22 September 2009

"Notre Dame’s treatment of Fr. Weslin is a despicable disgrace, the responsibility for which falls directly and personally upon yourself"

A law professor from my old stomping grounds has strong words for Notre Dame University President Fr. John Jenkins for refusing to drop criminal trespass charges against 88 peaceful pro-life activists who protested Obama's visit earlier this year. Among the trespassers was 79-year-old priest Fr. Norman Weslin, handcuffed and dragged away while singing "Immaculate Mary."

From the letter:
Such treatment of such a priest may be the lowest point in the entire history of Notre Dame. You would profit from knowing Fr. Weslin. Notre Dame should give Fr. Weslin the Laetare Medal rather than throw him in jail. Norman Weslin, born to poor Finnish immigrants in upper Michigan, finished high school at age 17 and joined the Army. He converted from the Lutheran to the Catholic faith and married shortly after earning his commission. He became a paratrooper and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division, obtaining his college degree enroute. After a distinguished career, he retired in 1968. As the legalization of abortion intensified, he and his wife, Mary Lou, became active pro-lifers in Colorado. In 1980, Mary Lou was killed by a drunk driver. Norman personally forgave the young driver. Norman Weslin was later ordained as a Catholic priest, worked with Mother Teresa in New York and devoted himself to the rescue of unborn children through nonviolent, prayerful direct action at abortuaries.
Please permit me to speak bluntly about your announced purpose to participate in the March for Life and to “invite other members of the Notre Dame Family to join me.” Notre Dame should have had an official presence at every March for Life since 1973. But until now it never has. ... To put it candidly, it would be a mockery for you to present yourself now at the March, even at the invitation of Notre Dame students, as a pro-life advocate while, in practical effect, you continue to be the jailer, as common criminals, of those persons who were authentic pro-life witnesses at Notre Dame. When the pictures of Fr. Weslin’s humiliation and arrest by your campus police was flashed around the world it did an incalculable damage to Notre Dame that can be partially undone only by your public and insistent request, as President of Notre Dame, that the charges be dropped.
If you appear at the March as the continuing criminalizer of those pro-life witnesses, you predictably will earn not approbation but scorn—a scorn which will surely be directed toward Notre Dame as well.
In conclusion, this letter is not written in a spirit of contention. It is written rather in the mutual concern we share for Notre Dame—and for her university. I hope you will reconsider your positions on these matters. Our family prays for you by name every night. And we wish you success in the performance of your obligations to the University and all concerned.


Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus
Notre Dame Law School
The full letter is here.

18 September 2009

Musical Birds

Thomas More College: A Well-Rounded Catholic Education

The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is a small Catholic college tucked away in the woods of Merrimack, New Hampshire. Not only does it provide an education faithful to the Magisterium, it is affordable, and situated in a lovely area of New England.

I should also add that it provides an Oxford program via the Oxford Center for Faith and Culture, directed by Stratford Caldecott, who has written beautifully on reawakening the imagination in higher education (and who also happens to manage G.K. Chesterton's private library).

The following press release was sent to me by Charlie McKinney:

MERRIMACK – With one of the largest incoming classes in its history, Thomas More College’s faculty and incoming freshmen spent two days hiking New Hampshire’s White Mountains and discussing the essential role a liberal arts education will play throughout their lives.

After a blessing by the College’s chaplain, Fr. William Ventura, the new students climbed the Mt. Willard trail to have lunch on the ledge overlooking Crawford Notch and the Willey Slide—the bare land on Mt. Willey marking the spot of the deadly avalanche recounted by Nathanial Hawthorne in his short story “The Ambitious Guest,” which the students read as their first homework assignment at the College.

After descending Mt. Willard, the group crossed the rugged Jefferson Notch Road, where deserters of Roger’s Rangers, fleeing with loot from their raid against the Indian settlement of St. Francis, lost their way and were destroyed by the elements and the retaliating Indians. Amongst the treasures lost was the “Silver Virgin,” a statue beloved by the Abenaki Indians, based on an image of Our Lord and Lady from the cathedral of Chartes in France.

Upon arriving at their “base camp,” the Horton Center on Pine Mountain, students enjoyed a dinner of hamburgers and hotdogs grilled over the campfire and a fireside chat on the virtues necessary for the academic life rounded out the day. Morning prayer and evening Mass were offered on the heights looking out toward Mount Washington, providing the liturgical frame of each day.

Dawn on Day Two revealed Mt. Madison standing out amidst a cloudless sky and inviting the students and faculty to take to the heights. The students chose expeditions according to their level of athleticism, with some trekking into Mt. Washington’s Tuckerman Ravine to relax by the shore of tiny Hermit Lake, while others joined the Fahey in the assault of the Boott Spur, one of the high ridges of Mt. Washington. A final group tackled Mt. Adams, the 2nd highest peak in the White Mountains, ascending the celebrated trail known as the “Chemin-des-Dames”—named it seems in homage to the site of several battles during World War I that left many women bereft of husbands.

After a pasta dinner, the students were treated to another campfire chat, as Dr. Fahey expounded the medieval notion of a “Collegium,” as both a society of those who read together and of those bound together in the common pursuit of truth. Well exercised in body and in mind, and with friendships fast forming, the new Thomas More College students returned to campus full of enthusiasm for their first year of studies.

The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is a four-year college that provides the rising generation with an education that forms them intellectually and spiritually within the Catholic intellectual tradition and with full fidelity to the Magisterium. Additionally, the College has launched entrepreneurial new centers that seek to advance the teachings of the Catholic Church beyond the confines of its campus. These centers include the Vatican Studies Center , the Center for New England Politics and Culture, and the Center for Faith and Culture in Oxford , England.

10 September 2009

Sainte Baume

Grotto of St. Mary Magdalene and the Dominican Abbey chiseled into the rock-face, with the chapel of St. Pilon at the top

Tradition has it that, after the death of Our Lord, St. Mary Magdalene traveled to Provence, France, and there spent the last thirty years of her life as a solitary in a mountain cave on the plain of the Plan D'Aups, overlooking the Massif de la Sainte-Baume. Thousands of pigrims have come to this holy site over the centuries, including eight popes and eighteen kings.

Massif de la Sainte Baume

The Chemin des Roys: an hour-long journey up this "path of kings" ends at the Grotto. Eighteen kings made pilgrimages to the Holy Grotto via this path, some in penance on their knees.

Procession of Dominicans on the Chemin des Roys

The otherworldly Forêt Domaniale de la Sainte Baume, with its centuries-old yews and wild appletrees, beeches, elms, and maples

From Adventure Guide to Provence and the Cote D'azur:
The forest itself is extremely ancient, filled with the kind of moisture-dependent flora and fauna that is relatively rare in Provence. It harbors very old trees--some yew trees are nearly a thousand years old. The forest has been protected since the early Middle Ages, through papal bulls and royal decrees. In modern times, it came under the protection of the French National Forestry Office (ONF) and remains an environmentally protected site.

Stairway to the Grotto

Sainte Baume from without

Interior of the Grotto

Another view of the interior

Ste Marie-Madeleine, priez pour nous!

For information on pilgrimages to the grotto, visit the website of L'Hôtellerie de la Sainte-Baume.