attended Sunday School and was confirmed, but this did not even scratch the surface for what I was to expect in my Foundations of Theology. It was here that I actually learned what a prophet and proverb were. For the initial reading assignments in my first theology class, I became distraught because I didn’t even know how to find the assigned reading within the Bible. How was I supposed to “compare” myself to those around me who could name their favorite bible passages word for word?
I recognize that I had the choice in attending Notre Dame, and this piece might sound like I am hesitant in my decision – this is NOT the case. I love this school more than I ever knew was possible. By coming here, I was able to gain knowledge in fields I thought I was already well-versed in. There are times I struggle with my personal place in the Catholic faith, but I must remember that that faith is multifaceted – ultimately, whatever works best for you should be your focus.