Today is about Fr. Edward Sorin, CSC. Where to start.
Fr. Dick Stout, CSC used to say this thing about folks from the US who would travel to work in a new country. Those who stayed for a year or less, he would say with a smile, often leave and write a definitive interpretation of what they encountered. But those who stayed, and the longer they stayed, had a deepening sense of disorientation, wonder, and love that prevented such a reductive explanation.
I feel a bit like this about Fr. Sorin.
Katie and I read a bunch to prepare to write Sorin Starts a School, but the central text we drew from was this behemoth by former ND professor, Fr. Martin O’Connell. Here, Fr. O’Connell exhaustively describes Sorin’s vocational journey, enigmatic character, considerable strengths, and inescapable shortcomings.
To me, Fr. Sorin seems almost uninterpretably complex, so, tough to write an honest picture book about. But we sifted through his life and decided to leave readers of Sorin Starts a School with the following snapshot: Despite his shortcomings, his faith in God and his desire (and capacity) to build something that nourishes others was relentless. Utterly and magnificently relentless.
And this theme of building stuff that nourishes is one that I find so important to our contemporary church.
Often, I wonder: “Will we be a people who comment or who contribute?”
Some time ago, I wrote out the following to challenge myself.
Think for a moment about how you spent the last year in the life of the church.
How much commentary did you offer? That is, your opinion about what someone else was doing or creating?
How much creation did you offer? That is, you showing up and offering generous leadership, an educational experience, a moment of beauty, a sacred space.
I am certain that we need more generous contribution. I am not sure that we need more commentary.
Fr. Edward Sorin, CSC was a serious contributor. For years, it was unclear if Notre Dame was going to succeed. Reading the history, it is a wonder that it did. But Fr. Sorin and companions did the hard work of contribution, of building a place whose existence has been definitive in the course of our lives.
So. Like Sorin, we are not perfect. And like Sorin, we can still build stuff that will nourish others.
Unlike Sorin, though, we probably won’t build a university… or wait… why not?
Order Sorin Starts a School: The Foundation of Notre Dame today! All proceeds support the work of the Holy Cross in Bangladesh.
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