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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Once Upon A Time Notre Dame

Music has Charms to sooth a savage Breast, To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak. — William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697.

In my last blog severely criticized the University of Norte Dame for its pandering to Barack Obama and granting him an honorary degree in 2009 after his support for partial birth abortions — something that is anathema to the Catholic Church.

Today I want to tell you a story of a Notre Dame graduate and his fierce loyalty to the college of Our Lady.

Last week a friend of our passed away while undergoing heart surgery. Our friend, John, a native of Indiana, was born into an Irish family in 1934. He was a product of a Catholic School education and he graduated from the Notre Dame University in 1954. John’s dad owned a stationary store in Hammond Indiana and in addition to selling office supplies the store sold tickets to Notre Dame Football games.

John’s father had a strong commitment to Notre Dame Football, so much so that he would have the legendary coach Knute Rockne over to his house for dinner. Of course John never saw the coach as he died three years before John was born in a tragic plane crash. The only Notre Dame game John’s dad missed was when he journeyed to southern California for John’s wedding. Thankfully the game was televised so John’s dad got to see some of the game.

John grew up loving Notre Dame for not only its football but also for its educational standards and high Catholic moral values. John was what one might call today a conservative Catholic. I prefer to remember John as a practicing Catholic, a father of 6, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a person involved in his community and his church, and a friend.

John graduated from Notre Dame with a BS in electrical engineering and after his move to southern California he obtained a master’s degree in systems analysis from the University of Southern California. He spent the last 22 years of his working life as a systems and database analyst with McDonald Douglas-Boeing in Huntington Beach.

John was smart, well read, and kind. When he discussed religion, politics or world events with you he would always intently listen to your point of view and not attempt to talk you down with his.

When my wife and I lived in Westminster, California we had a dinner group consisting of John and his wife and two other couples. We would rotate the dinner each month and have great dining experiences along with stimulating conversations and debates. John would always say what he believed and attempt to find some common ground with others during these discussions.

John, like his father loved Notre Dame Football. Each year John and his wife would travel to South Bend to attend a game of beloved Notre Dame. I never had the opportunity to ask John what he thought of Rev. Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, inviting Barack Obama to address the college and granting him an honorary degree. I can only guess as to what John would have had to say.

John’s funeral service was held at the local Catholic Church in Westminster, California. The church was almost filled with family and friends. It was a Catholic Mass and the priest, who knew John well, gave a touching and informative homily highlighting John’s accomplishments and his involvement with his family, church and community.

I sat there with my wife and listened while remembering John and praying for his soul, which I knew was resting in the bosom of Jesus Christ. After the communion service a longtime friend John gave a heart-felt rendition of Ave Maria. This left the congregation and a very reflective mood.

When the family gathered at the casket and began escorting it out of the church the pianist began playing When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and the entire congregation broke into song sing along. This brought a smile to many faces as they recalled John’s Irish roots.

But after the end of the Irish ballad the pianist began a slow, hymn-like rendition of the Notre Dame Victory March. This is when the tears welled up and began to flow.

For those of you who are not familiar with how emotional the ties to this great university are I am including this video in honor of John and his life-long attachment to the college of Our Lady.

Music has the power to invoke strong emotions and memories. Perhaps it’s a memory of your first kiss or the birth of your first child. Perhaps it’s going to a ballgame with your dad or your first dance at your wedding.

I can assure you that from now to the day I die when I hear the Notre Dame Victory March I will think of my friend John.

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