Notre Dame, Our Mother…

Notre Dame, Our Mother… March 23, 2009

There are plenty of people who are angry, passionate, and filled with high-minded words of protest about the situation unfolding at Notre Dame regarding the news that President Obama will give the commencement address this year at the university. And most of that anger is justifiable, good, and will, I hope, prove fruitful. But I cannot join in this anger right now. I can only see it from the sidelines. 

You see, I am too sad. I am not a Domer; but I am the wife of a Domer. I met my husband and fell in love with him at Notre Dame, where he was studying law. Some of the most beautiful, holy, and special moments of my life took place on that campus, surrounded by the beauty of the lake, and under the shadow of Our Lady. And now, the world and it’s scandals, pain, and divisions, has infiltrated this place. 

The situation at Notre Dame is a microcasm of what is happening in the Catholic Church in the U.S. We haven’t decided yet if we are Catholic or we are American. You must choose one or the other, both cannot hold first place. We all must choose. But some people do not think a choice must be made; that if we draw enough distinctions and tell ourselves enough lies, we will be able to serve both God and Mammon.

So we have Catholics who support death at every level of society; the unborn, the embryo, the old, the sick, the mentally ill, the criminal, the unbeliever, the Iraqi, etc. We have Catholics who call other brothers and sisters in Christ “Illegals” and “Aliens”. We have Catholics who refuse to see how “free-trade” and Capitalism need restraint and to be illuminated by the light of faith in God. We have Catholics who think that tax dollars are best spent putting guns in the hands of  poor young men without opportunities and telling them it’s an honor to die in a desert halfway across the world. We have Catholics who believe that the world would be a much better place if no one has more than two children, we give the world a condom, and teach children that sin isn’t real. We have Catholics who believe that “we can’t know when life begins”, so it’s not important to protect the most vulnerable human beings there are. We have Catholics who don’t even know, or believe half of what the Catholic Church teaches. 

And you know what. It’s breaking me apart. The weight of these divisions is breaking my heart. I have been thinking about this, feeling the weight of it, and it is deeply painful. The Church in the U.S. is like a rebellious teenager, who knows it’s making bad choices, and knows that Mom and Dad are right, but it feels so good to be bad. She is a Church struggling, a Church fighting both itself and the forces of evil, and it doesn’t seem to be winning on either front.

And all I want to do is gather up all these wayward children, hold them tightly together,and say, “See…the humanity. It is here in all of us. In the embryo, in the criminal, the Iraqi, the CEO, the unborn baby, the unwed mother, the pro-choice politician. We are all human beings who reflect the beautiful divine image of God. Can we please, for the love of all things good and true, start acting like it?” I want to hold all these vying forces together and still them with love, the love that God feels for each and every one of us, as we are, where we are, calling us to be more.

This scandal at Notre Dame is not shocking, not in our Church in the U.S, not the way we are acting. This choice, this action, is not a reflection of the call of Christ, mostly because we’ve stopped listening. We’ve stopped listening because it’s easier to be a “conservative” or a “liberal” than it is to be a “Catholic”. 

Meanwhile, Jesus and his mother, Our Lady, are weeping for their wayward children. And the devil is laughing over the strife he has wrought.

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