Something is happening today in South Bend and I’m not talking about Senior Day or the final home game of an undefeated season. No, a conversation is taking place on campus that reflects the truly unique game day experience that happens at only at Notre Dame.
Director of Game Day Operations Mike Seamon said, “The University believes that Notre Dame home football weekends are a special experience, and we realize how important they are to our alumni and fans.” And they are.
People often ask me if I go back to campus for Homecoming. Answering this question should be easy, but for me—it’s not. Notre Dame doesn’t have a Homecoming game; every home game is considered “Homecoming.” I try to relay that message without sounding preachy or pretentious. Homecoming is a wonderful fall tradition. But when every home game is a sellout, it’s impossible to designate one game with that intention and that title.
The Football weekend experience at Notre Dame is a great summary of the “Five Pillars of the University” on display. Those pillars are Academic, Athletic, Family, Service, and Spiritual. People come from far and wide to see an athletic contest, but those that make the pilgrimage September through November get so much more.
The list of spiritual opportunities is impressive. At the Basilica of the Sacred Heart alone, one can avail themselves for the Sacrament of Reconciliation from 9:00 a.m. to noon before the game, attend Mass 30-minutes after and partake in Vespers—Evening Prayer of the Church at 7:15 on Sunday evening. A large number of dorms and Stephan Center both host Vigil Masses as well.
But what caught my eye was a new opportunity under the Academic arm: Saturdays with the Saints. Indeed, it is the marriage of Sports and Spirituality. The Game ND Day web page reports:
“Now you can spend one hour with the saints before the game on selected weekends this fall. Come nourish your Catholic faith and your mind at the same time with talks by distinguished members of the Notre Dame faculty.
In September, we will remember Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador and St. Hildegard of Bingen, who will be declared the 35th Doctor of the Church this fall. In October, we’ll celebrate the angels and Joan of Arc, and in November we’ll explore Benedict XVI and the saints.”
This says a lot about the Notre Dame community, both that the University is willing to host this and that fans attend. No wonder we call them “the Notre Dame faithful.” Mass is packed after the game, despite the outcome. I love that a number of dorms, the Basilica and Stephan Center make room for us to come as we are. Consequently, it’s difficult not to understand James Joyce when he said Catholic means “Here comes everyone!” Indeed here we come—to learn about holy men and women, to pray together and to complete a perfect a season (hopefully). Ah yes, Here come the Irish!