The Laetare Medal
Cathleen Kaveny March 4, 2008 - 11:25am
Here's the official information on the Laetare Medal at Notre Dame.What is most impressive to me about the Medal is its catholic conception of Catholicism: The award recognizes that a powerful witness of faith is not simply the province of "professional Catholics," but can be found in all areas of human endeavor. Indeed, until the late 1960's, it was an award given exclusively to LAY Catholics. Moreover, from the very beginning, it was awarded to women as well as men.A review of the list of the award recipients over time highlights the richness and diversity of American Catholic life --and American Catholic perspectives on life. Last year's recipient, Patrick McCartan, is the former managing partner of Jones, Day--one of the largest and most powerful law firms in the world. This year's recipient, Martin Sheen, is a well-known actor. My guess is that their politics are quite different, and perhaps also their liturgical sensibilities. What they do share, however, is share a profound faith in Jesus Christ. Looking at the list as a whole, I cannot help but see the Laetare Medal as a grateful recognition of the unity in diversity of gifts in the Catholic Church in the United States as its history has unfolded over the past one-hundred-and-fifty years.************************************************************************March 2008THE LAETARE MEDALThe Laetare Medal has been worn only by men and women whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church, and enriched the heritage of humanity.*These are the exacting criteria employed by the University of Notre Dame in awarding its Laetare Medal each year. Established in 1883, the Medal was restricted to lay persons until 1968, when it was announced that henceforth priests and religious would also be eligible. Over the years the Laetare Medal has been presented to 100 men and 30 women-soldiers and statesmen, artists and industrialists, diplomats and philanthropists, educators and scientists.The Laetare Medal is the American counterpart of the Golden Rose, a papal honor antedating the eleventh century. The name of the recipient is announced each year on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent and an occasion of joy in the liturgy of the Church.The Laetare Medal was conceived in 1883 by Professor James Edwards. His proposal met with the immediate approval of Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C., founder and first president of Notre Dame, and Rev. Thomas E. Walsh, C.S.C., then president of the University. Through the years the recipients of the Laetare Medal have been selected by a committee headed by the president of Notre Dame.Generally regarded as the most significant annual award conferred upon Catholics in the United States, the Laetare Medal consists of a solid gold disc suspended from a gold bar bearing the inscription, Laetare Medal. Inscribed in a border around the disc are the words, Magna est veritas et praevalebit (Truth is mighty and will prevail). The center design of the medal and the inscription on the reverse side are fashioned according to the profession of the recipient. The medal itself is not intended for wear, but there is a rosette, featuring a golden rose on a blue background.* Excerpt from Laetare Medal citation presented to General William Starke Rosecrans in 1896.LAETARE MEDALISTS1883 John Gilmary Shea, historian1884 Patrick Charles Keeley, architect1885 Eliza Allen Starr, art critic1886 General John Newton, engineer1887 Edward Preuss, publicist1888 Patrick V. Hickey, founder and editor of the Catholic Review1889 Anna Hansen Dorsey, novelist1890 William J. Onahan, organizer of the American Catholic Congress1891 Daniel Dougherty, orator1892 Henry F. Brownson, philosopher and author1893 Patrick Donohue, founder of the Boston Pilot1894 Augustine Daly, theatrical producer1895 Mary A. Sadlier, novelist1896 General William Starke Rosecrans, soldier1897 Thomas Addis Emmet, physician1898 Timothy Edward Howard, jurist1899 Mary Gwendolin Caldwell, philanthropist1900 John A. Creighton, philanthropist1901 William Bourke Cockran, orator1902 John Benjamin Murphy, surgeon1903 Charles Jerome Bonaparte, lawyer1904 Richard C. Kerens, diplomat1905 Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, philanthropist1906 Francis J. Quinlan, physician1907 Katherine Eleanor Conway, journalist and author1908 James C. Monaghan, economist1909 Frances Tiernan (Christian Reid), novelist1910 Maurice Francis Egan, author and diplomat1911 Agnes Replier, author1912 Thomas M. Mulry, philanthropist1913 Charles B. Herberman, editor-in-chief on the Catholic Encyclopedia1914 Edward Douglas White, jurist and chief justice of the United States1915 Mary V. Merrick, philanthropist1916 James Joseph Walsh, physician and author1917 William Shepherd Benson, admiral and Chief of Naval Operations1918 Joseph Scott, lawyer1919 George L. Duval, philanthropist1920 Lawrence Francis Flick, physician1921 Elizabeth Nourse, artist1922 Charles Patrick Neill, economist1923 Walter George Smith, lawyer1924 Charles D. Maginnis, architect1925 Albert Francis Zahm, scientist1926 Edward Nash Hurley, businessman1927 Margaret Anglin, actress1928 John Johnson Spalding, lawyer1929 Alfred Emmanuel Smith, statesman1930 Frederick Philip Kenkel, publicist1931 James J. Phelan, businessman1932 Stephen J. Maher, physician1933 John McCormack, artist1934 Genevieve Garvan Brady, philanthropist1935 Francis Hamilton Spearman, novelist1936 Richard Reid, lawyer and journalist1937 Jeremiah Denis M. Ford, scholar1938 Irvin William Abell, surgeon1939 Josephine Van Dyke Brownson, catechist1940 General Hugh Aloysius Drum, soldier1941 William Thomas Walsh, journalist and author1942 Helen Constance White, author and teacher1943 Thomas Francis Woodlock, editor1944 Anne OHare McCormick, journalist1945 G. Howland Shaw, diplomat1946 Carlton J. H. Hayes, historian and diplomat1947 William G. Bruce, publisher and civic leader1948 Frank C. Walker, Postmaster General and civic leader1949 Irene Dunne, actress1950 General Joseph L. Collins, soldier1951 John Henry Phelan, philanthropist1952 Thomas E. Murray, member U.S. Atomic Energy Commission1953 I.A. OShaughnessy, philanthropist1954 Jefferson Caffery, diplomat1955 George Meany, labor leader1956 General Alfred M. Guenther, soldier1957 Clare Boothe Luce, diplomat1958 Frank M. Folsom, industrialist1959 Robert D. Murphy, diplomat1960 George N. Shuster, educator1961 John F. Kennedy, President of the United States1962 Francis J. Braceland, M.D., psychiatrist1963 Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., Chief of Naval operations1964 Phyllis McGinley, poet1965 Frederick D. Rossini, scientist1966 Mr. and Mrs. Patrick F. Crowley, founders of The Christian Family Movement1967 J. Peter Grace, industrialist1968 Sargent Shriver, diplomat1969 William J. Brennan, Jr., jurist and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States1970 Dr. William B. Walsh, physician1971 Walter Kerr, drama critic, and Jean Kerr, author1972 Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, journalist and author1973 Rev. John A. OBrien, author1974 James A. Farley, business executive and former Postmaster General1975 Sister Ann Ida Gannon, B.V.M., educator1976 Paul Horgan, author1977 Mike Mansfield, United States Senator1978 Msgr. John Tracy Ellis, historian1979 Helen Hayes, actress1980 Thomas P. Tip ONeill, Jr., Speaker of the House1981 Edmund S. Muskie, former United States Senator and Secretary of State1982 Cardinal John Francis Dearden, retired Archbishop of Detroit1983 Edmund A. and Evelyn Stephan, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dames Board of Trustees and spouse1984 John Noonan, legal scholar1985 Guido Calabresi, dean of Yale University Law School1986 Thomas P. and Mary Elizabeth Carney, chairman of the University of Notre Dames Board of Trustees and spouse1987 Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., educator1988 Eunice Kennedy Shriver, humanitarian1989 Walker Percy, novelist1990 Sister Thea Bowman, Gospel singer and evangelist1991 Corinne C. Lindy Boggs, former United States Congresswoman1992 Daniel Patrick Moynihan, United States Senator1993 Donald R. Keough, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dames Board of Trustees1994 Sidney Callahan, psychologist and author1995 Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago1996 Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., social activist1997 Rev. Virgil Elizondo, theologian1998 Dr. Edmund D. Pellegrino, doctor1999 J. Philip Gleason, historian2000 Andrew J. McKenna, chairman of the University of Notre Dames Board of Trustees2001 Msgr. George G. Higgins, labor priest2002 Rev. John P. Smyth, executive director of Maryville Academy2003 Peter and Margaret OBrien Steinfels, editors of Commonweal2004 Rev. J. Bryan Hehir , theologian2005 Dr. Joseph E. Murray, surgeon2006 Dave Brubeck, jazz musician2007 Patrick F. McCartan, chairman emeritus of the University of Notre Dames Board of Trustees2008 Martin Sheen, Human Rights Activist
About the Author
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.