Catholic Studies in the Spirit of
“Do Whatever He Tells You”
UNA M. CADEGAN
During a celebration of the University of Dayton’s sesquicentennial in the year 2000, the singer-songwriter alumnus who headed the university’s Center for Social Concern performed a song he had written for the occasion, “Do Whatever He Tells You.” At the reception after the celebration, a colleague still fairly new to the university, personally nonreligious but with an evident affinity for the university’s mission and commitments, commented that he thought the song was a little odd—hadn’t something like “do whatever he tells you” been written over the gates of Soviet labor camps? My first response to the remark, phrased more wittily than I can recall here, was laughter, but I also felt the pull of the teachable moment.
The song’s catchy, singable refrain (“Do whatever he tells you/Do whatever he says/Everything will work out fine/Jesus will turn water into wine/Do whatever he tells you”) quotes Mary’s words to Jesus at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1–11), a scene long of importance to members of the Society of Mary (Marianist), the religious congregation that founded UD, because of its meaning for the society’s founder, William Joseph Chaminade. Trying to maintain a light touch (we had, after all, reached the wine and hors d’oeuvres portion of the event, and a junior faculty member showing up on a Friday afternoon like a good citizen did not deserve to be rewarded with a sermon from a senior colleague), I noted the story’s importance to the Marianists, and I also tried briefly to indicate the line’s complexity in the story. Far from a simple, authoritarian directive, it represents a complex moment in which Mary, despite Jesus’ somewhat curt rebuff to her hint that the wedding party had run out of wine (“My hour has not yet come”), nonetheless anticipates his intervention by alerting the servants to stand by for imminent instructions. Foreknowledge? Motherly nudging? Prefiguring of thwarted female ecclesial authority? The story’s