Thursday, October 26, 2006

In Defense of Notre Dame

On his June 14th entry to his blog entitled "Catholic Spotted at University of Notre Dame," Tito wrote a satirical piece about how his friend, Bill, Director of Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, could not find one loyal Catholic at the University of Notre Dame and thus he could no longer cheer for the Fighting Irish. While I am not immune to humor (in fact, some have criticized my saint-of-the-day blogs as too silly), one cannot readily laugh at mean-spirited or factually misleading "Catholic" treatises. Does one not get offended when hearing "pedophile-priest" or "Pope Benedict Nazi" jokes? Well, despite the misadventures of Father McBrien, anti-Notre Dame raves are not much different.

Truly, the University of Notre Dame is emblematic of American Catholicism as a whole, with a handful of saints and scoundrels at either end of the spectrum and a wide range of devotion in between. But unlike many Catholic places of higher learning, Notre Dame (once dubbed "The City of the Blessed Sacrament") has scores of church, crypt and dorm Masses going on literally around the clock, as well as a bona-fide Marian shrine, the grotto. Thus, to say all those who attend daily Mass under the Dome, or every soul who makes a regular pilgrimage to the grotto is not a devout Catholic is certainly ridiculous, if not sacrilegious. And, in the latter grotto group, count Irish head football coach Charlie Weis. After his grueling sixteen-hour work days, coach makes his slow nightly walk to the shrine, where he prays not so much for his football team as his family, especially his autistic daughter Hannah.

And so, instead of taking easy pot shots at the hot shot Notre Dame media beasts and priests, let's try another approach. We can keep the strong core of committed Catholics, as well as root out the radical rascals, by simply praying for Our Lady's university—and rooting for her team.

What's that you say? Well, in the 30s and 40s, coaches such as Michigan's Fritz Chrysler, refused to play Notre Dame, saying its national Catholic fan and recruiting base gave Notre Dame an unfair advantage. Not only do I agree with Chryler's Old Notre Dame critique, I'll go one step further by saying that when those thousands of rosary prayers used to pour in every Saturday to aid the Irish gridiron performance, I think Our Lady (the team's #1 fan) was wise (and merciful) enough to save some of those Aves for the University's other needs too.

And, speaking of wisdom, Coach Weis, besides being an offensive coaching genius, now not only has his players raise their helmets in praise of Mary at the end of each game, but also has his charges singing the "Notre Dame Our Mother" song to honor her after every contest, win or lose. So cheer up Tito (ND prayer is already having its effect) and once again Cheer, Cheer for ol' Notre Dame!


Tito said...

Excellent posting Tom.

I do not have a 'beef' with the Catholics who actually practice their faith, it is those in authority that make the headlines and give Notre Dame a bad name that I have a problem with. Yes the liberal slanting MSM will always pick their favorite lib Catholics to put on a pedestal and say "see, Catholics are just like the rest of us godless sodomites".

Nonetheless my beef has been growing for awhile and what really put me over the edge is the way Tyrone Willingham was treated as the alumni and administration of Notre Dame were doing their best rendition of Brutus to Willinghams Ceasar.

Anyways, I have been on a mission since Tyrone's firing to not root for good ole Notre Dame. It has been extremely difficult but stuff like the V-monologues and Fr. McBrian make it easier (harder?) to not root for Notre Dame.

On the flip side with spineless priests that seem to infest Our Lady's University, it has created a truly Catholic atmosphere which I am envious of.

God bless you Tom and all you faithful Catholics,


Catholic Convert said...

People prayed rosaries for football games? I mean, prayer is great, but for a football game? I hope it was for safety of the players and not for a win...

Maybe I am just not school spirited enough or something, haha.

I have never encountered the idea that some colleges were more "holy" than others. In my opinion, just like America is certainly no more favored by God than Australia, and republicans are no more favored by God than democrats, and Texas is no more favored by God than Massachusetts, surely, too, this applied to colleges.

It's all individual. God loves people. =)

Tom O'Toole said...


I'm happy to see you have understood many of my arguments. As Michael O. Kenney, Director of Planned Giving at the University of Notre Dame told me, "When a person or place is doing great things to promote God's Kingdom, that is when the devil is going to attack." And that certainly applies to my alma mater. As far as Fr. McBrien goes, you could take a readers' poll on your blog as to whether the University should: a) Fire him b) Excommunicate him c) Pray for his conversion, or d) All of the above On my bad days, I am tempted to make c) "Execute him for heresy," so you know I feel strongly about this issue too. As far as Fr. Jenkins goes, we cannot call him a heretic, and it is still too soon to call him spineless but I would have liked a more decisive stand from him on some issues (he, unlike Fr. Malloy, did at least take away university sponsorship of the V-Monologues, but did not go as far as to ban it) too. Lastly, although I see where you are coming from, I've come to disagree with you about Willingham for two reasons. First (through no fault of his own), Tyrone wasn't Catholic and therefore was unable to restore the Catholic ethos the football team had under Rockne, Leahy and Holtz (and is starting to re-gain under Weis). Second, he just was not a great coach. While Tyrone is always able to restore a positive outlook to players when he starts in a program, he just doesn't spend enough time either coaching or recruiting to get a program to reach its potential - (compare how much better players like Quinn, Stovall and Samardzija are under Weis as compared to Willingham). Weis admitted being quite shocked when he witnessed how lax practices were under his predecessor, and how out-of-shape and unable-to-play four quarters the players were. So while maybe it wasn't handled perfectly, I believe it was the right move. If only they would give McBrien the same treatment! God's grace & Mary's prayers, Tom

Tom O'Toole said...

CC - Thanks for responding. Your first question about praying/winning, I get almost as much as the Catholic Answers people get "Why do Catholics pray to and worship Mary?" (We don't.) Check out my article "Sports and the Catholic Faith," then "Sports and the Catholic Fan" (found on my site under published articles) and if the sports/faith philosophy is still not clear, write again ...

Your 2nd question, about why Notre Dame is a more holy place than somewhere else, has a couple aspects to it. The first is the Catholic concept of Shrines, sites of Marian apparitions or places where miracles have occurred (Lourdes, Fatima and Guadalupe are examples) where the faithful are encouraged to make pilgrimages to. So in this respect, the Holy Land might be more of a "holy place" than downtown Houston. But even more central is the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the "Source and Summit of the Christian Life (CCC 1324)." Both at Mass and in Eucharist Adoration it is central to our worship, and the place where the Eucharist is kept (Church, Cathedral or Chapel) is definitely considered special. God is everywhere but He is present in the Eucharist in a profound, unique, and intimate way that makes praying in front of the Eucharist even more powerful than just praying, sort of like talking to Jesus in peron vs. talking to Him on the phone or by e-mail. Notre Dame has a very beautiful Marian Grotto, as well as MANY places where the Eucharist is celebrated and adored (in a relatively small "town"). So in this way, Notre Dame, "The City of the Eucharist" has more of a Christian Presence than a secular college has. Keep asking (and praying) ... Tom

Michael Hallman said...

Great post, Tom. It was very good for me to hear some of the great devotions taking place, especially the dorm basement Masses. I have to be honest, I'm Irish Catholic, so of course you know the place in my heart for ND, but I've had some worries myself. None too major, it's more just that I hold Notre Dame to a higher standard of Catholic identity than pretty much any other college (except now my own Villanova, which has an excellent Irish heritage, as well), and my standard is probably a bit unfair. But anyway, you really relieved some of my worries.

Tom O'Toole said...

Dear Michael ... Thanks for your comments on ND. The end of my Lou Holtz (excerpt) post sums the situation up best. I think, having lived there for 4-plus years, you just come to KNOW Christ's presence is so strong at ND that the Infidels could never take control. I'll also tell my brother, Fr. Bill O'Toole, about your blog ... He's faithful AND funny too ... God's grace & Mary's prayers, Tom