Saturday, October 14, 2006

Holtz' Hope: An Excerpt from "Champions"

As the Irish are off this week, I will fill the fans' cravings with an excerpt from my book "Champions of Faith" from the chapter on former Notre Dame football coach (and dear friend) Lou Holtz.

"I wanted to ask you about Our Lady, Lou. When we last talked, you said you didn't think God cared about who won a football game, but that Our Mother did. Now I know that Notre Dame response was at least somewhat in jest -- but doesn't God care at least somewhat about the game itself?"

"God cares about everyone. He really truly cares about each and every one of us. And since He cares about all of our hopes and dreams, in that way God cares about the game, if not directly with the outcome."

"But I know what you mean about our Lady," I told Lou. "Coach Davie [Bob Davie, current head coach of Notre Dame], who is Presbyterian, had a hard time identifying her place in these things when we talked. So I told him to think about her as Notre Dame's biggest fan. Just as the fans at Notre Dame stadium don't actually participate in the game but somehow help the Irish to win, Mary's 'divine cheering' must have something to do with Notre Dame's success."

"I think the analogy of Mary as #1 fan is correct. As I've said before, I think she has a lot to do with Notre Dame's never-say-die attitude."

Pleased with his approval, I moved on to another controversial issue.

"Coach, did you ever have trouble maintaining a Catholic identity for the Fighting Irish, as many of the players weren't Catholic?"

"No," was the decisive answer. "The players who weren't Catholic still had to attend the pre-game Masses, and still said the prayers with us before we went out of the tunnel. While there was no attempt to convert them, they knew that Catholicism was an important part of the team identity."

"How about the university as a whole?" I asked. "Do you see Notre Dame's Catholic identity slipping?"

"I haven't seen that. When I came to Notre Dame approximately eighty-five percent of the student body was Catholic, and I believe the percentage is still the same."

"But what about the faculty? As Notre Dame brings in more and more non-Catholic teachers, not to mention taking in more and more donations from non-Catholic sources, don't you think there is potential danger in Notre Dame becoming a secular university?"

"I don't know ... I'm not sure what the faculty percentage is."

"Well, see if you agree with this statement. This is from an article I wrote for a Catholic magazine, some of which was edited out because the tone was too strong ... one second, let me find it ... okay, here we go. 'Besides the threat of commercial corruption from without, anyone who has read the works of Notre Dame's Fr. McBrien and several non-Catholic professors knows that there is a real threat to Catholicism from within as well. But unlike Harvard or Yale, Northwestern or Southern Cal, all former Christian universities that are now secular schools, Notre Dame has the weapon to combat all heresies; namely Notre Dame herself. The modernists may have their day, but like the song says, Notre Dame will win over all. For the modern infidels to take control here, they would have to blow our Dame off the Dome, rip the heart [the Eucharist] out of Sacred Heart [Church] and lastly, rock by rock, tear the Grotto apart. And legions of her sons and daughters would willingly die martyrs before they would allow that to happen.'"

"I agree totally!" proclaimed Holtz, as fired up as I. "The Notre Dame faithful would die for their school before any of those things would happen."

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