|Saint Irenaeus once wrote words to the effect that the summit of God’s creation is a man or woman fully alive in Christ. The reference is to a person who is serious about pursuing holiness in response to God’s unconditional love for them. Irenaeus is not talking only about Cistercian monks, martyrs of centuries ago, or Discalced Carmelite nuns, but about any man or woman. You do not have to be old to be holy. In fact, young people are more apt to be serious disciples of Jesus Christ than many others. Why? Because young people (Notre Dame undergraduates, for example) can give themselves over to a cause with a passion which springs from being young and from being idealistic in the most realistic sense of that term.
Almost every time he was in the presence of young people, the late Pope John Paul II was not only apparently connecting with them easily, and them with him, but he also urged young people not to be afraid. He did not want them to be afraid of a real commitment to Jesus Christ, to the Gospel or to the Church. He did not want them to be afraid of what others may think of them, including their peers, if they appeared to "march to a different drummer" – even if that "drummer" was Jesus Christ. He did not want young people to be afraid to become fully alive in Jesus. He did not want young people to be afraid to be men and women of God.
No matter who you are – student, member of the faculty or staff or even a casual visitor to Campus – you do not have to spend too much time at Notre Dame before you are struck and impressed with the incredible young men and women who make up our undergraduate student body. They seem to be able to accomplish anything they put their minds to. Indeed, these young people are here because they are serious about the goals they set for themselves, and enter fully into every aspect of student life, whether it be studies, sports, spirituality, or social life.
Some students come to Notre Dame because this seems to be their destiny. Perhaps a parent, grandparent or sibling came here, and Notre Dame naturally became their dream from the very beginning. Many students will tell you that the Catholic character of Notre Dame was important to their decision. And many state that a desire to deepen their faith and grow in their understanding of the role God, the Church and faith plays in their lives. Dorm Masses are perhaps the first place, after the many statues, places and symbols that raise hearts and minds to God, where young people’s inner hunger for God is realized and appreciated here at Notre Dame.
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