Recently I was asked to speak to a group for three to five minutes about how my faith life informs my work and how my work affects my faith life.
On the one hand, the answer is easy: I have long worked for the flagship publication of a university whose mission is to do God’s work in the world. Then, too, there reside in me assorted interior, spiritual currents too intricate and personal to talk about here. But there is a third route, a middle ground, that merges these other two and guides what I think we do here.
We tell stories. And others bring their stories to us and we pass them on; we share them with you. In those transactions — and because of the nature of the stories we tell — are transmitted faith and grace and goodness, the meanings and mysteries of living, the intellect in action and calls to do what’s right. Even those stories chasing down the corridors of questions and doubt have the divine in their sights; soul-searching dilemmas carry the belief of a soul in need of nurturing.
When I talk about the significance of storytelling, I hear the echoes of author James Carroll: “The very act of storytelling, of arranging memory and invention according to the structure of the narrative, is by definition holy. We tell stories because we can’t help it. We tell stories because we love to entertain and hope to edify. We tell stories because they fill the silence death imposes. We tell stories because they save us.”
Those of us who work here feel fortunate to trade in stories that meet this definition. It’s why a writer like Brian Doyle ’78, whose words so elegantly ranged from life’s hard edges to the mystical, could have found such a welcoming home here. Or the narratives of Nathan Stone ’79 could make human the men, women and boys we have hardly paid attention to. Or enable Tess Gunty ’15 to ask what makes a life worth living. Or encourage a law professor to calculate pro-life strategies with a new administration in the White House. Stories that speak or whisper of God.
So, too, the stories in this issue about Notre Dame researchers teasing out the tiniest of clues detailing the structure of the universe as well as a university whose burgeoning campus posits questions of character and ambition and the fulfillment of dreams. And there’s more — stories that may not seem to touch upon such lofty themes, but which do, in truth, explore who we are, what we value and how we give. And laugh and have fun.
And finally, there’s this great story of Christy Burgess and the kids from the Robinson Shakespeare Company — an inspiring story of a teacher and students whose love, art and effort carried them from South Bend to center stage of the Shakespearean realm. It’s a tale too big for these pages, spilling over to our website, where the storytelling goes on.
Kerry Temple is editor of this magazine.