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The Chapels of Notre Dame: A Q&A with Vice President Dr. Affleck-Graves

Do students have leadership over the chapels in the residence halls, or is there a priest in charge?

It's a mix of both. We try to have a religious person—a priest—in residency in every hall, and many halls have three or four priests living with the students. So they take the liturgical leadership, but the music and the timing of the Mass will be taken by the students.

What is your favorite chapel on campus and why?

The Log Chapel; Photo by Matt Cashore

My favorite chapel is the Log Chapel. My three granddaughters were all baptized in that chapel, so it has a very special place in my heart. It's a small, very intimate chapel, wonderful for those family occasions.

What's the history of the Log Chapel?

The Log Chapel was actually built in the very early 1830s by a priest, Father Badin. He had about an 80-mile parish and he'd ride around on horseback. He built this log chapel as one of the places he resided. When the University was founded in 1842, it became the residence for Father Sorin and his Holy Cross brother companions.

It was the first building and chapel on the campus. It burnt down in 1856 and was rebuilt in the early 1900s.

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What are some of your other favorite stories from the various chapels on campus?

Our Lady of Sorrows Window; Photo by Matt Cashore There are many beautiful chapels on campus. I love the iconography in the new chapel in the Stinson-Remick Engineering Hall. The stained glass windows in there reflect the seasons. Spring is Saint Joseph, and if you look carefully, he's holding a lily for his love of Mary. Our Lady of Sorrows—she is summer and she is behind the altar with roses all around here, but her crown has seven stars in it for her seven sorrows and she has a tiny tear on her cheek . . . it's just a beautiful chapel.

How many artisans have been connected to these chapels over the years?

I would say hundreds. With fifty-six chapels, there are many different styles. Some of the chapels have beautiful woodworking, and almost all of them have stained glass of various styles. So, hundreds and hundreds of artists.

You've named your favorite chapel on campus. Is there a favorite chapel among students?

I think for every student their dorm chapel, their home chapel, is their favorite one. Another very popular chapel is Dillon Chapel. We have a Mass there on Thursday nights called the Milkshake Mass, because Father Doyal makes milkshakes for the students after Mass. That's become a very popular chapel.

What is the oldest chapel on campus?

The oldest chapel in its original state was built in 1843, Old College Chapel. That chapel now houses all of the young students studying for the priesthood.

Do you see a shift artistically with the newer chapels that reflects a more modern aesthetic?

No, I think it comes and it goes. In the '70s, '80s, and '90s a lot of the chapels were what I would call more modern, a little bit more in the round for instance. And now the chapels are going back to being a little more traditional. With each different building we try to think what would work best for that particular facility.

When you gather all your students together next week for the beginning of the fall semester, where will your hold your opening Mass?

We open the school year with a big opening day Mass on the first Tuesday of the academic year. And we have a large baccalaureate Mass on graduation weekend. For those Masses we don't have a chapel facility that holds that many people, so we hold them in an arena. There are 8000-10,000 people at those Masses and they are very special. Very, very formal—a hundred priests on the altar, lots of incense, very formal music, and just a very moving Mass.

Do you think this book is for Notre Dame graduates only, or is it for a larger audience? What do you hope people take away from the book?

I think the book is for everybody. It's for anybody who is interested in the spiritual life of Notre Dame, of course, but more broadly, it's about how the spiritual life can integrate with everything that you do, and how it just melds into who you are as a person. As Father John says, one of the most important things in our faith is how we practice it. This book is a living document of how one community practices their faith.

Visit the Patheos Book Club for more from The Chapels of Notre Dame, including a photo gallery, and a video about the book.


8/15/2012 4:00:00 AM
Deborah Arca
Deborah Arca
Deborah Arca is the former Director of Content at Patheos. Prior to joining Patheos, Deborah managed the Programs in Christian Spirituality at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, including the Program's renowned spiritual direction program and the nationally-renowned Lilly-funded Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project. Deborah has also been a youth minister, a director of music and theatre programs for children and teens, and a music minister. Deborah belongs to a progressive United Church of Christ church in Englewood, CO.