Prayer Room Dedication

“This room is a miracle.”

 

Those were the words I heard near the end of the dedication of the new prayer room in Jenkins-Nanovic Halls on Monday, February 19th.  

 

It opened in prayer, but it didn’t sound like most of the prayer we hear on campus.

Three prayers of thanksgiving, spoken in three languages, with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish prayers of gratitude.

The prayers were given by A. Rashied Omar, Research Professor of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding, Tzvi Novick, Associate Professor and Abrams Chair of Jewish Thought and Culture, and Maxwell Johnson, Professor of Liturgical Studies.  

 

All of them gave a brief reflection and mini-lecture about their faith traditions, and the role of thanksgiving in them.  They shared how they pray and cited holy texts and scholars from their traditions.  I couldn’t help but be amazed.  The group that gathered together was small, as the space is, but this service was opened by Father Jenkins and attended by many in Campus Ministry.

 

Across the hall from this space is the All Saints Chapel, one that was opened at the start of the year in the traditional Notre Dame way, with a mass.  But even that space was dedicated to pairs of saints from each of the six populated continents.  Two new sacred spaces in one building, in one year.  

A miracle.

 

The new prayer room is a plain space, pretty simple. But it matters.

 

Unlike most of the sacred spaces on campus, this one lacks art on the walls, which is exponentially helpful for those whose faith calls them to pray without anything close to an icon.  The Catholic tradition of illustrating and trying to comprehend God in art is not really helpful when a plain prayer space is what you need.  

 

There’s a screen for privacy and a sink for washing. There are a ton of cabinets holding copies of prayer books, cushions, and mats.  There are hooks on the wall if someone wants to hang up a non-crucifix cross.  There are chairs, benches, and a podium.  There are two arrows in the ground, one with English and Arabic pointing to Mecca and the other with Hebrew and English pointing East toward Jerusalem.

It’s a new room, in the home of the Keough School for Global Affairs, trying to be a little more universal.  Of just the new class of freshman, 19% are not Catholic. These students are already here. The space has such possibility, hopefully meeting the needs of these students.

 

As the invitation to this prayer service, and oft-sung Christian hymn stated “all are welcome.”

Now I hope everyone feels a little more welcome.

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