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Beauty that belongs to God



This month, we interviewed Ellie Knapp (TBP ’23), a rising senior from Juneau, Alaska, studying Marketing and the Program of Liberal Studies in the Business Honors Program at the University of Notre Dame. As a research assistant for Mendoza Behavioral Research, an intern for the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, a climbing wall attendant, and a volunteer tutor, Ellie surely engages her whole self–mind, body, and spirit. 


TBP: Ellie, can you please describe your FIAT project? 


EK: The aim of my FIAT project – simply put – is to represent beauty as belonging to God and share it with others. I have found that the delights of the natural world and everyday life can distract from God as the real source of life and goodness behind everything. 


I have been attempting to fulfill my FIAT project through photography, allowing me to both serve others by capturing important moments in their lives and share these images of goodness with others who may not recognize it as such.



TBP: How would you describe the TBP experience? Can you recall a particular moment or story from your trip that you will never forget?


EK: The TBP experience was a whirlwind of learning, grace, and constant prayer. I felt the call to holiness far deeper than I had ever before through the merits of John and Ashley’s guidance and the experience of being in the Eternal City.

 

One particular moment stands out to me from my experience. In recollecting it, I am reminded that Saint Augustine famously wrote “my heart is restless until it rests in you.” I was wandering back to the hotel one evening, cross that my feet ached from marching tens of thousands of steps across the city. The heat of the day had just started to slip away with the sinking sun, allowing my raw skin to finally begin registering the toll that overexposure to the hot midday sun had extracted.


I finally reached the edge of the Vatican City, relieved to finally have a place to sit and recollect myself before I continued on. As I rested on the hot stones, the fountain lights flickered to life while the saints watched from above, and a soft breeze carried the laughter and familiar voices of tourists. No, not tourists—pilgrims. Pilgrims who had come from all over the world to pray at the Holy City and be welcomed into the architectural arms of Christ who tells us, “Come to me, all you that are weary…and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). I watched innumerable pilgrims filter in and out of Saint Peter's Square for hours, fascinated. They were happy and sad, lay and religious, young and old; patient and irritated.


And I was one of them. One of many. One of countless souls, each with a unique task, unanimously called to serve, love, and be loved by Christ. What an honor; what a gift it is to see one’s own smallness in the glory of God’s creation. To know with complete certainty that I, His little daughter, am loved beyond compare, and that they are too.


TBP: Can you give an example of some things/ideas/skills you gained from TBP that you still use now?


EK: TBP did an excellent job teaching me the importance of orienting my life and work to God. Immersed in the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Rome, I learned how deeply faith can influence and enhance every aspect of life. This orientation has been transformative, encouraging me to integrate my faith into my daily routines and creative endeavors. Witnessing the seamless blend of faith, art, and community in Rome inspired me to pursue my FIAT project with a sense of purpose, aiming to capture and share the beauty that belongs to God in both everyday moments and significant life events. The lessons from TBP continue to guide me, ensuring that my work remains grounded in faith and reflects the divine beauty present in all aspects of life.


TBP: What’s next for you in your FIAT and/or in your life?


EK: Next in my FIAT project and in my life, I plan to deepen my commitment to representing and sharing the beauty that belongs to God. I hope to enhance my photography skills and expand my reach. Specifically, I aim to focus on capturing the profound beauty found in pilgrimages, documenting the devotion and transformation that occur during these deeply personal journeys towards God. If all goes well, I will be on the Camino de Santiago this August. I imagine there will be ample opportunity to take images of scenes of beauty without detracting from the holiness and reverence of the walk. Additionally, I hope to focus on weddings, capturing the sacredness and joy of these unions, which reflect the divine love and commitment that God has for His people.



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