Welcome Home

“Welcome home.”

After I was pulled off the wait list, the University’s acceptance letter fashioned itself in a way I didn’t. Yet Walker Percy insists that “there is no fashion so absurd, even grotesque, that it cannot be adopted, given two things: the authority of the fashion-setter (Dior, Jackie Onassis) and the vacuity or noughtness of the consumer.” Many students enter a Notre Dame fashioned as their dream school; many later fashion their undergraduate years as the best years of their lives. We are ND. Continue reading “Welcome Home”

The End of an Era

With a smile on her face, I recently saw a bright young woman go straight to Professor David Solomon and hug him. I’ve seen this happen with many of Professor Solomon’s former students. They return to campus and light up when they see him, almost as if they are seeing their father after a long absence.

When I entered Notre Dame in the fall of 2009, not much time passed before I sat in his office with a couple of other freshmen and had a conversation about how we wanted to write tracts about what it means to be a Catholic university. I think starry-eyed students like us helped Professor Solomon to be ever-creative in his efforts to promote Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, from founding the Center for Ethics and Culture to beginning the Fund to Protect Human Life. I wonder if students have been doing this since he joined Notre Dame’s philosophy faculty in 1968. Continue reading “The End of an Era”

The Emotional Affair of John Paul II

A couple of years before he became Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla wrote to a Polish woman: “God gave you to me and made you my vocation.” The letter was one of more than 700 saved letters between he and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, a Polish-American philosopher he met in 1973. The year before Wojtyla’s letter, Anna-Teresa had supposedly written that “she desired to be in his arms and remain there in happiness.” He gave her a scapular he had received from his father at his first communion. She sent him pressed flowers and photographs from her home. Their deeply intimate relationship lasted his lifetime, continuing as she read to him on his deathbed. The whole time she was married to Harvard economist Hendrik Houthakker. Continue reading “The Emotional Affair of John Paul II”

So You Want to Write a Column…

I’ve written Observer columns for three years now. Some columns have received a lot of positive feedback, and some have — rightfully — endured considerable criticism. Writing for the Observer, or any paper, can be a great way to engage in the life of your community and to contribute to dialogue on a number of important issues. Unfortunately, a lot of people who have good things to say can be ineffective when it comes to actually communicating their ideas. Here are some things that I’ve learned from writing. Continue reading “So You Want to Write a Column…”

Christian Stories for Atheists

When I first read “Harry Potter,” I secretly waited for a letter from Hogwarts. Part of growing up was realizing the letter would never come. It’s like the young C.S. Lewis said, when confronted with the confrontation between poetic myth and hard rationalism: “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.” Continue reading “Christian Stories for Atheists”

My Friend the Carmelite

This fall, a friend began her life as a Carmelite nun. Becoming a cloistered nun is, in a way, like choosing your death. Though she’s just reached her mid-twenties, I may never see or hear from her again. She can only receive visitors a year after her entrance, six years after, and 25 and 50 after. In between, time stops, and our last contact gives a final imprint, our lasting memory of each other. Continue reading “My Friend the Carmelite”

Love in the Landfill

My education at Notre Dame focused significantly on the ancient and medieval world. More than fifty of my 132 credits were on languages, cultures and ideas prior to the modern era, and these classes shaped the way I viewed my own life. I suspect the ways in which I lived and spoke were countercultural, not necessarily deliberately, but because many of my intellectual categories and contexts for thinking about life predated those of the contemporary world by millennia. Continue reading “Love in the Landfill”