by Elizabeth Boyle
Student Body President, University of Notre Dame
“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.” ~Isaiah 54:10
At the University of Notre Dame, there seem to be two important seasons: football season and Easter season. The first brings fans from all over the world for a few months of cheering on the Irish, getting a seat at the dining hall’s candlelight dinner, and wearing “The Shirt”. Easter Season invokes something different. The permacloud lifts for the first time allowing the tulips to bloom, students do their homework in hammocks on South Quad, and lines for the Easter Vigil Mass begin to form.
Even before I was a student at Notre Dame I knew that the Easter Vigil was a big deal. My freshman year I was asked to lector the Vigil Mass – a true surprise for a first year. Though the Mass starts at 9pm, students, faculty, and community members line up as early as 4pm in the hopes of getting a seat and joining in the celebration. As I walk around campus this week, however, I see the sun and the tulips but the hammocks are nowhere to be found and the doors to the Basilica are sealed.
In reflecting on the readings for this Easter Vigil, these words from Isaiah jumped out to me:
“Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord, who has mercy on you.”
In times of unprecedented turmoil, like we find ourselves in now, it is all too easy to assume that God has deserted us. As I walk around my now empty campus, I cannot help but feeling slightly abandoned. At every other moment in my life I knew I could always walk into my dorm chapel, my local church, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to be with Christ. This is the first time in my life, and many of our lives, where we cannot be with Him, a time when we cannot receive Communion. What Isaiah tells us this week, however, is to do avoid doing just that. We must avoid thinking that God has abandoned us because it is just the opposite. As we hear in the Epistle, it is just in those earth-shattering, mountain-moving moments that Christ can most radiantly be seen.
The readings for this week challenge us to look for God’s love in new places. With Churches closed and Easter masses taking the form of livestreaming, we must work harder to see God’s grace at play. For me and my peers, this has come in many forms. Some of my favorite stories have been about friends who started a podcast to focus on positive things happening around them. Another group of peers who are hosting a virtual social justice book club to keep each other engaged in making the world a better place. Or even my own friend group who planned a surprise Zoom call to celebrate our friend who finished her thesis. For my family back home in New York, these “God moments” have been when members of the local fire department dropped off medical masks, old friends drive by the house just to wave, and the sun comes out long enough for my parents to take my dog on a long walk.
The landscape of our lives may have radically shifted, but that in no way means that God is no longer present. I believe that by accompanying others during this difficult time, we will experience God’s love. We wait for the entire year to celebrate Christ’s resurrection and this year does not have to be any different. Simple things like calling an old friend, dropping off a meal at your neighbor’s house, or offering to go grocery shopping for older family members are the perfect way to remind ourselves of God’s ever present love.
Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, a priest, mentor, and the past president of the University of Notre Dame, is known for saying this: “Let us agree that we shall never forget one another, and whatever happens, remember how good it felt when we were all here together, united by a good and decent feeling, which made us better people — better probably than we would otherwise have been.”
This Easter Vigil let us remember that God will never desert us and that the time will come very soon when we can join together again in prayer in churches, chapels, and basilicas. Until that time comes though, let us reach out to each other, recognizing that by actively loving one another, we will experience God all around us.
Elizabeth Boyle is a senior at the University of Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and International Peace Studies. She serves as the 2019-2020 Student Body President and is interested in pursuing a career in interreligious peacebuilding.