Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
The reliquary chapel at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart contains 1,618 relics of more than 700 saints and blesseds.
Of note are remains from the Twelve Apostles, a piece from the True Cross, and a hair from the Blessed Mother herself.
Part of why we venerate the saints is that we are not merely spirit, not merely mind, but also body. Christ became man. He allowed himself to experience our full humanity that we might partake in God’s divinity by becoming saints. Our matter matters. Thus, it should matter at the alma mater of so many, that the president and leadership of the University of Notre Dame ignores Catholic teaching about human sexuality via policy and the covering of a legal fig leaf.
The chapel also contains a relic from Saint Thomas More. In light of the university’s decision to tacitly continue promoting the use of contraception via its insurance policy, perhaps someone should check to see if that last one is spinning. Saint Thomas More went to his death the King’s good servant but God’s first for upholding the Church’s teaching on marriage. Given the school’s lukewarm acceptance of the worldly perspective on contraception, either Saint Thomas More was the greatest sucker in the history of the universe for getting so worked up over nothing, or Father Jenkins and those who approved this policy should reconsider.
Why? Because the people who love the university shout, “We are ND.” We are what we profess and what we do. If a writer does not write, the writer ceases to be a writer. If a runner does not run, eventually he or she no longer can be considered a runner. If a University ceases to practice its Catholicism, how long before all those things we have to call us to prayer become mere sentimental ornamentations? All these relics absent faith become mere artifacts of a museumed religious culture. How much can a university cut away at how one represents the faith, before one ceases to be a Catholic institution? We’re called as Catholics always to go deeper and deeper in, not to beg the question, how shallow can we be and get away with it?
The University of Notre Dame should not be in the business of asking that question for the very same reason people who work there should not have access to something counter to the Church’s teachings as a benefit of working there. The football team, the student body, the faculty, the buildings and the ground, all represent Notre Dame, Our Lady. Policies of a university created in the Blessed Mother’s honor should do same. It’s not tyranny to insist that a Catholic institution live out its creed and be Catholic. It’s just presumed.
If you’re going to be a Catholic university, if you’re going to cloak everything in the name of our Blessed Mother, it’s okay to say, Because we honor Mary, we cannot serve mammon. We cannot give out a medication designed to put a barrier between a husband and a wife, or which may take a life in the process of being administered. We cannot give out a medication which breaks part of the human body of the woman so as to allow for the gift of sex to be enjoyed without the possibility of conception. We cannot aid and abet people engaging in what we know even if they do not, to be a sin.
If such decisions make you uncomfortable because the world (and perhaps many who work at the university) would prefer otherwise, remember: If we embrace Christ, eventually each of us will find ourselves on the cross. It’s a spiritual reality. We cannot be disciples of Jesus and comfortable. We’re called to be generous, joyous, luminous, prayerful, kind, merciful and engaged human beings, who reach out to others with love and seek to imitate Jesus in all things. We’re called to be as perfect in our discipleship as we can, (like the most perfect of disciples, the first disciple), Mary. She put nothing between herself and God. The university should do no less.