Conferral of the Gratiam Dei Award for 2006

Father Gilligan, Executive Director of American Catholic Press (ACP), giving an explanation of the Gratiam Dei Award. Photo by Matthew Grotto/The Star.

Welcome.  A special welcome to our regular friends who have come to our annual dinner for so many years.  This year, we do not ask for black tie; we have a fee at cost; we have omitted the usual auction and raffle etc.  This is so because a sitting justice may not engage in fund-raising.  Instead,  this year, we are providing a service to the community at large, an opportunity to listen to one of the finest legal minds of our generation, a chance to learn from him, directly and personally.

Special thanks to American Catholic Press (ACP) board members and our planning committee:  Connor Loesch, Joe Russo, Jim & Joan Braden, Chris and Jerry Bern, and Marty & Rosann Conroy.  This evening, the University of Chicago is represented by Justice Scalia himself, since he was a professor there.  Loyola University is represented by Professor Michael, who just spoke to you.  And St. Xavier University is represented by Dr. Richard Venneri and Dr. Avis Clendenden.  Welcome to all of you.

As you know, I have been privileged to be the priest responsible for a small Italian church in Chicago Heights, San Rocco.  Every August,  to celebrate the feasts of St. Lawrence and St. Rocco, the people move together in procession down 22nd Street, beginning at the Amaseno Lodge.  Men carry aloft the statues of San Lorenzo and San Rocco.  The men are short but very strong.  They all look alike. This is the result of a Mediterranean diet (pasta, grappa, fresh vegetables, and more pasta).

Well, anyway, a while back, Justice Scalia told me of his appreciation for receiving a plaque this evening.  For this reason, for the Gratiam Dei Award, we have a four-foot long plaque, made of Calabrian pine, out in the vestibule.  Soon, it will be carried in here, by four strong men from San Rocco.

I would also mention this evening a secret which has just been made public.  The executive branch of our federal government is not always happy with Supreme Court nominees, who often have their own minds.  President Roosevelt had a particularly difficult time with the Supreme Court members.  So, it turns out, President Bush, we have discovered, has a two-part plan to reform the Supreme Court in his own image.  Cheney, at the readyFirst, Vice-President Cheney will go hunting, with guns, with all the members of the current court.  You just never know what will happen.  Second, a secret list has been prepared for potential nominees for the court.  They are all Italian, and they all come from New Jersey.

People  regularly have asked two questions.  First, "How did you get him to come?"  The answer to that question is given to those who know the mysteries of the kingdom.  Second, "Is HE really coming?"  The answer to that question is that he and other recipients of the Gratiam Dei Award understand what is truly important.

We live in a culture that esteems athletes and entertainers.  We reward them with great sums of money; and we elect them to public office, especially in California ("kahleeFORneeah").  Our American society does not esteem intellectual work.

        Cardinal Avery Dulles
Yet, recently, as you know, the Pope made Father Avery Dulles a cardinal.  He is not a bishop or an administrative official; he is just a priest.  Yet he is a scholar, an author, a teacher; his ministry is the ministry of the mind.  He deserves this honor.

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Father Michael Gilligan

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