Monday, April 11, 2011


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.

Bur best of all, we went to dinner afterwards and talked books, pilgrimages, broken hearts, John's two accomplished daughters, and writing.

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”


  1. Well, first Heather:
    Sting looks great without a sweater.
    I would say that Notre Dame is in good hands.
    Saying Mass for the whole bloody world. Yes,
    I suppose he did.

  2. You may wish to reserve further self-congratulation pending a little research on Fr. Hesburgh: Notre Dame's 40+ Year History of Unfaithfulness to the Church @

    Panis Angelicus as translated by Notre Dame? The Sacrament of food? What could possibly be more sacriligeous?

  3. I wasn't actually trying to "self-congratulate." I was saying I'm a writer, I'm grateful when my work is published, and I'm always grateful to be welcomed as a human being and guest, as I was at Notre Dame, especially when traveling.

  4. In the mid-90's, I was on one of he upper floors of the Hesburgh Library doing research for my American Studies BA degree on a Saturday night. Hesburgh and I crossed paths and he gave kind and encouraging words for being a dedicated scholar.

    One of the best books I have read about him is Hesburgh's Notre Dame: Triumph in Transition. Great coverage of ND in the '60s and the much needed move into co-education.

    Your ND Magazine essay on caring for your father was where I first read your wise words and also made the connection that you are Joe's sister--one of the most distinctive and wonderful voices in pop-punk rock.

  5. Oh thanks, Ted...always good to meet a Catholic punk rock fan and yes, I do come from good stock, having my beloved Joe for a brother...can you imagine the good 90-year-old father making time for one more of the I'm sure zillions of people who vie for his attention on any given day?...I love that you and he were both in the stacks on a Saturday night!...

  6. You're most welcomed Heather. "A Sacrament of Food" is klassic King in that you can move hearts with your writing.

    It's hard to determine if punk or Catholicism has more sub-cultures, but easy to understand some of the aspects they share.

    I just hope that in the future that a priest- president from Notre Dame or one of the Jesuit Universities has as much impact on higher education, public life and the greater good as Father Hesburgh. A true inspiration to all faiths and religions.


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