Kevin Helliker writes that the Notre Dame football team is “unapologetically Catholic.” His recent piece in The Wall Street Journal chronicles the way a Catholic identity informs life and sports on the South Bend, Indiana campus. Here is a taste:
Before Monday night’s national championship game, a University of Notre Dame football captain will lead the team through a prayer called Litany of the Blessed Virgin. “Mother of our Savior,” a captain will say. “Pray for us,” the team will respond.
It’s a ritual familiar to Catholics. But most players on the Notre Dame squad aren’t Catholic. So participation in that ritual is voluntary. And should any concern arise about praying to the Virgin Mary—a concept some non-Catholic Christians find objectionable—team chaplain Father Paul Doyle stands ready to respond. “We’re not praying to our blessed mother,” he says. “We’re asking her to pray for us.”
At the heart of Notre Dame’s legendary football program is a careworn balancing act. The team is unapologetically Catholic. Before every game, the Fighting Irish participate in a Mass overseen by one of the team’s two appointed Catholic priests, a tradition dating back to the 1920s. At the end of that ceremony, each player receives a priest-blessed medal devoted to a Catholic saint—a different saint every game for four years. Also during the pregame Mass, players can kiss a reliquary containing two splinters that Notre Dame believes came from the cross of Jesus. “Most of the non-Catholic players are Christian, so when you tell them these splinters came from the actual cross of Jesus they are humbled to reverence,” Doyle says.
Read the rest here and enjoy tonight’s game.