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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Will the real Notre Dame please stand up?

For disclosure's sake let me note that I am a double domer and so have a personal interest in the issue at hand. Let me also say that much of what follows will be in "rant mode", you have been warned.

The Saturday of the Pitt/Notre Dame game, the University showed a commercial presenting a young woman lighting candles in an obviously Catholic Church. At the end of the commercial, the young woman receives an acceptance letter to Notre Dame University. If you are interested, you can find the commercial here.

The commercial has created a bit of a stir in the Notre Dame Newspaper both in the official editorial section as well as in the letters to the editor. The Senate diversity chairperson is upset because the commercial involving a young, Catholic woman is not representative of Notre Dame's diversity and doesn't include African-Americans, Muslims, Mormons, Gays [although I don't know how the chairperson can tell the sexual orientation of the woman in the commercial], the Poor, and Plutonians [ okay, I made up that last part]. David P. Costello, a retired professor of English, complains that the commercial demeans the Catholic faith and the University because it doesn't stress Notre Dame's academic quality and because it makes it look like the Admissions Office only responds to lots of prayers. An Alumnus complains that the commercial represents "cheap grace" because it seems to indicate that if you light enough candles your prayers will be answered [Hey! A homily topic!] and that neither Boston College or Georgetown would show a commercial like this. [Does he mean that they wouldn't show anyone praying? If so, I think [at least I hope] that BC and Georgetown would be somewhat offended.] The Notre Dame Observer is upset because the ad doesn't represent Notre Dame's sophisticated faith.

Perhaps one of the most saddening, and one that I hope doesn't really represent the university comes from a Notre Dame senior who writes:

It trivializes the faith and its most important conduit to God, prayer. To let Rudy pray at the grotto for admission is one thing - that's Hollywood. Twelve thousand students apply to get into here and I guarantee most of them spent a lot of time praying for admittance. Does God not hear the prayers of the 8,000 who didn't get in, or could it be that those who got in made it with credentials of academic excellence and a dedication to their community through service and activity. Of all the people that helped make this film I wonder if anyone asked the theology department what they thought. As a theology major, we laugh in class at the thought of people praying at the Grotto for an Irish victory or that one might do well on a test.

When in the world is it ever appropriate to laugh at someone who is praying? Is that a requirement for a theology major - to laugh at prayer? Or perhaps only they have a grasp on what counts as good prayer? I would suggest that perhaps there needs to be more time spent in front of the Grotto and less time in the Theology department, if that is the case. Although, if prayer is frowned upon in a Theology department perhaps it is time to give it a different name.

Does God answer prayers? Of course he does. Does the lighting of candles mean that your prayers have a better chance of getting into Notre Dame? I don't know, you would have to ask God, but I don't see how it can hurt unless you are spending so much time lighting candles that you aren't studying for your classes.

To those who say the commercial minimizes Notre Dame's academic integrity and is too exclusive, I say "Get over it" it's a commercial intended to reflect a significant - at least what should be a significant part of Notre Dame. Oh my gosh, people of faith actually attend Notre Dame - well I guess that will make it somewhat more difficult to have the V-Day celebrations, won't it? I earned a PhD at Notre Dame and don't find that the commercial lessens my achievements in the slightest. Indeed, I give all thanks to God for helping me through and answering my prayers - but perhaps that's just "cheap grace".

I should not that there are a couple who wrote into the Observer to defend the commercial but they remain the minority. I continue to pray for my alma mater and now I think I'll light a few candles. [rant mode off]


Blogger Lauren said...

Ah! Lovely commercial. But ... one thing ... does it show the girl actually praying or just lighting candles? I think that's one thing. People pick on candles more than is reason such that it's become a bit of a cliched Catholic thing. I might question the wisdom of the portrayal, but hooah for them for at least TRYING to be Catholic (which they ARE; Georgetown and BC? It's debatable. ;)).

But of course, nobody will ever be Catholic University.

Cept Catholic University. *coughGoCardinalscough*

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure the greatest offense comes from the implication that Notre Dame is actually a Catholic university, rather than "A University in the Tradition of Catholicism".

I perceived the commercial to be a welcome sign that SOMEONE in Notre Dame's administration intends for Catholics to be welcome there, and hope that at least a few devout Catholics, who would otherwise seek to bolster their faith at Franciscan U Steubenville or Christendom, don't view Notre Dame as a purely secular institution.

8:41 PM  

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