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Hesburgh lectures on Our Lady

Matthew Smedberg | Wednesday, January 21, 2004

In an evening address that included both meditation and lecture, Father Theodore Hesburgh spoke to students, faculty and alumni Tuesday night on “Notre Dame: Our Lady” in the Hesburgh library auditorium. Hesburgh, the University’s president emeritus of 35 years, spoke for a little over an hour, discussing the story of Mary as found in the Gospels and mysteries of the rosary.

Hesburgh also retold the story of the foundation of Notre Dame, stressing Father Sorin’s trust in and dependence on Mary’s guidance for the struggling, fledgling University’s success.

The lecture is part of Campus Ministry’s “Blessed Mother lecture series,” a series begun as an initiative of Dolores Tantoco-Stauder, a University librarian emerita. Tantoco-Stauder, hired in 1957, was among Notre Dame’s first female faculty members.

In reflecting on his own past, Hesburgh said that, as he is going blind, he is no longer able to pray the breviary every day, as priests are ordinarily required to do. Instead, he substitutes 15 decades of the rosary. He is still able to say Mass and does so daily.

“In the 60 years that I’ve been a priest, there have been three days that I did not say Mass,” Hesburgh said. “I have said it 500 feet beneath the Pacific on a submarine, at 50,000 feet in an airplane and at the South Pole … I almost had the opportunity to go up into space, and if I had I would have said Mass on the space shuttle, which is definitely something you don’t see every day.”

Hesburgh spoke with fierce pride about Notre Dame, calling it “the greatest Catholic University in the world, bar none.” If you were to “take all the pontifical universities in the world,” he said, and “add [them] up, I don’t think they’d add up to Notre Dame.”

When asked if he had one piece of advice for Notre Dame students at the end of the lecture, Hesburgh responded simply, “Stay close to our Lady. It’s her place; she knows how to take care of you.”