Laetare Medalists (1929-34). G. K. Chesterton. Frank Hering. Fathers Albertson and DeWulf. Knute Rockne. Charles Phillips. Father Hudson.
FATHER O'DONNELL'S first Laetare Medalist was Alfred F. Smith. During the political campaign between Smith and Hoover anti-Catholic bigotry had played an ugly role. Mr. Smith's practical Catholicity placed him in the position of one defending his religion as well as the campaign platform of the Democratic party. Smith's courage and ability made him a willing martyr for his Faith, and, even though he was defeated in 1928, he was the most popular Catholic figure in America. In the spring of 1929 no more popular choice for the Laetare Medal could have been made.
The presentation of the Medal took place at a brilliant reception held on May 5th in the Plaza Hotel, New York. The Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, Frank Pierce Pont-Graves, delivered an address. Father O'Donnell then rose to make the speech of presentation, in which he said:
Sir: This year the University admits you to the historic and distinguished company of her Laetare Medalists. Your title to enrollment there is found in your long and honorable public career as a statesman and in the unsullied virtue of your private life, for both of which alike the soundness and sincerity of your Catholic Faith stand out as the moving force and radiant inspiration. . . . 
Turning then to Cardinal Hayes, the Archbishop of New York, Father O'Donnell handed him the medal, which his Eminence pinned on the lapel of Governor Smith. There was a tremendous ovation, and this was repeated when a letter of sincere congratulations from Herbert Hoover, the President of the United States and Smith's former opponent, was read.
The Medalist for 1930 was Frederick P. Kenkel of St. Louis, director of the Central Bureau of the Central Verein, a German Catholic organization for the advancement of social science. Mr. Kenkel was not, of course, as well known as Alfred Smith, but his life and work was worthy of the honor bestowed upon him. He had already been made a Knight of St. Gregory by Pius X, and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre by the Patriarch of Jerusalem. It happened that the Central Verein was celebrating its Diamond Jubilee in convention at Baltimore during the summer. Father Francis Wenninger went on for the celebration and, amidst the plaudits of the assembled delegates, presented the Laetare Medal to Kenkel on August 17th.
In 1931 James J. Phelan of Boston, a lay trustee of the University, and a man noted for his national religious philanthropies, was awarded the Laetare Medal. Mr. Phelan was a humanitarian of the finest type. The services he rendered to the suffering public during the time of great disasters and national calamities could not be too highly praised. Organized help, swift and efficient, was Jim Phelan's contribution at the time of the San Francisco earthquake and fire, the Ohio flood, the Salem fire and the explosion at Halifax. His services to the United States during the first World War were truly outstanding. With the help of his committee he raised nearly a quarter of a billion dollars for the United War Work.
The Medalist for 1932 was Dr. Stephen J. Maher, of New Haven, Connecticut, an internationally known authority on tuberculosis. He had been named by two presidents of the United States, Coolidge and Hoover, as our representative to the International Tuberculosis Conference. Dr. Maher was a man of great simplicity, interested only in the work of stamping out a disease from which so many of his fellow-men were suffering. His name was hardly known outside medical and scientific circles, but his choice as medalist for 1932 emphasized the University's policy of determining the award on a basis of merit rather than fame.
John McCormack received the Laetare Medal in 1933. Mr. McCormack's choice was unique; he was the only figure of the concert stage to have been thus far honored. Though born at Athlone, Ireland, and though strongly Irish in his culture and his Catholicity, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1919. His selection was immediately popular. This year of 1933 was also the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Laetare Medal, and Father O'Donnell chose to make of it an occasion for great celebration. All the living Laetare Medalists were invited to partake in the celebration which would be held on Commencement Sunday, June 4th, when the Medal would be conferred on McCormack. Only seven of that distinguished company could be present -- Charles Maginnis, Dr. Stephen Maher, Margaret Anglin, Dr. James J. Walsh, Jack Spalding, and Alfred Smith.
The exercises were held in the gymnasium. When Alfred Smith entered the band struck up "The Sidewalks of New York," and the crowd roared its welcome. When John McCormack entered to the strains of the less glamorous but more pleasing "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms," his ovation was no less vociferous. Bishop Noll of Fort Wayne stepped to the microphone to open the celebration. After him, came Mr. Smith, whose chatty sallies of wit brought down the house. Dr. James J. Walsh spoke briefly about the men who had received the Laetare Medal, and Margaret Anglin did the same for the women.
Father O'Donnell, already bearing the signs of the long illness which was to be his last, then arose and read the citation. "Unheard beauties," he said, "you have made audible. Simple, homely things you have taken from kitchen and fireside to the whiteness and brightness of the theaters. You have captured Irish ballads from cross-roads and country-sides, and by a wizardry of tone have transformed them into new, beautiful essences. You have made Ireland's voice audible to millions who have never seen Ireland's face." After which, he pinned the Medal on McCormack's lapel.
McCormack was nervous as he approached the microphone, but he gave one of the best speeches of the day. He spoke of his utter embarrassment in the presence of such distinguished company, but admitted that he had, in his heart of hearts, longed for such recognition. For years, he said, he had followed the award with keen interest and almost with envy. The "Fighting Irish," with such splendid Gaelic names as Carideo, Savoldi and Schwartz, must have wielded some "pre-Laetare" influence, he thought. "In no sense of false modesty," he continued, "do I now confess that I never thought that I would stand as I do here tonight with this precious medal on my breast. . . . Words are futile things at such a moment. . . . It would be so much easier for me to sing my thanks.. . ." And sing he did. For when he turned from the microphone, the crowd was instantly on its feet, clamoring for a song. He sang "The Prayer Perfect":
Bring unto the sorrowing
All release from pain,
Let the lips of laughter
And with the needy,
O divide, I pray,
This vast treasure of content
That is mine today!
The words were James Whitcomb Riley's, Father O'Donnell's early idol and fellowtownsman. What must have been Father O'Donnell's thoughts as he sat there listening, gaunt, drawn, and sick unto death?
In the last year of his presidency, Father O'Donnell announced that Mrs. Genevieve Garvan Brady of New York had been awarded the Laetare Medal for 1934. Mrs. Brady, a cultured and exemplary Catholic, had made use of her vast wealth in innumerable Catholic charities. Nor was her interest limited to merely Catholic enterprises. She had been very active, under Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, in relieving the distressed women in the serious financial depression of the times. Also, she was head of the Board of the Girl Scouts of America. She received the award in Rome, Rev. Julius Nieuwland making the presentation.
One of Father O'Donnell's first interests upon taking office was to secure some outstanding figures who, if not permanently added to the faculty, might, as visiting lecturers, add prestige to the University. The one on whom he first settled was Hilaire Belloc, the noted English historian and controversialist. In September, 1928, Father O'Donnell wrote to Mr. Belloc inviting him to lecture to the summer school students the following year, since among them there were many doing graduate work. There was no reply to the letter for some time due to the fact, as it became later known, that Mr. Belloc was in Poland. A few weeks later, Father O'Donnell wrote renewing his request, and sending along his recent volume of poetry, A Rime of the Rood.
Finally, on October 11th, Belloc answered, excusing his tardy response. In his letter he said that his financial obligations were so heavy and that he was under contract to write so many things that he could not entertain the thought of coming to America for a course of lectures for less than one thousand pounds. He warned Father O'Donnell not to think him grasping, for he indicated that he was seriously in need of money and might make that much by staying at his desk in England.
Father O'Donnell answered on November 23rd, agreeing to pay Mr. Belloc the sum of $5000 for a series of lectures in the spring, asking the noted lecturer to agree to stay for Commencement and deliver the address to the graduates, and accept an honorary degree. For one reason or another, Mr. Belloc could not come to the United States. The following year, he did make the trip, and was engaged to visit Notre Dame. However, after he had reached New York, sickness forced him to return to England.
With regard to Mr. G. K. Chesterton, Father O'Donnell's efforts were more productive of results. The President of the University first got in touch with Mr. Robert Sencourt, a friend of Mr. Chesterton's, and asked him to approach the English controversialist and ask him if he would come to Notre Dame for a period of six weeks, preferably in the spring of 1930, to give two series of lectures, one on some phase of English letters, the other on English history. For these series of lectures, the University was prepared to offer $5000 and expenses from England to Notre Dame and return.
Chesterton signified, through Mr. Sencourt, that the proposal was agreeable to him, but only on condition that Mrs. Chesterton should accompany him. One can understand this condition when we read an extract from a later letter to Father O'Donnell from Mrs. Chesterton:
I feel somehow that we have never thanked you properly for all your goodness to us at Notre Dame. It must have been a bit of a nuisance to you to think for a man's wife and his secretary -- but you will have realized how impossible it would have been for him without us. No man was ever so dependent upon his belongings. No man was ever more compelled to carry his home with him wherever he might go. . . . 
Miss Dorothy Collins, Chesterton's secretary, wrote on June 21, 1929, to say that the arrangements agreed to by Father O'Donnell were satisfactory and that they would present themselves at the University in the spring of 1930. But around Christmas time, 1929, Mr. Chesterton was taken ill. In February, 1930, his secretary wrote saying the visit would have to be postponed until autumn. Father O'Donnell was disappointed, of course, but there was nothing to do but accept the lectures for the fall term.
The Chesterton party arrived at Notre Dame on the evening of October 4th, 1930. The lectures began on the following Monday. On Friday, the 10th, in the evening, the stadium was solemnly dedicated. Navy had come on for the dedicatory game, and Father O'Donnell was busy with them. He had told Johnny Mangan, the University chauffeur, to look after the Chestertons, and to see that they got into the stadium and that Mr. Chesterton had a seat on the platform from which the speeches were to be made, There were about twenty thousand people present, and when the students saw the magnificent bulk of Chesterton going toward the platform, they cheered wildly: "He's a man! Who's a man? He's a Notre Dame man!" Chesterton turned nervously to Mangan, saying: "My, they're angry!" "Angry!" exclaimed Johnny, "golly man, they're cheerin' you!" Whereat Chesterton began such a fit of laughing and sputtering as almost to choke himself.
It was a wild autumn. in the midst of all the excitement caused by another championship team and the visit of Chesterton, the campus had a hard time with its dignity. Chesterton's lectures were very well attended. The students found them without much order, but always entertaining. And there was the man himself, nearly three hundred pounds of him, who, thinking of some delicious aside, would start to chuckle and so convulse the audience before he had said what he had to say, that they were in a constant state of good nature. The biggest surprise of all was that from such a mountain of brawn and beam, there should come only a thin trickle of sound. It was a constant strain to listen to him, but well worth the effort. When he returned after a few days in Canada (it was the time of Prohibition), he apologized that his voice should not have been in a better condition. He later spoke of his lectures in a very contrite fashion, saying they had been "inflicted on people who had never done me any harm. . . . An agonizing effort to be fair to the subtleties of the evolutionary controversy in addressing the students of Notre Dame . . . of which no record remains except that one student wrote in the middle of his blank note-book: 'Darwin did a lot of harm'."
Students used to gather at the west door of Washington Hall before the lecture just to see Chesterton unloaded from Johnny Mangan's limousine. It was an operation that took no little time and effort. The door would open, and a great black mass of broadcloth cape would begin to wiggle and then back forth from the door of the car. There were long moments of silent suspense, after which one would not have been surprised to hear the kind of cheer that rises at the successful launching of a battleship. One evening, Father O'Donnell invited the entire faculty to meet the Chestertons at a buffet supper. Chesterton sat there, balancing the delicate tea things on his capacious lap -- on which you could have set a seven-course banquet -- being polite to the little groups which approached him.
When the series of lectures was over, a special convocation of the faculty and students was held on the afternoon of November 5th, 1930, to honor Chesterton by conferring upon him the Doctorate of Laws. After the citation, which was read by Father Carrico, Father O'Donnell asked Chesterton to say a few words. Among other things, the new doctor said:
There is always a bond between us that would make you tolerant of me, I know. I have only once before gone through a ceremony of this kind, and that was at the highly Protestant University of Edinburgh, where I found that part of the ceremony consisted of being lightly touched on the head with the cap of John Knox. I was very much relieved to find that it was not part of the ceremony on the present occasion that I should, let us say, wear the hat of Senator Heflin! . . .
I recall my first landing. . . . It all seemed strangely alien, although I quickly discovered what kind and generous people the Americans are. I did not feel like that at all when I came to America the second time. If you want to know why I felt different, the reason is in the name of your University. That name was quite sufficient as far as I was concerned. It would not have mattered if it had been in the mountains of the moon. Where she has erected her pillars, all men are at home, and I knew that I should not find strangers.
Another literary figure who came to the University to lecture was William Butler Yeats. He did not have the hearty welcome that was accorded Chesterton. His talk to the students on the Irish Renaissance did not strike a very sympathetic chord for he spoke mostly of an Ireland that was un-Catholic. Some thirty years previous, he had been at Notre Dame. We gather from certain documents that he was then anything but cordial to the Catholic point of view. After his second visit Father O'Donnell wrote to Tom Daly:
He [Yeats] came in yesterday with a wild-eyed secretary, a Captain Duncan from Dublin, and they left at noon today. . . . He read a few things of my own, mostly early Irish pieces, which he termed charming. Some of my later things he said he couldn't follow, and indeed as he read them -- out loud, of course -- I found them quite incomprehensible myself. The fellow, by the way, is positively "hipped" on psychical research, but on the whole he was much more human and agreeable than the somewhat snobbish and esoteric freak that he appeared to me thirty years ago.
Among the various Societies at the University, there was the Italian Club. Students of Italian parentage had come to the University in increasing numbers and, if for no other reason, it was a good thing for them to group together now and then to talk over questions of Italian culture and even politics. On one occasion, Pasquale Pirchio, professor of Italian, invited the Italian Consul at Chicago, Cavaliere Giuseppe Castruccio, to address the Italian Club. Father O'Donnell was present at the little dinner given in honor of the Consul and was pleased with Castruccio's speech. It was, indeed, very creditable. In January, 1931, Father O'Donnell wrote to the Consul, thanking him for the address.
On April 20, 1931, Gurai, head of the Cabinet of the Italian Government, announced that King Victor Emmanuel III had awarded to Father O'Donnell the decoration "Cavaliere della Corona d'Italia." The document was transmitted to the Italian Consul in Chicago who, on May 18th, forwarded it to Father O'Donnell. Father O'Donnell was taken completely by surprise. Although he had been the only one of Notre Dame's chaplains to serve in Italy, and had traveled there afterwards, he could see no personal reason for the award. He therefore accepted the decoration as a recognition of Notre Dame's services to the Italian students of the United States.
Because of illness and other obstacles, the presentation of the decoration was delayed until the 3rd of March, 1932. That evening, surrounded by many distinguished guests of Italian nationality, Castruccio pinned the award on Father O'Donnell's breast.
Italian genius in the person of Guglielmo Marconi, the discoverer of wireless and radio, was honored when Marconi was granted an honorary degree by Notre Dame in special convocation on October 14th, 1933. It had been planned that Marconi should come to the University for the June Commencement of that year, but circumstances had kept him in Italy. As Father O'Donnell was ill, Father O'Hara, the vice-president, made the speech of presentation. He pointed out the happy coincidence that one of Notre Dame's own professors, Jerome Green, had duplicated, only a stone's throw away from where he was speaking, the same experiments which had made Marconi a famous young man in 1899, and that these experiments had been performed only a month after those of Marconi himself.
One of the most popular holidays in America is Mother's Day. Its founder is a Notre Dame graduate and one of Notre Dame's greatest friends, Frank F. Hering. Frank was a prominent member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and edited their national magazine. It was on February 7, 1904, that he addressed a convention of the Eagles in the English Opera House at Indianapolis. On that occasion he chose to develop the theme that the great things of the world had been achieved by the devotion and love of mothers. It was a brilliant piece of oratory. He urged the Eagles at least to set aside one day a year for the honoring of motherhood. The young Mr. Hering probably did not suspect at the moment how that speech was to make history. In 1930, when the idea had been enthusiastically accepted by the whole nation, people began to wonder just who had started the idea. After an investigation by the War Mothers, it was discovered that Frank Hering was the first to propose such an anniversary. On Sunday, May 10, 1931, twenty-six years after the occasion, the Order of Eagles unveiled a tablet in Indianapolis on the site of Frank Hering's address.
Incomplete as this record is bound to be, we cannot refrain from mentioning certain campus personalities who, during Father O'Donnell's administration, were made more memorable by death. A splendid gentleman and scholar, the Hon. Dudley Goodall Wooten died February 7, 1929. He was a convert to the Faith and a fighting protagonist. He was a Texan by birth, a Princeton man by education, and a far-westerner by residence before he came to the faculty of Law at Notre Dame in 1924. Judge Wooten was living in Seattle when the famous Oregon School Bill came up for judication. That was a bill, fostered by the enemies of the Church, which aimed to close all the parochial schools in Oregon. Archbishop Christie of Portland chose Wooten to prepare the brief that brought the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, where the bill was pronounced unconstitutional. Brief though was his connection with Notre Dame, he earned the respect and admiration of his fellow-teachers and his students.
Father O'Donnell was to suffer still further blows to his faculty, particularly in the death of three rather young and brilliant men, Fathers George Albertson, Emiel DeWulf and Prof. Charles Phillips.
George Albertson was from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was born in October, 1886. It was in 1912 that he came to Notre Dame after two years at the University of Michigan. After receiving his degree in science, in 1914 he went to the Novitiate at Notre Dame, and in 1915 to Washington. He was ordained a priest in 1919, and returned to the Catholic University where he obtained his doctorate in 1921. He was immediately appointed to the faculty of science at Notre Dame. He was a man of tremendous energy and geniality. Those who saw him drive his huge frame swiftly through a day's work, helping, too, with the work of the prefect of religion, sometimes wondered how long that would last. After Commencement, 1929, Father Albertson felt very weary. He went to the Infirmary to rest a bit. On the evening of June 7th, some of his clerical friends dropped in to see him after supper for a short chat. After they had left, Father Albertson thought he might take a short stroll. He got as far as the door, suddenly felt ill, and called the Sister. She came immediately, but none too soon. The priests who had been talking to him a few moments before were recalled hastily, and they were in time to anoint this great-hearted and fine-minded priest.
Of a different stamp was Father DeWulf. He was not only modest and humble about his mathematical and astronomical learning, but he was so quiet and unruffled as to make you think ice flowed in his veins. No one ever remembers to have seen him excited, not even under the most trying conditions. Sometimes he would turn aside until he had found the soft word, but never, even under the trial of rudeness or insistence, did he seem to become perturbed. Emiel DeWulf was born in South Bend on March 26, 1883. He was graduated from Notre Dame in 1903, went to the Novitiate, then to Washington in 1904, and was ordained a priest on June 28, 1908. After the completion of his mathematical studies at Catholic University, he went to St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas. He became president of St. Edward's in 1914, a position he retained until he was recalled to Notre Dame in 1917. Father Walsh made him his Director of Studies in 1927. The choice was admirable. He translated to this office all the order, efficiency, and silence of his own soul.
Father DeWulf had been ill for years, but no one ever knew it. In the middle of May, 1930, Father DeWulf confessed that the last few days had been the most trying of his life. His superiors became alarmed and sent him to the hospital. On May 20th, toward evening, his condition was much worse. In the morning, they told him he was going to die. Never was a soul more conscious and undisturbed. He asked that his secretary be sent for, that he might dictate a few letters concerning things he had left hanging fire. After finishing this duty, performed with quiet order and precision, he received the last Sacraments and died that evening just before dusk.
It was the Tuesday of Holy Week, March 31, 1931. Most of the student body was preparing to leave the campus for the Easter holiday, and the faculty was willing to relax in the prospect of the short Easter recess. After dinner that day, the priests had gone to the recreation room in the basement of Badin Hall. Some were playing cards; some were at the pool tables; others were sitting in the chairs smoking and talking. The telephone rang. Someone answered it and called for Father Mulcaire, the vice-president. "It's a long distance call!" Father Mulcaire took the receiver and spoke a few words, and his usually ruddy countenance turned ashen. He replaced the receiver and turned to the priests. His lips were almost bloodless as he whispered hoarsely: "Rockne's killed!"
Knute Kenneth Rockne was born in the tiny Norwegian health resort of Voss on March 4, 1888. Lars Rockne, the father, came to Chicago in 1891, and the year following the rest of the family joined him there. The future coach was a diminutive lad, but he possessed great determination and his mind was certainly above the average as his scholastic record in the Chicago grade schools attests. His estimable parents brought him up in the Lutheran religion. In high-school, the lad became tremendously interested in sports of all kinds to the detriment of his classes. In fact, it was this interest in sports that led Rockne, even before he had finished high-school, and with the enthusiastic encouragement of the principal, to quit the class room and go to work. From 1905 to 1910, Rockne worked in the Chicago post-office, and managed to lay by a little money, which eventually brought him to college.
One of Rockne's pals, a flashy track-man by name John Plant, stopped by the post-office one evening in September, 1910. John said he was going to Notre Dame the following day to start college. "Why don't you come along? I know you could find some work either at school or in South Bend to help pay your expenses." Rockne agreed. The next day found him at the University with whose name his own was to be so closely interwoven.
To speak of all the pertinent facts of Rockne's collegiate life, to retell all the stories concerning him, would be impossible in the present work. This has already been done in a manner more admirable than any we might write. In his years at Notre Dame Rockne proved himself not only a great athlete, but also an excellent student -- he was taught by Father Nieuwland and Father Kirsch, and he had to be good to get by that team -- and became later a very capable instructor in chemistry. Jesse Harper, who in 1912 had come to Notre Dame as coach and athletic director, thought so highly of his star that he kept him on after graduation in 1914 as assistant coach. And when Harper left in 1918, Rockne was appointed in his place.
Rockne had a way with boys that was phenomenal. His ability to bring out the best in his athletes was due, first of all, to their certainty that Rockne was thoroughly competent in his field. They trusted his judgment and were sure that his tactics were sound. When he gave orders or advised certain movements, there was no hesitation on the part of the players, not because they feared him, but because they were persuaded he was right. There was in him, also, the uncanny ability create surprise, the swift, unexpected flash so disconcerting to the opposition, and this, too, filled his players with admiration. We must mention, also, his universal masculine kindness, nearly always hidden in some metallic, brisk wise-crack. To his players, Rockne was almost a father confessor, for they went to him with all their troubles. And they always got help. This generous side of Rockne filled the boys with spirit of gratitude. Finally, Rockne had a great sense of the dramatic. We give no offense to his memory when we remark that, in company, Rockne was always the actor, a very clever and telling actor, with superb stage presence. These gifts, I think, explain his victories and no doubt much of the nation-wide admiration, even affection, for Knute Rockne.
As to the victories, Notre Dame teams were so outstanding that three times within a decade, in 1924, in 1929, and in 1930, they were proclaimed the collegiate national champions. These honors were especially remarkable because of the rigor of Notre Dame's football schedule. Notre Dame was a "national" team because it played teams in all parts of the country. In a former chapter, we spoke of how that came about. Notre Dame teams were enthusiastically followed by large numbers of Catholics. On nine or ten Saturdays during the fall, it was as though the Notre Dame boys entered the lists to joust for the honor of Our Lady. We do not wish to suggest that theology could possibly be vindicated by touchdowns. The fact remains, however, that victories have a way of instilling respect, and admiration for success in one field tends to spread out to others.
Of course, Notre Dame students, like those of any other college, were anxious for football victories fairly won. Football is a grand sport and has tremendous mass appeal, though one must admit there is always a danger of over-emphasis. Notre Dame students have a very rational regard for the game. It is a healthy interest. To see Notre Dame students flock to the trains that bore their returning teams, whether in victory or in defeat, was and is a lesson in loyalty and devotion. Rockne was a part of all this.
In October, 1929, Rockne, through some accident on the practice field, got a blood-clot in one of his legs. It not only caused him great physical anguish, but was a constant threat to his life. His inability to demonstrate at first hand the plays he had worked out, the necessity of watching practice from a chair on the side lines or from the seat of his automobile, caused him great mental suffering. During the remainder of the season, the doctors found Rockne almost unmanageable. At times they were able to make him stay in bed, but on these occasions he reached for the telephone and called each member of the team and gave him instructions, even when the team was located in some distant city. Occasionally, during 1929 and 1930, he had himself transported to the games in Chicago or Pittsburgh, where, sitting in a wheelchair or reclining in an ambulance, his face haggard and drawn, he had, by his presence, the finest possible effect on his players. For this man who had been so marvelously active and was now so helpless, they could play their hearts out. After the season was over, of course, Rockne was willing enough to look after his health. Both in 1929 and in 1930, he went to the Mayo clinic for rest and treatment.
About religion, Rockne was undemonstrative. It was almost impossible for him, of course, to escape something of the influence of Catholicity in the midst of Notre Dame boys. Moreover, Mrs. Rockne was a Catholic and the four Rockne children were being brought up as Catholics. All of this must have made a slow, deep impression on Rockne's mind. At last he went to Father Vincent Mooney, one of his old baseball players, and asked for instructions. He was baptized in the Log Chapel on the 20th of November, 1925. It was characteristic of Rockne that he wanted this ceremony to be as private as possible. Not even his children knew of it.
The following day Rockne made his First Communion. On that morning Knute Rockne, Jr., was making his First Communion at St. Edward's Hall with the other Minims. Seeing his father in the chapel, the little lad thought naturally enough: "He has come to see me make my First Communion!" When the time came, Rockne marched to the altar with his son. The boy whispered hoarsely: "Daddy, you know you can't come with me; only Catholics receive Communion!" The father thought it a poor time to do any explaining, and only after the boy once more insisted that Knute could not come did he whisper: "Father Mooney will tell you all about it!" They knelt together at the rail, and when Father Mooney approached bearing the ciborium, the boy gazed wonderingly at the priest and then at his father, his very eyes asking for some explanation. To quiet his fluttering heart, Father Mooney said to him in a low voice: "Everything's all right, Junior; your dad was baptized yesterday!" With an enraptured smile, his hands folded tightly, his face turned to his father, and his lips parted. "Daddy, I'm so happy. I'm going to offer my Communion for you today."
Rockne was many times asked why he became a Catholic. His was a conversion wrought through example. He tells about it in his own words:
I used to be impressed deeply at the sight of my players receiving Communion every morning, and finally I made a point of going to Mass with them on the morning of a game. I realized that it appeared more or less incongruous, when we arrived in town for a game, for the public to see my boys rushing off to church as soon as they got off the train, while their coach rode to the hotel and took his ease.
One night before a big game in the East I was nervous and worried about the outcome the next day, and was unable to sleep. I tossed and rolled about the bed, and finally decided to get up and sit downstairs. About five or six o'clock in the morning, while pacing the lobby of the hotel, I unexpectedly ran into two of my own players hurrying out.
I asked them where they were going at such an hour, although I had a good idea. Within the next few minutes, my players continued hurrying out and I decided to go along with them. They didn't realize it, but these youngsters were making a powerful impression on me with their devotion, and when I saw all of them walking up to the Communion rail to receive, and realized the hours of sleep they had sacrificed, I understood for the first time what a powerful ally their religion was to them in their work on the football field. Later on, I had the happiness of joining my boys at the Communion rail.
Early in 1931 Rockne became interested in a film being produced by Universal, to be called "The Spirit of Notre Dame." Both Rockne and some of his players were to take part in the film and toward the latter part of March, Rockne, leaving his family in Florida, left for the west coast. From Chicago, he traveled by train to Kansas City, where he hoped to see his two boys, Bill and Knute, Jr., who were studying at Pembroke School. Connections were bad, however, and Rockne did not see his boys. It was the morning of March 31st, and he wired Mrs. Rockne that he was leaving by plane for Los Angeles. The fog was bad that morning, and the airplane was in difficulty shortly after the takeoff. Near Cottonwood Falls, a farmer, R. Z. Blackburn, heard the plane go over, but he could not see it because of the clouds. It passed, and then it returned. Blackburn thought that was queer. Then, as he looked up, he saw the silver fuselage headed straight for the ground, and after it, a severed wing, floating to the earth. There was a deafening crash. Blackburn and some others hurried to the scene of the disaster. One look at the twisted wreckage told them that no one could have escaped. Death came not only to Rockne, in whose hands they found his broken rosary, but to the other five passengers, the pilot, the co-pilot and the steward.
It is not untrue to say that no death within the confines of the United States caused more grief and depression in those years than did the death of Rockne. When the news of his going had been flashed to the world, men stood in silent groups all over the nation, and the boys of the country were numbed in the knowledge that their hero had been taken from them. On the campus, of course, the blow was absolutely stunning. We will never forget the silence of the students. Once the news was confirmed, they closed their mouths and went to the church or the hall chapels to pray. In silence, they tried to hide their gloom and heart-break, for if they had talked, they would have wept.
It was on Holy Saturday, April 3rd, that Rockne was buried from the campus church. Since there could be no Mass of Requiem that day, the services were held in the afternoon. The public manifested so great a desire to participate in these services that it was impossible to accommodate all. Hence, the Columbia Broadcasting Company asked and obtained permission to send to the nation the events as they took place in the Church of the Sacred Heart. Loud speakers were employed on the campus also, so that the throngs outside might follow the funeral services.
Rockne's coffin was carried into the church by six of his players, Carideo, Schwartz, Mullins, Brill, Conley, and Yarr. At the portal, waiting to receive the body, was Most Reverend John Noll, Bishop of Fort Wayne, and the attending clergy. When the holy water had been sprinkled, there burst from the throats of the Moreau Seminary choir, under the direction of Father James Connerton, song that was strong, poignant, solemn. People from every part of the land wrote to say they had never heard music so beautiful, so moving.
Father O'Donnell, the president, preached a sermon which Father John Cavanaugh, the former president, said was like one of Bossuet's at his best. It began with a long passage from scripture, in which the omnipresent tenderness of God was emphasized, and seemed particularly apt: "If I ascend into heaven, thou art there . . . if I take my wings early in the morning . . . even there shall thy right hand lead me." When he went on to ask the questions, Who was Knute Rockne, and, Why did he enjoy such incredible popularity, he responded:
I do not know the answer. I would not dare the irreverence of guessing. But I find myself in this hour of piteous loss and pained bewilderment recalling the words of Christ: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto this: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." I think, supremely, he loved his neighbor, his fellow-man, with genuine, deep love. In an age that has stamped itself as the era of the "go-getter" -- a horrible word for what is all too often a ruthless thing -- he was a "go-giver" -- a not much better word, but it means a divine thing. He made use of all the proper machinery and legitimate methods of modern activity to be essentially not modern at all: to be quite elementarily human and Christian, giving himself, spending himself, like water, not for himself, but for others. And once again, in his case, most illustriously is verified the Christian paradox -- he has cast away to keep, he has lost his life to find it. This is not death, but immortality.
It is fitting that he should be brought here to his beloved Notre Dame and that his body should rest awhile in this church where the light of Faith broke upon his happy soul. . . . He might have gone to any university in the land and been gladly received and forever cherished there. But he chose Our Lady's school, he honored her in the monogram he earned and wore, he honored her in the principles he inculcated and the ideals he set up in the lives of the young men under his care. He was her own true son.
To her we turn in this hour of anguish and of broken hopes and hearts laid waste. She is the Mother of Sorrows and the Comforter of the Afflicted. 0 Mother of God, and Mother of God's men, we give him into thy keeping. Mary, Gate of Heaven, we come to thee, open to receive him. Mary, Morning Star, shine upon his sea. Mary of Notre Dame, take him into thy House of Gold. Our Life, Our Sweetness -- [and here Father O'Donnell's voice broke with a hoarse, choking sob so that it was most difficult for him to finish the sentence] Our Hope, we lay him in thy bosom.
Shortly after Rockne was buried in Highland Cemetery, Father O'Donnell announced that no new coach would be hired. Rockne had expressed his confidence in his two assistants, Hartley Anderson and John Chevigny. Father O'Donnell announced that they would carry on for Rockne. Father O'Donnell did turn to an old friend, however, when he asked Jesse Harper to return to Notre Dame as director of athletics.
Anderson's three-year tenure of the coaching position was not filled with great success. He himself was the first to admit that the job was beyond him. No matter who the coach might be, he would suffer in following upon Rockne. In the fall of 1933, Father John O'Hara became vice-president and automatically Chairman of the Board of Athletics. Mr. Anderson resigned after a rather disastrous season, and the next spring Elmer Layden was engaged, both as coach and as director of athletics.
Then, later, it was the turn of Professor Charles Phillips. Charley Phillips, as everyone called him with loving familiarity, has been spoken of before in these pages. Many things conspired to make Charley Phillips an unforgettable character. He was the soul of benignity, always an urbane gentleman, so easy to listen to, and so ready to listen -- although at times conversation with him was difficult for he was very deaf. We have already mentioned his literary talents. The students, perhaps, did not appreciate those to the full. But something about Charley they never could underestimate was his royal good will and generous assistance. He was what Latins would call simpatico. His conversation was pungent and arresting. So many notables and influential men and women had passed through his life that his stories never lagged, never grew thin.
Charlie Phillips probably had little idea of dying, when he went, during the Christmas recess of 1933, to visit his relatives in Minneapolis. On Dec. 27th he went to bed with a severe cold, and on the 29th he died of pneumonia at St. Mary's hospital in Minneapolis. When the students returned to school after the vacation, most of them were ignorant of Charley's death. They sped along the corridor of Sorin Hall to Charley's room and, remembering his deafness, rapped loudly on his door. No more pathetic sight could be witnessed than the slowly opened door and Father Cavanaugh, Charley's friend, inside, telling the boys quietly that Charley was not coming back.
Towards the end of Father O'Donnell's administration, on Jan. 12, 1934, death came to one of the most notable figures ever to be identified with Notre Dame, Father Daniel Eldred Hudson. Never directly connected with the University, he nevertheless dwelt here in his capacity as editor of The Ave Maria, and hardly anyone escaped his powerful but subtle influence. His was a diminutive figure, almost bird-like in his graceful tinyness, as unsubstantial as a bit of thistledown. Bent with modesty, he could be seen of a good afternoon on the path by the lake, his rosary in his hand. He gave you a glance that was timorous and seemed to say: "I hope that you will not interrupt me in my colloquium with the Queen!" His delicately trimmed Van Dyke beard and his snowy hair underneath his tilted biretta gave him the appearance of a rakish archangel. His skin was like alabaster. Those who sat at table with him wondered how he kept body and soul together, so slight was his consumption of food. Indeed, when someone discovered the day of his golden jubilee of ordination, and told it to the Sisters who sent in a sumptuous banquet to the Presbytery where he lived, Father Hudson was completely overcome with consternation, for, as one writer remarked, all his life, one egg had been a full meal and two prunes a banquet.
Daniel Hudson was born at Nahant, near Boston, on Dec. 18, 1849, the third eldest of ten children. His mother was a Catholic, but his father was a Methodist. Daniel was baptized a Catholic within two weeks after his birth, somewhat surreptitiously, he said, which seems to indicate that the father had understood all along that the boys of the family would be reared Methodists, whereas the mother might raise the girls as she thought fit. When he was a young lad, Daniel was taken to the Methodist church by his father, but passed his time in drawing pictures, paying no attention to the sermon. After two or three repeated attempts, the father took the lad by the hand and brought him to his mother: "Take him, and do with him what you can. I cannot make him behave in my church!" So it was that Daniel, at an early age, "abjured" Protestantism, and began to study his Catholic religion. After he had finished his primary education, which he had augmented considerably by his private reading, he went to Boston to work in a book store and publishing house. Here it was that he met, more or less in a business capacity, the great New England writers of the time, Hawthorne, Lowell, Holmes, Whittier and Emerson. These meetings were only casual, of course, but Hudson gazed upon these figures with admiration and reverence. With Longfellow, his acquaintance was somewhat more substantial. They met first in the book-shop, but later there were other meetings, one that Hudson never forgot. He was in a little park, reading a book, when Longfellow came by and stopped to chat. Hudson slipped the book beneath his coat, and Longfellow asked what he had been reading. Hudson shyly pulled the book out. It was one of Longfellow's works. The poet laughed and sat down on the bench with Hudson. "What are you going to be when you grow up?" asked Longfellow. There was no hesitancy in the reply: "I am going to be a Catholic priest and a missionary to the Indians!" And Hudson was always grateful that Longfellow encouraged him in his vocation.
Later Hudson studied with the Jesuits at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1870 he decided that he wanted to be a Trappist. He boarded the train for New Melleray, Iowa, where there was a Trappist monastery. But on the train, he met a priest from Notre Dame, Father Paul Gillen, who had been a chaplain in the Civil War. In their conversation, Hudson shyly confided to Father Gillen his plan to apply to the Trappists for admission. Father Gillen listened and, perhaps, pondered a bit. At any rate, he urged Hudson to stop off at South Bend and pay a little visit to Notre Dame. Was it, as Father John W. Cavanaugh later suggested, a "pious example of religious hi-jacking?" Whatever may have been the internal workings of Providence, Hudson stopped off to visit Notre Dame and stayed sixty-three years. When Father Sorin laid his hands on a man, it was difficult to get away.
Daniel Hudson entered the Novitiate at Notre Dame on March 7th, 1871; was professed March 19, 1872; and was ordained with John A. Zahm at Notre Dame by Bishop Dwenger on June 4, 1875. Almost immediately, Father Sorin put Hudson in charge of The Ave Maria as editor. It was Hudson's first obedience, and the only one he ever received. The Ave Maria had been founded by Father Sorin in 1865 as a weekly periodical whose principal object was to increase devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Already, it had a fair subscription, but with a few exceptions the articles were not of a high literary quality. For fifty-five years Father Hudson remained the editor of this Catholic weekly. By his fine literary taste, his delicate discrimination, his cultivation of the best Catholic authors, he became -- it is no exaggeration to say it -- the leading Catholic editor of the country. Although he scarcely ever left the campus, his fame was national, and the greatest Catholics of America, bishops, priests and laymen, beat a path to his rooms on the second floor of the Presbytery.
To see him say Mass was an unforgettable experience. This was just about the only glimpse the students had of him, except when, on rare occasions, he preached to them in the college chapel. When I was a student in Brownson Hall, it was already traditional that Father Hudson should preach the closing sermon for the month of May. I recall that Brother "Flo" said to me one day: "Are you going to hear Father Hudson tonight?" Perhaps I seemed to hesitate a bit in my answer, for he immediately warned: "Don't miss him, my boy, don't miss him! He won't be long, ten minutes maybe. He'll talk to you for five minutes, and then he'll turn to the Blessed Virgin and talk to her for five minutes, and I swear to heaven, the tears'll run down her cheeks!" I have no recollection of the tears, of course, but I do remember one of Father Hudson's sentences. He was speaking of the havoc that impurity worked in the souls of men, and in his piping, bell-like voice, he said: "Oh, if sorrow could enter into heaven at the sight of such affliction, then truly the angels would cover their faces with their wings and weep!" Not a great sentence, perhaps, but one which, as he spoke it, was unforgettable.
In 1929, after a spell of sickness, Father Hudson retired from the editorship of The Ave Maria and went to live in the Community House. As his successor, Father Eugene P. Burke was chosen. Unlike Father Hudson, Father Burke had for years been identified with the student side of Notre Dame. He was a universal favorite both with the boys and with his fellow-priests. He was a man not only of great literary talent but of the song and music of his forebears. Rarely does anyone see combined in one person such a lively enjoyment of all life and such priestly devotion as are found in Father Burke. His choice as successor to Hudson was pleasing to all.
Father Hudson, according to his own story, never picked up The Ave Maria, even to read it, after his retirement. When asked why, he intimated that he wished his successor never to think that he glanced at it with a critical eye, so he glanced at it not at all. During the next five years his health suffered many setbacks, and at last he kept to his bed almost entirely. To one who called on him and leaned over the tiny, quiet figure to ask him how he was, he replied with his usual whimsy, this man of over eighty: "I feel as though I were having infantile paralysis!" He died January 12, 1934, just six months before the death of Father O'Donnell, who had been his intimate associate and ardent admirer.
<< ======= >>