Notre Dame’s ‘why’

Archbishop Chaput delivered a powerful speech at Notre Dame last week at their 2016 Tocqueville Lecture. If you’re a Christian interested in living as a Christian, the entire thing is worth your time. I’m excerpting a particular section on Notre Dame’s unique role as a university. In essence, on its value proposition in a sea of elite sameness:

Unlike so many other institutions that describe themselves as “Catholic,” Notre Dame really is still deeply Catholic not just in its marketing, but in its soul. Brad Gregory, Mary Keys, John Cavadini, Gerard Bradley, Patrick Deneen, Ann Astell, Father Bill Miscamble, Carter Snead, Nicole Garnett, Richard Garnett, Christian Smith, Francesca Murphy, Dan Philpott, Dr. Muñoz and so many others—all of these exceptional scholars teach here. And they privilege the Catholic community with their fidelity, their intellects and their service.

Of course from those who receive much, a lot is expected. It’s quite stunning to walk this campus and see the beauty of the buildings, the scope of the stadium, the energy of the students and the constant pace of growth. But I hope Notre Dame never stops examining the fundamental why of its mission. What kind of success is really success? It seems to me that we already have a Princeton, a Stanford and a Yale. We don’t need a Catholic version of any them.

What the Church needs now is a university that radiates the glory of God in age that no longer knows what it means to be human. What the people of God need now is a university that fuses the joy of Francis with the brilliance of Benedict and the courage, fidelity and humanity of the great John Paul.

I said at the start of my remarks that the task of renewing the life of our nation requires a different kind of people. It demands that we be different people. The power of the powerless, Václav Havel once wrote, consists not in clever political strategies but in the simple daily discipline of living within the truth and refusing to lie. Surely there’s no better way to begin that work than here and now. And creating the “different kind of people” we need is—and should be—the mission of this university.

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