Going to Notre Dame was awesome. It was awesomely awesome. This morning I wrote an article saying how awesome it was. Then I wrote to my Canadian publisher and PR girl saying how awesome it was. Then I wrote to my American PR girl saying how awesome it was. And now I am telling you.
The only non-awesome part was that I had to get up at 4:10 on Friday morning to get my flight to Chicago. Personally, I thought getting up at 6 would have been good enough to get through check-in and security for my 8:00 AM flight, but my dad said 4:00, and when I was nowhere around at 4:00, he came to wake me up.
Off we went to the airport, and I was through everything by 6:15 AM, so I sat by my gate for over an hour, reading Amy Lavender Harris's Imagining Toronto, so it wasn't so bad. And I had breakfast in Chicago's O'Hare airport, so that wasn't so bad. And when I got to South Bend airport, Holly appeared and drove me straight to Notre Dame and the coffee urn, so that was awesome.
Holly reads my blog, and it turns out that a whole lot of women and some men at Notre Dame also read my blog. And I know this because beautiful young person after beautiful young person (including Tess--hello, Tess!) appeared before me saying, "Hi! Um, I just want to say that I love your blog." And this was even more awesome than the coffee. I mean, usually my readers are invisible. I kind of know you are out there, but I can't see you. And now I know you are beautiful. (All young, enthusiastic people are beautiful to people over 35. That's why way-too-old-for-you men hit on you, when you are thinking "Bleck! He's so OLD!")
Okay, so discovering that I am a leetle bit famous at Our Lady's University was extremely cool, and Wendy Shalit's presentation was also extremely cool. Wendy Shalit wrote A Return to Modesty just after she graduated from Williamson; it started as her senior thesis. She started her talk with a clip of Oprah and Suze Orman bullying poor Octomom, but I didn't recognize her, so at first it just looked like Oprah and Suze--whom Wendy called two of the most powerful women in the world--bullying some poor young lady with a lot of kids, no money, and great eyelashes. And even when I realized who she was, I couldn't understand why this woman was being told she was the most hated woman in America by two of the most beloved. It was a very effective beginning for Wendy's talk on femininity and modesty.
Afterwards, I approached Wendy to buy a copy of her book and, to my amazement, she told me that she has read a post on my blog. And I was, like, "EEE! Wendy Shalit read my blog!" Look, in Edinburgh, I am so totally Mrs. B.A. I love being Mrs. B.A., but it was a really nice culture shock to be reminded that I am also Seraphic, Self-Appointed Auntie to the Singles of the World.
Then I went to John Cavadini's talk, and I was impressed because I went to theology school, and he is a big name in solid, orthodox Catholic theology. And then there was Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in the basilica (ND has its own basilica), celebrated by Bishop D'Arcy, the bishop who wrote that most sensible and humble letter about the Obama-at-Notre-Dame crisis. From his homily, I could see why Notre Dame students I talked to love him so much. It was the first Ordinary Form Mass I've been to in months, but I didn't pass out or freak out or become inwardly cranky. Mass was celebrated very beautifully, and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue was no problem, although I did't have the guts to kneel.
After Mass was pizza and Bishop D'Arcy's talk about how the priesthood of the laity fosters the priesthood of the clergy and vice versa. It was very, very moving. And then the fact that I got up at 4:10 AM tapped its foot and said ahem, so I found Holly and asked her to drive me to the convent where I was staying. There we were met by a lovely nun in Franciscan habit and shown to my room. And next to my room was Dawn Eden, standing in her doorway chatting enthusiastically with a Nashville Dominican. This was more awesomeness because I started reading Dawn's stuff years ago and we've sent emails back and forth, but we never met. And there she was. I told her what Wendy Shalit said at her talk, and then I went to my room and passed out in the nice, clean single bed.
In the morning, Kelly (not Holly) came to get me and drove me back to Notre Dame where I immediately drank two cups of coffee. There followed a day of really great lectures. I went to Tess's sister Lilian's talk on Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Pauline's talk on "The Geography of Vocation". Then I went to Dawn Eden's high-energy talk, although I was sad that Fr. Neil Roy's talk "Vocation and Sacramental Life" was on at the same time. Next I went to Professor O'Connor's lecture on how men see women, which included some thoughtful criticism of some trends in the theology of the body. His accent and generally weatherbeaten quality reminded me of the star of a old western movie, a John Wayne with a Ph.D. He is all for young marriage, which worried me a bit, so I made a note to address that in my speech.
I took a break from lectures when I realized I was nervous about my upcoming talk, but I got it together during Dr. Pakaluk's talk about Edith Stein, what women really want, and about putting your marriage and family ahead of your career. And then it was my turn and eeee!
The Conference Centre has a huge podium with a big impressive Notre Dame crest on the front. It is as far away from the audience as it can possibly be, and looks like it was built for the Tallest, Fattest and Most Important Man Ever to Be President of Our Lady's Own University. I knew nobody would be able to see me behind it, so I asked for a much smaller podium (or a music stand) to be placed as close to the audience as possible. And such is the power and the glory of the University of Notre Dame that I got it. After some fussing with the microphone, I was underway. When I was nervous, I looked at a row of long-term blog readers, and then I didn't feel nervous anymore. Tess, for example, has a smile that could light up the mines of Moria.
My speech was divided into
1. Why Speaking at Notre Dame is a Big, Family, Deal for me.
2. How I became Seraphic Single.
3. The History of Single Life in Christianity
4. Bernard Lonergan and Vocation as a Falling in Love.
(There was no way I was going to come to Notre Dame and not talk about Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan!)
5. How not to Drive Yourself Crazy as a Single Person.
6. How to Make Yourself More Comfortable as a Single Person.
Afterwards, your fellow blogreaders started the questions, and I was so happy my speech went well, my adrenaline hit levels not seen since my boxing days, and I almost forgot that I was supposed to sell and sign my books. So I rushed out of the auditorium, bleating and shouting instructions, and sat at the table to sell and sign books. I sold and signed books until I was dragged away for dinner, and I felt like a Popular Girl, most unlike when I was in elementary school.
At dinner, I sat with Margo B and Jennifer B and two other women whose names I have forgotten (being so excited at the time) and some Nashville Dominicans, including Sr. Elinor who studied philosophy at B.C. It was great fun, and then Lauren came and whisked me away for the cocktail she long ago promised to buy me if I ever came to South Bend. Sadly, I drank coffee at dinner, so when Lauren brought me back to the convent, I couldn't sleep. And--this is the tragic part--I had had the most awesomely awesome day and I couldn't tell B.A. about it. No phone. No computer. No B.A. Wah! Let me tell you, it was a good thing that was a single bed, because if there had been any room in it for B.A., I would have been miserable with missing-B.A.ness. But as it was I was able to lump it and just be grateful for the awesomeness of Notre Dame students in general and my readers in particular.
The next day Holly came for me and took me to Trid Mass, for, lo, there is Trid Mass at Notre Dame on Sundays, in a chapel under Alumni Hall, and there was no White Sheet, so after reading the readings in Latin, the priest read them in English. And the Men's Schola was just one man named John, who sang very well and looked very fetching in choir dress, and now I think my own Men's Schola should wear choir dress, too. Then after Mass Rocco told me that one of my audience members (perhaps not a reader) told him she wasn't going to take advice from a Scot, which hopefully her great-great-grandfather didn't say to Andrew Carnegie. At any rate, it is the first time in my life I have been referred to as a Scot, so I am grateful to her although I am puzzled over her disdain for Scottish advice. Scots are very canny, and some of them are said to be psychic, so really, Scottish advice should be right up there in the hierarchy of advice.
Then we trooped off for brunch in the South Dining Hall, where my fellow Trids elected to sit at the High Table. I wrote down witty things the students said for my CR column, and the South Dining Hall flowed with food and drink. Then Holly drove me and another speaker to the airport and bid us good-bye.
But that was not the end. Behold the brilliance of Holly: my Dad, who loves to read plane and weather forecasts, discovered that my flight from Chicago to Toronto was cancelled. He called Holly, but I was already in the passenger lounge. So Holly gave him the phone number of the other speaker, who naturally had been sitting beside me chatting merrily, and lo, my dad called her cellphone and left a message, which she found and played for me. I am not sure I would have been as quick-witted as Holly, and if I am ever rich and famous, or at least well-paid enough by somebody to have a permanent Personal Assistant, I want one like her.
So that was my Notre Dame adventure, and here I am in Toronto, where I feel much less famous but very happy that I met so many readers and had such a good time. If you can get to next year's Edith Stein Project, I really recommend that you do. It was such a good mix of talks, both formal and fun, and there were tons of good food and crowds of nice people.
Heartfelt thanks to Rebecca and Holly and her sister Jennifer and Tess and everyone else at Notre Dame--or who drove to Notre Dame--who made me feel so welcome.
UPDATE: More thanks to Holly for the photo!