A Day of Reflection

I have been working on getting some type of blog set up and figuring out the right time to “release” it to my friends and family. Today is that day! I apologize if this one is long but this one is very dear to my heart (and I had a very hard time narrowing down the pictures). Since we have begun our adventure a couple of months ago, we have already seen a lot and experienced more than we imagined. Two days ago, we toured the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN. I love tours and learning the history of a particular place. We were immersed in the college culture and the love of their campus with random shouts of “Go Irish!” as our tour group passed by. Anyone who knows my family knows we are GERMAN and do not care for the Irish. (They celebrate drinking beer one day a year but the Germans celebrate the entire month of October….we win!).

The campus has 3 items around campus which all have a lighthearted references to football. Unfortunately, I did not capture a photo of the iconic “First Down Moses”

Father William Corby, a Union Army chaplain in the American Civil war, served as the university’s president twice. His statue is referred to as “Fair Catch Corby”
On the south side of the Hesburgh Library is a 132 foot mosaic mural based on Millard Sheet’s painting, The Word of Life. Jesus’ face is 9 stories high, and the mural contains 80 different types of stone material from 16 countries and over 5,700 individual pieces. This mural can be seen from inside the football stadium and is infamously referred to as “Touchdown Jesus”.

We learned a lot of interesting facts about the campus. Over 80% of the student population is Catholic, and 93% identify as Christian. The University recognizes students of all religious backgrounds and supports their choice to worship off-campus by offering transportation to services and a very large campus ministry program for all faiths. Mass is celebrated over 100 times per week and the ND staff has 100+ priests who are assigned to the campus. There are 57 chapels on campus, including one chapel in each of the 31 residence halls.

Now that we have covered a little of the University’s history, I would like to share something that drew me back to the campus today. I felt this was a perfect way to introduce my blog, RefreshedandBlessed. Today I NEEDED some time to meditate and pray. I returned to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Coincidentally, our son, Christian, attended Sacred Heart school in McSherrystown, PA which was attached to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the oldest Catholic Church in America built of stone). I had a short private tour by Carol before confession and mass. I was in complete awe of the history, the beauty, and a few things I learned. Did you know cardinals cannot be buried?

The Basilica contains 44 stained glass windows, including 114 life-sized pictures of saints. The windows were designed and produced by the Carmelite nuns in the 1870’s – 1880’s in Le Mans, France. It is believe that the University of Notre Dame’s Basilica houses the worlds largest collection of Le Mans stained glass.

From the Notre Dame campus guide: There are three things that you need to keep in mind about this Basilica. (1) it is a work of art; (2) it is a landmark that has become both a place of pilgrimage and a tourist attraction; and (3) it is first and foremost a house of God. This is Notre Dame’s mother church, the campus’s premier place of worship, and the greatest physical manifestation of the faith that underpins the university.

This beautiful piece is called “The Death of Mary”. Mary is seen on the left on her deathbed.

Luigi Gregori, the Italian artist of Blessed Pius IX’s papal household was sent to ND for a 3 year residency to paint the Basilica. He ended up staying at the University for 17 years and became the school’s professor of art.

“The Death of St. Joseph”. Gregori incorporated family, faculty, and students to serve as models in many of his paintings. Since there is very limited documentation about St. Joseph in Jesus’ adulthood, Gregori used Father Edward Sorin’s (founder of the University of Notre Dame) face for St. Joseph’s.
The Basilica holds three altars, this being the third altar housed in the Lady Chapel. This baroque altar is stunning! It was created by Italian Giovanni Bernini and his students in Rome. Of note, all the gold in the Basilica is 23.9 karat gold. It is believed to be the only altar created by Bernini. During mass the lights were lowered in this chapel and my eyes were drawn to the illuminated Blessed Mother.
Because of Bernini, Gregori, and the nuns of Le Mans, France, all the works in the Basilica were Italian and French works of art. It is said that a group of Irish students petitioned to have an Irish painting incorporated into the church. Gregori reluctantly oversaw the works of the students and the painting was completed. St. Patrick is seen on the left holding a shamrock as big as his head. Unbeknownst to the artists, the school would later become known as the Fighting Irish.
This painting depicts our Holy Mother appearing to St Bernadette in Lourdes, France.
Father Sorin had the French Gothic Main Altar made in Paris. This work of art is an exquisite piece representing the New Jerusalem with turrets, battlements, walls, gates, and doors. It is topped by a beautiful spire surrounded by a multitude of angels and the Lamb of God with a cross and a flag at the top of the cross.  In the center of this masterpiece (the blue door) the Tree of Life with twelve rubies signifies the twelve apostles. The tabernacle tower holds the reserved Blessed Sacrament.


This chapel holds many significant relics including relics of the twelve Apostles, a hair clipping of St. Teresa of Calcutta, a piece of manger from Jesus’ birth, and a piece of the True Cross, the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.


On January 17th, 1992, Pope John Paul II raised the designator of the Church of the Sacred Heart to Minor basilica. This designator is due to the church’s antiquity, dignity, historical importance, and devotion. There are currently 85 basilicas in the United States. They are honored with a tintinnabulum and an ombrellino, displayed near the altar.

The ombrellino.
The tintinnabulum is adorned with the insignia of the Roman Pontiff and the coast of arms of the Basilica.


I spent some time after mass in the Grotto. Praying the rosary, which I received from a dear friend over 10 years ago. Ironically, my rosary is made from the rose petals left at the Grotto in Lourdes, France and to this day it has a very strong rose scent. The Grotto is a replica 1/7th the size of the one in Lourdes, France. Rock from the original Lourdes grotto is incorporated in this peaceful spot. Students and faculty, as well as visitors come here regularly to light votive candles, especially before exams and football games. There were many people here while I was visiting. [The rosary is prayed here every day of the year, rain or shine]. I was very impressed with the number of students and faculty in the Basilica and at the Grotto, just dropping by for confession or a few moments in prayer.

One last piece of trivia about the Grotto…Back in 1985 the Grotto was badly damaged from a massive fire. It was the first football game of the season and the Irish were facing off against Michigan State. About 1,500 candles were lit and the heat was so intense, the plastic candle holders melted and burst into flames. The rocks were charred, as well as the statue of The Virgin Mary. Those on campus who remember this fire also remember who won the game—Notre Dame.(credit: http://www.WNDU.com)

What a beautiful place where you can just shut out the rest of the world and be one with our Lord.

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