I think it is safe to assume that many readers of the Rover object to the honoring of Joe Biden and John Boehner with the Laetare Medal. Resisting such actions on the part of the administration is, in part, why we exist as a paper. In this column, then, I will not give reasons why these two politicians do not live up to the standards of such an award; instead, I think that an event such as this requires each of us to reflect for a moment on our own lives.
What does the inscription on the Laetare Medal say? “Magna est veritas et prevalebit”: “Truth is mighty, and it shall prevail.”
The notion of truth seems to be a fitting topic for university students; pursuing truth is why we enroll in a university in the first place. But the truth by which this medal receives its meaning is not some vague transcendental of which any university can claim a part. The Laetare Medal is the most prestigious Catholic award because the very nature of the truth it proclaims is prevailing over everything.
The privilege of being at a Catholic university is that we can go directly to the source to discover what—or rather Who—this truth is. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” says Jesus (John 14:6). Jesus Christ Himself, therefore, is the source and foundation of this medal, and witnessing to Him in our respective places in society seems to be the sole criterion by which this medal can be awarded.
Amidst all the critiquing of the people whom the administration has chosen to receive this medal, we must stop for a moment and consider our own witness to the truth—to Jesus and our faith—wherever we are. God has led each of us to a very particular place in order to serve Him. We are in various dorms, in relationships, and hired at different companies. Wherever we are, we are close to other people, people who need to know the Truth and people from whom we can learn more about Him. We must take this witness seriously, especially in a world so in need of God’s grace.
Saint Teresa of Avila pens a beautiful meditation on the extent of this witness: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
Amazingly, despite our many faults, God has chosen me and you to do His work in the world. When we were sealed with the Holy Spirit at our Confirmation, God prepared us to shed His light in the world by giving His very self to us. Readied, we must go forth. What a calling!
Over the years in this paper, we have read columns and editorials about the various ways that we should grow in our faith: daily prayer, the Rosary, Mass. These sustain our witness and give us strength. We should try to begin practicing such devotions everyday.
No matter our age or place in society, our first calling is to witness to Jesus Christ. As we continue responding to this year’s Laetare Medal recipients, let us each take a moment to reconsider our own witness to the Truth in the particular circumstances of our own lives.
John VanBerkum is a senior studying philosophy and theology. Though throughout all these years at Notre Dame we have dwelt upon his deep thirst for sweet tea (yes, even the sweetest of teas), his real secret is that while he acts as though he is indifferent to our interest in his bylines, he always betrays a sly smile when he reads them in the morning light. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org