Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Purity of Heart: A Meditation on a Beatitude

Breaking Bread, our semi-annual dinner and evening of spiritual discussion for Notre Dame students and faculty, began only four years ago, but it has already secured a place in the hearts of undergraduates and professors alike. Students often share with us that it is rare to find a warm environment that fosters profound theological discussion with their professors. Especially in an age when many feel like the distance between the two groups is continually widening, Breaking Bread gives students the rare chance of talking with professors outside the classroom. One student said, “It’s nice to have an occasion for us to eat together and talk about what’s really important to our lives.”

At this fall’s Breaking Bread event, on November 13, 2007, Professor Lawrence S. Cunningham, the Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology in Notre Dame’s Department of Theology, gave a stirring reflection entitled “Purity of Heart: A Meditation on a Beatitude.” Professor Cunningham’s reflection first described what it means to be pure in our society today. He then focused on the way in which purity manifests itself in different aspects of our lives. Professor Cunningham’s reflection gave rise to lively discussions between students and faculty members over a delicious dinner. One student remarked, “It was refreshing to enjoy an evening in an atmosphere where I was encouraged to talk openly about my Christian faith with other students and faculty members.” Another student remarked, “The discussion at my table was very interesting because there were students from so many different majors who had unique reactions to Dr. Cunningham’s talk.”

As part of the evening’s events, each attendee received a copy of Professor Cunningham’s book, A Brief History of Saints.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Convenience, Control, and Other Technological Virtues

On November 7, 2007, the fall Schmitt Lecture was delivered by Christine Rosen, a Fellow for the Project on Biotechnology and American Democracy at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior editor of The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology and Society. Dr. Rosen’s talk, entitled “Convenience, Control, and Other Technological Virtues,” focused on the ways in which the new media technologies, especially in their ability to serve up content “on demand,” are changing our conceptions of social space.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Shakespeare and Catholicism

The annual Catholic Culture Literature Series originated in the Center’s desire to expose the Notre Dame community to the richness of the Catholic literary heritage. Through this series of lectures, we seek to promote writers known for the quality of their works and the uniquely Catholic dimension of their literary perspectives. In past semesters, 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. The mission of this year’s Catholic Culture Series was to try to decipher the enigma and controversy surrounding Shakespeare’s Catholicism. We invited four renowned Shakespeare scholars to shed some light on the subject:

1. Joseph Pearce, Writer in Residence and associate professor of literature at Ave Maria University and internationally acclaimed author of numerous books, whetted the audience’s appetite with a lecture entitled, “Will the Real Shakespeare Please Stand Up? Evidence for the Bard’s Catholicism”;

2. Peter Holland, then-Acting Dean of the Graduate School, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies and Chair of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre, focused on Shakespeare’s hidden symbols in a talk entitled, “Cracking the Shakespeare Code”;

3. John Finnis, the Biolchini Family Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School and lecturer, reader and a chaired professor in law at Oxford University, gave an in-depth analysis of several of the Bard’s works in a talk called “The Audacity of Shakespeare’s Non-Recusant Catholicism”;

4. Clare Asquith, independent scholar & author of Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Politics of William Shakespeare, focused on the necessity of relating Shakespeare studies back to 16th century history in a lecture entitled “Shakespeare’s Dark Matter.” William Shakespeare is clearly one of—if not the—most recognized and revered figures in literary history; yet it is precisely because of this that we often study his plays and sonnets in certain established ways, leaving little room for originality to emerge. Through a thorough and multi-faceted discussion of different fascinating aspects of Shakespeare, these lecturers provided the audience with a fresh perspective through which to view his work. If we continue to read Shakespeare within the context of a broader scope, we will, as Clare Asquith said, “in 20 years have a much richer Shakespeare.”