Recognize Any Of These?
Notre Dame, like many religiously affiliated universities, doesn't actually require its students to be Catholic. There are plenty of other reasons students might want to go to a school that operates under the banner of a specific creed: location, sports, a unique program, and so on.
If you're considering a Catholic school, here's a list of things that are totally normal parts of campus life. And if you went to a Catholic college, I'm sure you'll recognize most of these.
You Call Some of Your Professors "Father"
Oh, and you live with them too. Priests and nuns often oversee dorms, living in a cozy first-floor suite and valiantly tuning out some of the college-age drama unfolding around them.
My favorite priest-teacher was an art professor I had, Father Martin. I took a Drawing class with my roommate, where we were treated to his unorthodox approach to art. For the first two weeks we weren't even allowed to open our eyes when drawing.
Then we had to hold our pencils like wands, making little marks instead of lines: "Imagine your pencil is a teeny, tiny ant, crawling across the page," Father Martin instructed.
Father Martin was awesome.
You Know An Aspiring Nun Or Priest
Except - oh, snap! - your school's not going to give you the option. Fridays in the dining halls were a choice of fish or fish, with some pasta.
I actually think it makes perfect sense so many people find the person they want to spend their lives with during college. You're in a place where many people share the same upbringing, ambitions, and value system you operate under.
That being said, I ran fast and far when I sensed someone was looking to wife me after one dinner at the Olive Garden.
Jesus Is Watching You Learn, Eat, Sleep...
I should mention, in all seriousness, that there's something nice about an atmosphere where students can pray openly before a meal, a football game, or even a test.
Mass AnYtime, AnyWhere: Pajamas Optional
Our dorm's rectress, Sister C, had a little dog who used to pace in front of the alter, snorting and scurrying at the priest's feet as he delivered the homily.
Plenty of people showed up in their pajamas, along with their boyfriends since here mass counts as a date.
Then after mass everyone adjourns to the basement to eat cake and ice cream.
So, really, these will be the best mass experiences of your life. You can wear elastic-waist pants, sit on the floor, and expect snacks afterwards.
No Drinking Allowed...Except BehinD Closed Doors
So, everyone drank in their dorm rooms with beer they'd smuggled in a backpack from the parking lot.
In other words, the real rule was, "Don't Get Caught."
People Who Are Annoyed By How Catholic The Catholic University Is
I'm just going to state the obvious here: you knowingly applied to and enrolled in a Catholic university. So, expect and accept that some Catholicky things are going to happen.
Just One Of Many Options
Just remember: many non-Catholic students have a great time at a Catholic university, while some Catholic students want to go elsewhere. That's fine. Figure out what's important to you in a school and apply somewhere that has all the academic and social outlets you think you need - Catholic or not.