Continuing with my Lenten fasting theme, I'm proud to say I have a piece called "Panis Angelicus" (Bread of the Angels, for all you non-Latin speaking rubes like me) (whoops, I mean I submitted the piece as "Panis Angelicus" but now it's called "A Sacrament of Food") in the Spring 2011 issue of the very classy alumni publication of the University of Notre Dame.
That I've appeared in Notre Dame at all is due in large part to associate editor John Monczunski. John has shepherded several of my pieces over the years and is a wonderful writer himself. We’d met a couple of times in L.A., once when he was here on business, once when he was on a cross-country pilgrimage by bus, and in the fall of ’07, when I was madly driving across country on my own pilgrimage, I made a very important layover: I stopped in South Bend, Indiana, so he could show me around campus.
I'd driven through hundreds of miles of cornfields (or that's the way I remember it) to get there. I'd seen the Golden Dome towering on the way in. I knew the university was prestigious and über Catholic. Other than that, I didn't know much about Notre Dame. As I was unpacking John called and asked, “Are you free? Do you by any chance want to meet Father Ted Hesburgh?” I replied, “Well, sure,” thinking Truth to tell I'm a little tired, but I am always glad to meet any priest, and how sweet that John wants to introduce me to his country parish vicar!
On the way to campus, John informed me that Father Hesburgh had been a key member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, an advisor to Jimmy Carter, and president of Notre Dame for 35 years (from 1952 to 1987): longer than anyone else in the history of the university.
Father’s office, in fact, turned out to be on the 13th floor of the 14-story Theodore M. Hesburgh Library, with windows featuring a bird’s-eye view of the Golden Dome topped by a 16-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary: apparently one of the most well-known university landmarks in the world. Father himself was 90, smoked a cigar and, as might have been expected, had a bit of a presence. I didn't exactly feel intimidated; I just wanted to find some common ground, so I told him I’d been to Mass every day of my trip. “Good for you," he replied, "that’s what’s most important”--so I liked him right away.
And then this world-famous, globe-trotting, by all accounts universally-respected priest took time out of his day to tell a weary undistinguished traveler of celebrating Mass all over the globe: in submarines, the North Pole, little out-of-the-way spots, tropical, subtropical. But he won me over completely when he reported that in some shabby outpost with about three communicants, a bystander had once had the temerity to inquire, “Who are saying the Mass for?” Father had whirled around, stared the guy down, and replied: “The whole bloody world.”
John went on to show me the “Fair Catch Corby,” “First Down Moses,” and “Touchdown Jesus” statues. We viewed the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the famous letter from Tom Dooley: "Because I can pray. I can communicate. How do people endure anything on earth if they cannot have God?"...We attended 5:15 Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
|MY NEPHEW ALLEN, AGE 12, WITH|
CARDBOARD MODEL OF NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL
(PARIS NOT SOUTH BEND)
All of which is to say I think we can rest assured that Notre Dame is in very good hands.
"…But what is love? [Holy Cross priest and Notre Dame theology professor John] Dunne says there is in African love song that consists of a single sentence: 'I walk alone.' 'Love, according to the song,' he says, 'is loneliness, and loneliness is love, a longing for communion with another.'”
--John Monczunski, from an essay entitled “What the Hermits Know”