(Editor’s note: Letters marked with a ++ did not appear in the print issue.)
The autumn issue of Notre Dame Magazine is the feeblest in content in some time. You seem caught between two forms of occlusion: There is the philosophical Gnosticism, which is clearly eccentric in the view it takes of the relation of physics and morals, and its counterpart, the militant dogmatism that renders impossible any real cooperation with the Obama administration in limiting the number of abortions and assisting the women trapped in them. The present ND mag is not very encouraging about the state of inquiry at the magazine or in the larger institution.
Joseph F. Ryan ’59
This is the most deeply spiritual issue of Notre Dame Magazine I have ever read. It puts the lie to those who would question Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.
What’s really important
The hypocrisy of Notre Dame and its magazine in touting its pro-life initiatives (“Fighting . . . for unborn human life”) would be truly phenomenal if it weren’t so transparent. Father John Jenkins, CSC, boldly announces that he’s participating in the March for Life next January, but he continues to serve as a director of Millennium Promise, an organization that promotes abortion in Third World countries.
The feeble gestures outlined in the article will neither restore Father Jenkins’ reputation nor will it obscure the shame of awarding an honorary degree to a man who has done everything in his power to promote abortions. We’ll never learn how much this has cost the University in financial terms, but from the letters on your pages we know he’s lost a generation of alumni who will never come home again. We know what Notre Dame will fight for: financial contributions and the public image of its president.
Dan Hiltz ’74M.A., ’79Ph.D.
Fort Mitchell, Kentucky
What a treat to read about the Pipers of the Fighting Irish (“Scaring the clan across the way”). I have been a piper for more than 50 years, am a certified piping judge and am currently chair of the Music Board of the Western United States Pipe Band Association. On a football Saturday morning a couple of years ago I was walking by the Main Building when I heard the familiar sound of a pipe band tuning up. I had to go watch. I sat in the front row to listen to their performance and enjoyed it immensely
One thing I would add to the terrific article. One of the band’s primary functions is to add to the excitement of the Notre Dame experience, and the Pipers of the Fighting Irish do this very well. But such bands also serve one of the most important functions in the larger pipe band world: They are a teaching band. They offer the opportunity for ND students to learn the inner workings of a special musical genre and encourage the continuance of this ancient art form.
Bob Mason ’67
The death of fathers
The autumn issue arrived just days after the death of my father, John Paul O’Neil ’49. So much in the issue spoke to my sorrow. Notre Dame has always been one of those “holy places that helps us sense the sacred,” one of those “thin places” where the veil between heaven and earth is practically nonexistent.
But the most touching part of the issue was Marika Wilson Smith’s article. I felt she had lived the last few days with my dad, even though my dad was a lifelong Catholic, unlike her convert father. Dad prayed with us frequently in his final days, knowing that prayer would give him a sense of peace. I know that my dad, too, was brokenhearted because it was so hard to say goodbye. He frequently told us to go home in those last few days. I believe he knew it would be easier to let go if we weren’t there. He drew his final breath one of the few times he was left alone with a nurse.
Like Marika, we asked Dad to get to work and help those he left behind. His casket left the church to the sounds of the Notre Dame alma mater and the “Notre Dame Victory March.”
Nancy O’Neil Blaha
The meaning of education
Thank you for printing Peter Wicks’ essay (“A Defense of My Life’s Vocation”), which I read shortly after reading a Newsweek cover story entitled “Why College Should Take Only 3 Years.” The contrast between the two viewpoints was startling: One side advocates eliminating “nonessential” courses and attending school year-round while the other reflects what higher education is ideally about, namely learning how to think critically and having time to reflect and grow. Philosophy and the humanities are an important part of the well-rounded liberal arts education that every Notre Dame graduate receives, and this is part of what makes a degree from a top university like Notre Dame valuable.
I was an EE major and, like many engineering students, I felt that all of my required, nontechnical classes were a waste of time. Then I took Moral Problems, a philosophy class that changed my world view. It remains the best class I have ever taken. Since graduating I have learned time and again that while my engineering and math skills are strong, what really sets me apart from my fellow graduate students and co-workers is all those “useless” theology, philosophy and humanities classes I was required to take. I have nothing but admiration for the scholars who devote themselves to these often undervalued areas.
Teri Piatt ’95
Heavenly admission policies
Without question Brian Doyle ’78 could not cover the entire breadth of occupations when ranking afterlife ascendancy, at least not in one small page (“The order by which people are admitted to heaven”). However, the omission of engineers begs the question of the Director: Can we not be admitted with the janitors so that our brethren can take us for granted both here and in eternity? Or perhaps the omission signifies our significance, and our best hope is to take up cricket.
Ivan Geer ’94
Grand Junction, Colorado
In 2000, my husband had the honor of attending Notre Dame to get his MBA in the one-year program. It was a year of learning in more ways than one for us because we are not Catholic. We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon). Therefore, we tried to take advantage of many experiences such as attending Mass a few times and other events that immersed us in Catholic traditions and practices. We even introduced some of our Catholic friends to LDS traditions such as Family Home Evening on Monday night. We developed a deep respect for Catholicism during our years in South Bend.
So I was disappointed to read the sort of “tongue-in-cheek” article that looked at the order by which people are admitted to heaven. While I can appreciate the humor of it, the appendix which explained how and why Mormons would be admitted had a reference to Joseph Smith that is used by anti-Mormons to belittle the sacred (to Mormons) work done by this man. It reduced him to little more than a whack-job with a party trick and said that Mormons would be admitted only if they could be made to giggle at the way he wrote the “new book of holies” with his face in a hat. That “face in the hat” comment is generally used by our critics to make fun of a very revered LDS prophet.
I can laugh at myself as much as anyone, but that particular statement about Joseph Smith was not funny to Mormons as it’s a statement used more by our enemies than our friends. We wish to be friends with Notre Dame. The LDS church has a long history of supporting and working with the Catholic Church on religious and humanitarian projects throughout the world. So I hope in the future you will shy away from mocking the religious traditions of others for the sake of a laugh.
++I have been a subscriber for many years, and this issue is one of the most outstanding. I especially note the article by Brian Doyle, “The order by which people are admitted to heaven.” A marvelous wrap-up for a great issue.
++Thank you ever so much for Jeremy Bonfiglio’s wonderful article highlighting the 10th anniversary season of the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. We are happy to report that the 2009 summer season was one of the most successful in our history. We are proud to add such a unique program to the incredible offerings found here at Our Lady’s University.
The article mentioned many of the key contributors who are essential in the success of Shakespeare at Notre Dame, however, one essential staff member was omitted. Amy Atkinson is our Company Manager, and we quite simply could not exist without her vital contributions. Amy functions as the organizational conduit for our year-round schedule of activities. She is responsible for the day-to-day administrative tasks that keep the organization running smoothly; from arranging housing for the multitude of visiting artists, issuing contracts, making sure that everyone gets paid on time(!), and acting as the liaison between production and administration — as well as a myriad of other tasks that keep us in top form. To put it mildly, Amy’s professionalism and attention to detail is in no small part one of the keys to our continuing success.
Once again, thank you for recognizing our efforts to bring Shakespeare to the campus of Notre Dame and the wider community. We are looking forward to even greater success as we embark on our second decade!
Executive Director, Shakespeare at Notre Dame