Notre Dame: Our Mother

, Christopher Manion, Leave a comment

FRONT ROYAL, VA – Since 1967, Notre Dame has forgotten a lot. 1967 was the year that Notre Dame’s storied long-time President, Father Ted Hesburgh, led a group of Catholic educators in signing the “Land O’Lakes Statement.” It constituted a declaration of independence from the Catholic Church and allowed “Catholic” schools to turn their backs on Rome, embracing instead the values of secular cultural elites and, not incidentally, the attractive prospect of significant federal government funding. (Charles Rice, Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus at Notre Dame Law School and Chairman of the Bellarmine Forum, ably recounts this episode and its consequences in What Happened To Notre Dame? [St. Augustine’s Press]

Today, four years down the rocky road since the Obama fiasco, Notre Dame might be having second thoughts. This year’s commencement speaker offered them some encouragement along those lines when he turned their thoughts away from politics, football, and what Ralph McInerny, Notre Dame’s most published professor every, called “the truly vulgar lust to be welcomed into secular society.”

Addressing the Class of 2013, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, firmly planted his standard far above the insipid “Rah Rah” routine that saturates most of the school’s propaganda these days. Echoing the words of a Jewish ND grad he’d met on the train the week before, he chose as his topic “The Secret Of Notre Dame.”


I’m going to speak of Notre Dame Our Lady…
Mary, the mother of Jesus.
One can make the point that she’s perhaps
the most important human person ever. Even history
at His birth; at Cana, His first miracle; at the foot
of the Cross; at Pentecost, the feast we celebrate today.

Now, as you complete years at this acclaimed
university dedicated to her, you are asked the
same pivotal question the Archangel Gabriel
once posed to her: will you let God take flesh
in you? Will you give God a human nature?
Will He be reborn in you? Will the Incarnation
continue in and through you?
Notre Dame challenges us to reply, Fiat! Yes!
For, at her best, this university has the heart of
Mary, meaning this university gives us Jesus and
His Church, and clings to them both with love,
loyalty, and service.

Here at Notre Dame we do not strive to be
like Harvard or Oxford, but like Bethlehem,
Nazareth, Cana, Calvary, and the Upper Room
at Pentecost … with Mary, as the “Word becomes
flesh” in the one who called Himself “the Way,
the Truth and the Life.”

Here our goal is not just a career, but a call;
not just a degree, but discipleship; not just what
we’ve gotten but what we’re giving; not just the
now but eternity; not just the “I” but the “we”;
not just the grades but the Gospel.

“At her best, this university has the heart of Mary,” says Cardinal Dolan. But Notre Dame has not been at her best lately. Proud of her “independence” and renouncing her loyalty to the Church, she bet on government and the elites.

Now the government has betrayed her.

The Cardinal’s carefully crafted nudge bore within it a hidden invitation for a “turning around” worthy of the periagoge of Socrates’ Cave or the metanoia of Saint Paul.

Can Notre Dame pull it off? Can Mary’s university return to Mary? Can she give up that “vulgar lust” and embrace Mary’s humilitas?

It’s a hard teaching for the school that has long strived to be the Harvard of the Midwest, abandoning its Catholic character in the chase. But, unlike Obama’s, this teaching is a true one.


Distributed by Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation and Griffin Internet Syndicate

Christopher Manion, Ph.D., is Director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College.