On Barb’s Bookshelf: Two for the “Go Irish” Crowd

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Image background: By Matthew RiceOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

It’s an amazing thing to get a sneak peek at two books with a connection to a place that’s precious in my memory: the University of Notre Dame.

When I arrived there in August of 1987, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., the legendary longtime president of the university, had recently retired. He was still very much a presence at Notre Dame, occupying an office on the 13th floor of the library named for him — and that was a popular floor for students to hang out in the hopes of seeing Fr. Ted or any of his famous acquaintances.

His fellow priest and university administrator Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., recently published a definitive biography of Hesburgh that acknowledges the former university president’s complicated history. American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh (Image Books) has an index that reads like a Who’s Who of Church and world leaders.

american priest 1

Miscamble chronicles Hesburgh’s 35 years at the helm of Notre Dame without whitewashing errors in judgment and without prematurely canonizing his subject. Hesburgh presided over a nationally-renowned, if not world-renowned, university through times of social and political change, from 1952 through 1987. His influence, for good and for ill, has had far-reaching effects on Catholic higher education beyond the South Bend city limits. Miscamble’s book is more than a biography of one priest; it’s the story of a significant chapter in the life of a university.

Equally larger than life despite his small stature, celebrated football coach Lou Holtz led the team to an 8-4 season. That was the year I learned to like football. I’d never even watched a football game, but one of my roommates was a band assistant and my other roommates made sure I got to one game and provided a play-by-play. The students’ love for the coach was obvious from the repeated cry, “Lou! Lou! Lou!” — and this was the year before the Irish won the national championship.

Holtz, now retired from coaching sports, continues to coach through his motivational speaking, including graduation speeches. Three Rules for Living a Good Life: A Game Plan for after Graduation (Ave Maria Press) is an expanded edition of one such speech. The coach’s game plan is designed to help the reader achieve professional success, have a good personal life, feel needed, feel secure about the future, and go to heaven.

At only 76 small-format pages, this gift book is an easy read packed with homespun advice, truths Holtz admits he learned the hard way, and more than a few dad jokes.

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I’m not kidding about the dad jokes: I laughed at something on nearly every page. I’m also not kidding when I say that while this book is clearly aimed at new graduates, anyone (of any age) can benefit from reading it.

Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given free review copies of these books, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Talking Football

This afternoon I went to parent-teacher conferences at Little Brother’s school.

He’s earned all A’s, so I wasn’t worried too much about his grades. But I figured it was my parental duty to put in an appearance, and it would be a good time to touch base with his teacher about his emotional health, given the disruptions of the past few weeks. She’s aware of most of them, and assured me that he’s been fine at school.

She also let me know that “he’s been talking A LOT about Notre Dame.” No surprise there. I’ve been talking a lot about Notre Dame myself. Frankly, I think I’ve done my job right if I’ve passed along the proper fan allegiance to the next generation. And I worked hard for the right to be an Irish fan.

My parents are staunch members of the “Fighting Irish Subway Alumni.” Both devout fans of Notre Dame (but alums of Seton Hall), they were pleased when I applied to graduate school there.

I was accepted at ND, Purdue and SUNY Binghamton. Clearly I was not basing my choice of university on “balmy winter climate.” (What WAS I thinking back in 1986?)

Once the acceptance letters came in, my dad informed me that I would be going to Notre Dame. That was that. I’d gotten in at his dream school, apparently.

I showed up on the campus of Notre Dame in August of 1987, never having seen a football game–ANY football game–in my life. One of my roommates was a band assistant. All three of my roommates were horrified that here I was at Notre Dame and I knew nothing of football and didn’t even care. I do like bands, though, so they insisted that I watch the games on our tiny TV so I could see the band.

I attended one game (ND vs Navy on Halloween of 1987.) The Irish won, 56-13. No, I didn’t remember the score–I just looked it up. I remember that they won; that one of my non-band roommates was at the game too, very patiently explaining what a “first down” was; that in the student section, no one sat during the game. We all stood on the bleachers the whole time.

It was great.

25 years later, I still prefer basketball and there are still football rules I don’t get, though I do understand “first down” now. But I taught my kids early (and often) that in my football world, it’s Notre Dame vs. “The Bad Guys.” I never actually said that, but that’s what Big Brother took away from it when he was four or five. Let’s just say I never bothered to correct that assumption.

Until Little Brother started moonlighting as Mr. SportsCenter, I never even paid attention to other schools’ teams. But this kid is a walking, talking sports encyclopedia who inhales football (and soccer) trivia like it’s oxygen. He knows who’s ranked where, what teams have injured QBs and who’s favored to win next week’s matchups. I, on the other hand, know that Notre Dame home games are on NBC.

I’ve enjoyed this football season immensely so far and look forward to this weekend’s game. I might even stay up late to watch the whole thing.

After all, I have earned the right to be a fan. I’ve stuck with my team during the bad years, and I’m going to relish this one.


That Notre Dame’s reputation as a “sports school” reaches even to second-graders.

Little Brother was showing off how he can do the math skill of “regrouping” (when you have more than 10 ones, so you add 1 to the tens and subtract 10 from the ones.) I asked him if he knew what to do when you had more than 20 ones.

“You can’t do that, Mom. You can only have 10 extra ones when you’re regrouping.”

Clearly, I am ignorant in the ways of second-grade math. “I guess I’m not smarter than a second-grader,” I joked.

“Go back to college, Mom,” he shot back.

Those are fighting words.

Putting on my best Dick Vitale imitation, I reminded him, “I finished college, pal, and I also have an Advanced Degree. I went to Notre Dame on a full scholarship, babyyyy.”

“What did you play?”

Notre Dame, you’ve got some work to do. It’s time to reclaim your reputation as more than a football factory.

I’m not talking football

Well, OK, I’ll talk football for a minute. Because I could never give up my Irish football. But that’s not what I’m really talking about.

I’ve written before about my dismay that my alma mater invited President Obama to speak, and to be honored, at this year’s Commencement.

As I said, that won’t impact my enjoyment of football games. But it does impact my opinion of the University. It impacts the guidance that I give to my own college-bound child.

Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama is not an isolated incident in the University’s history. Instead, it is the culmination of thirty years or more of accumulated activity, at Notre Dame and other colleges. I saw some of this for myself twenty-one years ago when I was a student there (but let’s not dwell on the length of time that has elapsed since I received my degree). The rest is detailed in Notre Dame professor emeritus Charles E. Rice’s book, What Happened to Notre Dame? Newly published by St. Augustine’s Press, the book also demonstrates that what has gone on at Notre Dame is symptomatic of events at other religious institutions of higher learning.

I recently received a review copy of this book and, though I’ve only just begun reading it, I’m finding it fascinating and disturbing. I’ll definitely be discussing this book in more detail as I finish reading it. But I can tell you right now that if your interest in Notre Dame is not limited to its football team, you might want to pick up this book.

The Last ND Roundup

There are many links I want to follow, articles and speeches I want to read in their entirety. Here are the most important of those:

National Catholic Register Online links to Obama’s speech as well as Father Jenkins’ speech.

From Our Sunday Visitor: Obama at ND: Three Lessons

From National Catholic Register: Epiphany at Notre Dame

Archbishop Chaput’s comments on Obama at Notre Dame

In the Wall Street Journal: Obama Scored Big at Notre Dame

Yesterday on Lino Rulli’s radio show (“The Catholic Guy”) he observed that the real losers here are the Catholics.

To expand on that point a little, this is because this whole issue has served to widen the divide between Catholics. As Lincoln said (paraphrasing Matthew’s gospel), “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We lose when we forget that the Church is not a democracy.

We lose when we fail to respect those in authority, when we believe that our agendas are more important than the larger picture.

We lose when we consider it our Church–it’s Jesus’ Church, and we are blessed to be part of it.

We lose when we expect that everyone in Church, especially those in authority, will be perfect. The Church on earth is made up of humans, and none of us is perfect. In truth, we are all hypocrites, and that’s true no matter what church we belong to. If we abandon a church because there is hypocrisy within, then we will never find the perfect replacement.

Finally, we lose when we think that this is all about us. Because it’s not. We’re here to know, love, and serve the Lord, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we truly do that, we won’t need to worry about the rest of this.

The Cap and Gown Controversy

The American Papist shares photos of the traditional academic attire to be worn at the University of Notre Dame.

Let me tell you, there’s a lot of hoopla about the gown, which has words from a prayer to the Blessed Mother on it (Vita, Dulcedo, Spes) as well as a cross. This morning as I ran a ton of errands, most Cub-Scout-related, I had ample opportunity to listen to the hosts and listeners at the Catholic Channel as “what the President will wear when he addresses Notre Dame graduates” was discussed.

I was in the car so I couldn’t call in. (Use of cell phones in cars is a primary offense in this state.) So here’s my opinion, in case you’re interested. It’s my blog, so I get to sound off here.

Graduation speakers traditionally wear academic attire, especially when they are awarded honorary degrees. As Obama is receiving an honorary ND degree it is only appropriate that he wear the ND gown. You wear the academic garb of the institution that awarded you the most recent degree, so it would not be appropriate for him to wear the gown he received with his bachelor’s degree.

Maybe it’s a good thing that he is wearing it. Maybe bearing those images on his person will make him think, even for a second, about what he has done via all those anti-life policies he has enacted.

But if I were in charge of wardrobe for this event, I’d see to it that a green scapular was sewn inside there somewhere.

In the meantime, I believe we should pray for the intercession of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, whose feast we celebrate this week. Who better to intercede on behalf of the conversion of an anti-life president than a woman–a medical doctor–who refused any treatments that would harm the life of her unborn child? Pray also for Father Jenkins, that he may see the damage he has done to the Catholic character of the University and the scandal he has created far beyond South Bend, Indiana. And pray that the University of Notre Dame will once again be a Catholic university from the top down!

Preach the Gospel at All Times

…use words if necessary. (Francis of Assisi)

Those are great words to live by–but at the same time, hard words to live by. It means you have to really live by what you believe. No hypocrisy allowed. “Do as I say, because what I say really is what I do.”

A fine example of living this way is Mary Ann Glendon, who has turned down Notre Dame’s prestigious Laetare Medal award rather than take part in the media circus surrounding President Obama’s honorary ND degree, and rather than be used by the ND administration as an appropriate foil to Obama’s anti-life record in the Senate and in the Presidency.

She’s got courage–and she stands up for what she believes in. As a Notre Dame alum, I thank her for that. And I hope that all who were dismayed by ND’s invitation to the President to speak and receive a degree will be inspired by Mary Ann Glendon’s refusal to share the stage with him.

Wish I’d Said That

Editorial in the Wall Street Journal exposes Notre Dame’s invitation of Obama for what it really is.

This morning I eagerly listened to The Catholics Next Door program on Sirius/XM radio’s Catholic Channel. (Let me just say that this program alone is worth the price of the subscription to satellite!) Greg and Jennifer Willits, the hosts, had an extended interview with Professor Appleby from Notre Dame. On Monday, that interview will be available as a podcast. It was rather disappointing that the University did not allow Prof. Appleby to “speak on behalf of the administration” but I believe that the interview confirmed the Wall Street Journal article’s theories.

Pray, pray for old Notre Dame…

Hat tip to Lee for the cartoon.

My email to Father Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame

Father Jenkins,
I wish to express my disappointment that the University has invited President Barack Obama to speak at Commencement this May.
In the two months that he has been president, Obama has done much to undermine the prolife cause, and promises more along that line. He has appointed pro-abortion Cabinet members, some of whom profess to be Catholic; in fact, his vice president is a pro-abortion Catholic.
As a Catholic university, Notre Dame has a serious responsibility to avoid scandal. And it is indeed a scandal that President Obama has been invited to speak at Commencement and will be honored with a degree from the University. There is no need for Notre Dame to invite and honor anyone who does not live by the ideals of the Church that founded the University. Any Catholic university should bend over backward to find interesting commencement speakers who can truly be an example for the graduating students–speakers who live by the principles of their Faith.
While it has been customary for the University to host a sitting president as a commencement speaker, it certainly is not compulsory. Hosting a political figure and honoring that person with a University degree implies that the University condones that politician’s beliefs and considers that person worthy of honor.
I believe that Notre Dame can do much better than this. Reserve these honors for those who truly live by the ideals upon which the University was founded.

Barbara Szyszkiewicz, M.A. 1988

AND I would like to call attention to this comment by my good friend and sister-in-Francis, “SFO Girl”:

Consider this then as an opportunity for him to be UNDER THE DOME of Mary. If everyone exchanges the outrage to prayer(after letting ND what they think), perhaps his transformation will begin. Even if only one committed Pro Life Catholic is present and dedicated to his conversion of heart…a difference will be made. Pres. Obama is not surrounded by people of life. Under the Dome …Mary is in his face and He is under her feet. He will be transformed. Jesus listens to His Mother.Let the prayers begin!

What a great reminder! Exchange the outrage for prayer.

My Alma Mater Gets It Wrong

The University of Notre Dame has invited President Barack Obama to speak at commencement this year, and will give him an honorary degree to boot.

This announcement was made Friday, the very same day I received an appeal for donations to the Annual Fund.

I kept the postpaid envelope that came with that appeal, but when I return it, there won’t be a check inside. Instead, there will be a letter explaining my opposition to my alma mater’s invitation of the most pro-abortion president in history–an invitation that implies that the University agrees with his policies and proposals.

I’ll also be writing and emailing Father John Jenkins, CSC, president of the University. (Yes, he’ll hear from me twice. At least.)

I believe that the University of Notre Dame needs to do a lot more to reinforce its Catholic character, especially in terms of its faculty and administration. In my opinion (as an alum, so I’ve seen and experienced student life there) the student life itself is evidence of Catholic life in spite of the faculty and administration. Frankly, that’s a shame. At a Catholic university, the religious lives of the students should not be clearly opposite to what is often taught and to the example set by the administration.

There is no need for Notre Dame to invite and honor anyone who does not live by the ideals of the Church that founded the University. A Catholic university should bend over backward to find interesting commencement speakers who can truly be an example for the graduating students, who live by the principles of their Faith. Notre Dame never has trouble attracting applicants, so this cannot be a publicity stunt set up by the admissions office. And this may very well turn out to be counterproductive in terms of the Annual Fund.

At a University where Our Lady’s Grotto is one of the most popular spots for students, employees and visitors alike, the selection of a pro-abortion president as a graduation speaker and honorary-degree recipient is both disappointing and shameful.

Bloggers all over are discussing this topic. I am particularly impressed with this post.