Friday, June 22
Summer Reading, and a Tenuously-Related Excursus on Chesterton's Notre Dame Poem
Notre Dame Inspirations
Hannah Storm and Sabrina Weill
New York: Double Day
Hardcover, 170 pp.
As everyone knows, this blog is interested in all things Notre Dame. Which includes "Notre Dame Inspirations." The idea is interesting--to collect reflections on "Life, Spirituality, Football and Everything Else Under the Dome" from the most well-known alumni from this university.
These alumni include, of course, Fr. Hesburgh, Regis Philbin, Rudy, Charlie Weiss and the author, Hannah Storm (co-host of CBS' The Early Show). Thirty-two alumni contributed in all, the majority of them people whose names I did not immediately recognize. Non-Domers might not realize Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, and Phil Donahue graduated from Notre Dame.
I particularly liked the 6-page reflection by (Most. Rev.) Daniel Jenky, which should surprise no one. A Holy Cross priest, he was rector of the Basilica at Notre Dame before becoming bishop of Peoria, Ill. "If there was ever a place," he writes, "that our Catholic faith is so manifest, except maybe the Vatican, it is at Notre Dame... Notre Dame gives people permission to experience their faith. These days you get sometimes kids who come from 'Catholic lite' homes, but they seem to get there and something happens to the,. That happens year after year, time after time." It really does. Also, the picture of a scraggily-20-something-Br.-Jenky is awesome.
Of course, the whole idea behind the book, which I really do like, is for alumni to wax poetic about Notre Dame. I think that this phenomenon is something that only those who have lived at Notre Dame can fully appreciate: the beauty and uniqueness of the place makes us all a little sappy. Nonetheless, I'm comforted by the fact that a mind (and man) the size of G. K. Chesterton understood this sappiness, even dedicating a poem to the University (where he spent some time around 1930). The poem, The Arena, is subtitled "Causa Nostrae Laetitiae" (Cause of our Joy), a play on the Litany of Loretto that only seems like an exaggeration to people who attended Michigan State.
I have seen, where a strange country
Opened its secret plains about me,
One great golden dome stand lonely with its golden image, one
Seen afar, in strange fulfillment,
Through the sunlit Indian summer
That Apocalyptic portent that has clothed her with the Sun.
She too looks on the Arena
Sees the gladiators grapple,
She whose names are Seven Sorrows and the Cause of All Our Joy,
Sees the pit that stank with slaughter
Scoured to make the courts of morning
For the cheers of jesting kindred and the scampering of a boy.
"Queen of Death and Life undying
Those about to live salute thee;
Not the crawlers with the cattle; looking deathward with the swine,
But the shout upon the mountains
Of the men that live for ever
Who are free of all things living but a Child; and He was thine.”
So, probably, the sort of sentimentalism found in this poem, and in this book, is only comprehensible to actual Domers. In that light, it would make a good gift to Notre Dame graduates, or to someone just now entering the school. It's a well-bound book, filled with high-quality photos of the alumni and of the campus itself.
$29.99, however, is really over-priced. Amazon offers it for $19.77, and at that price it would make a good gift.