IN THE SHADOW OF THE GOLDEN DOME
I am writing this from the campus of Notre Dame University. Before you rush to judgment, I will be long gone before this week-end and the arrival of POTUS and Air Force One. I am participating in a seminar dealing with financing Catholic elementary and secondary schools which was scheduled long in advance of the current flap and is a part of the University’s educational programs in which our diocese so enthusiastically participates.
I love being on this campus. There is something truly peaceful and Catholic about it. There are fifty-two lovely chapels throughout the campus like branches attached to Sacred Heart Basilica, the liturgical vine. Ask any student or graduate and they will likely tell you that Mass in the residence halls has kept them connected to their Catholic faith and now they dread trying to find a place like here at home. (75% of the Catholic students resident on campus attend Mass every Sunday when here.) There was a short time when the campus ministry program here gave all their graduates a “‘Frommer’s Guide’ to Good Liturgy and Preaching throughout the U.S.” so that what the students experienced here could be continued, at least somewhat, back home or wherever after graduation. I was the principal celebrant and homilist at noon in the Log Cabin Chapel which is a rebuild of an early mission chapel for Native-Americans which antedated the arrival of Father Sorin and the first college and which burned to the ground in the early 20th century. Today is my 31st anniversary of priestly ordination and it was special to celebrate it here today.
Critics and hierarchs who would deny this university the name “Catholic” mostly have not been here to experience just how Catholic Notre Dame is. Over the years of my life, that has changed little. My family lived about three years eighty miles south of South Bend in Peru, Indiana so I first came to know this place as a child. The football teams are not as good as they were in the days of my youth, but the dedication to God, Church, and country continue undimished. I love the graduates of ND who come home to help me feed the poor like they did when they were students in South Bend, care for the medically indigent or the illegal like they did at St. Joseph’s Hospital in South Bend when they were students, embrace missionary experience in Malawi for three years for less than $200 per month (leaving the bishop’s office in St. Petersburg and Christian Formation in Safety Harbor) like they did in the ECHO and ACE program sponsored by the University. I could go on and on. This place breathes a healthy faith life and it is Catholic to the core of its institutional being.
No other Catholic college or university is more at the service of the Church in this country, sponsoring colloquia such as the one I am participating in on vital subjects of Church life. This is a special place, run by a special community of religious, reinforced by dedicated, professional lay women and men who teach the students well. Blessed are those who are fortunate enough to be admitted and can afford it. And blessed is the Church in the United States to have such a place to hand over to us our future lay leadership.