Each November, Villa Maria stages our year’s major fundraising event for the Holy Cross missions, the Villa Maria Man Auction. As Villa’s pastoral resident, I gather a group of fellow C.S.C."s to perform a skit and auction off two dinners for ten students each at the home of Fr. Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., President of the University of Portland. This year, one of the groups included students who will be studying abroad this spring, so we hosted one of the dinners just last night.
These evenings are always very special to me. First, it’s just really touching to see the students so excited. The young men often don jackets and ties, and the young women wear lovely dresses. (This is so rare in today’s more casual culture, especially in “hipster” Portland, that it’s a sight I almost never see other than on this evening.) Conversely, Fr. Bill sports khakis and a nice button-down shirt, rather than the clerical suit the students would normally see him wearing on campus. It’s a wonderful reversal that, I think, puts the students at ease.
After soft drinks and hors d’oeuvres, Fr. Bill takes the students on a tour of his home and its furnishings, including his beautiful pieces of religious art and his famous display of golf balls from some of the world’s great courses. And then the ten students and half a dozen CSCs sit down to a lovely meal (this year prepared for us as a gift by Kirk Mustain, UP’s Bon Appetit director, and served by those same six CSCs).
The conversation follows a similar pattern to the mode of dress. That is, the students express themselves with a maturity and intelligence I rarely hear when listening to their banter in the hall, or even their classroom discussions. Fr. Bill engages them in very personal, down-to-earth ways. He shares personal stories from his childhood, his seminary days, or his career at Notre Dame and the University of Portland. He jokes with them, he asks them about their backgrounds, their plans and dreams, and their opinions on various topics. This may be the only time that some of these students will hear Fr. Bill speak outside of a formal address at an official university function.
One of Christ’s favorite images for the Kingdom of God is a feast, an eternal supper hosted by the Lord. And this dinner party at the president’s home actually captures so many of Scripture’s elements: the dress, the many rooms, the reversals, the unexpected equalities. What a blessing that, just before a busy semester reaches its frantic conclusion, a few of us got to take some time out to enjoy a small taste of heaven.
Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Portland. He is a monthly contributor to the Spes Unica blog, reflecting primarily on the work of Holy Cross in education. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross priests and brothers in the field of education to bring hope to the Church and world.