Thursday, November 16, 2006

After Urbanism: The Strange Bedfellows of Neo-Traditional Architecture and Town Planning

What is the physical form of genuine human community? This was the question explored by Professor Philip Bess in his fall 2006 Schmitt Lecture, entitled “After Urbanism: The Strange Bedfellows of Neo-Traditional Architecture and Town Planning.” Professor Bess’s answer to the question took the form of what he deemed a natural law: human beings should make mixed-use neighborhoods with pedestrian proximity of all activities central to daily life. The home, the school, the place of business, the place of worship, venues for recreation and shopping, all should be accessible within the half-mile radius of a ten-minute, parentchild walk. For only in such neighborhoods, Professor Bess argued, can the virtues of social and political community flourish.

Professor Bess delivered his Schmitt Lecture on Wednesday afternoon, November 15th, to a large and appreciative audience in the main auditorium of Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall. Using an engaging PowerPoint presentation, he vividly contrasted the features of what he called “traditional urbanism” with the dominant form of contemporary urban architecture, namely, “sprawl.” In sprawl, segregation reigns: homes, places of work, worship, recreation, and shopping are all segregated from one another, making the automobile a virtual necessity for most urban dwellers. Th is compartmentalization of the activities of modern life, according to Professor Bess, fosters an individualism inimical to the development of genuine human community. Professor Bess’s presentation took the Schmitt Lecture Series into exciting new territory. In answering the charge of the series—the exploration of the ethical, political and religious dimensions of science and technology—he reminded us that the physical form of how we live is not just incidentally related to our moral, political and spiritual well-being.

The Center was especially pleased to welcome several of Notre Dame’s Schmitt Fellows to Professor Bess’s lecture, as well as to the reception and dinner that followed. Th e Schmitt Fellows are graduate students in Notre Dame’s Schools of Science and Engineering who are the principal recipients of the generosity of the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation to the University of Notre Dame. It was for the sake of honoring that generosity that the Schmitt Lecture Series was founded.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Shining in Obscurity: Rediscovering Four Catholic Authors

In past Catholic Culture Series, we have focused on such major figures as Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. This fall, rather than highlighting a specific, and rather wellknown, literary figure, the series focused on re-discovering four novels by four “forgotten” authors:

1. Michael Foley, Assistant Professor of Patristics in the Honors College at Baylor University, focused on Kristin Lavransdatter in his lecture entitled, “Sigrid Undset: Greatest Catholic Novelist of the Twentieth Century?”;

2. Ralph Wood, the Baylor University Professor of Theology and Literature, presented a talk entitled “The Call of the Desert in the Age of Ashes: The Centrality of Suffering in Walter Miller’s A Canticle of Leibowitz”;

3. Ralph McInerny, the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame, lectured on The Diary of a Country Priest in a lecture entitled “Bernanos and the Noonday Devil”; and

4. David Solomon, the W.P. and H.B. Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture and Associate Professor of Philosophy, reflected on one of his personal favorites, Lord of the World, in “Robert Hugh Benson: Anticipating the Apocalypse.”

Although each of these books has been considered a “classic” at one time, most of them are no longer studied in literature programs or read by the reading public and the authors themselves have fallen into obscurity. As part of its mission to promote the Catholic intellectual, moral and cultural tradition, the Center for Ethics & Culture encouraged readers in the Notre Dame community to rediscover – or perhaps even discover for the first time – these four novels and authors.

We would like to thank Clarence and Frieda Bayer of Arlington, Texas, whose generosity to the Center makes this series possible.

Forgiveness and the Challenge of Loving Enemies

Our Breaking Bread event is by now quite familiar to faithful readers. It is our semi-annual dinner and evening of spiritual discussion, which is popular among undergraduate students for the prestige of the speakers, the quality and depth of the table discussions, the delicious food, and perhaps its most enticing feature– the venue, the Notre Dame Stadium Press Box.

This fall, L. Gregory Jones, M.Div., Ph.D., Dean and Professor of Theology at Duke University Divinity School, challenged students and faculty alike in his moving reflection on “Forgiveness and the Challenge of Loving Enemies.” Dr. Jones’ reflection focused on the Christian imperative of forgiveness. Using rich illustrations from biblical and literary texts, he reminded us that, as Christians, we are called to respond to God’s saving mercy with forgiveness in our own lives. Of course, he noted, this is a difficult task – and no more so than when we are faced with forgiving our enemies. The question & answer session revealed how deeply Dr. Jones’ rich and meaningful reflection resonated with the students as they sought advice on how to live out Christ’s call in their own personal lives and in our broken, war-torn world.

Breaking Bread is chiefly organized by the Center’s current undergraduate assistants, Kate Wilson, Stephen Freddoso and Greer Hannan. The Center once again thanks Mr. and Mrs. Fran McGowen, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, for their generosity in sponsoring this event.