A Weekend Retreat with Our Lady at Notre Dame

Lisa at Notre Dame’s Grotto

Sorry for the blog silence for the last few days. I was on a much-needed getaway with my amazing husband to our alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. It’s been a few years since we’ve been back to campus for a football game and the first time I can remember in years that we went without our boys in tow.

While the ND vs. BYU football game was the cause for our visit, it occurred to me within an hour of setting foot on campus that the weekend was the spiritual boost I needed after several grueling months. For those of you who are far holier than me (and that’s all of you, actually), let me say upfront that I know that this was not a proper retreat. I need one of those too… but it may be a while before I can unplug (literally and figuratively) to make a proper retreat.

So I made the most of this getaway weekend with Greg. We were able to visit with family, to see the game, and to relish our time together in the place where we fell in love.

Devotees of the Fighting Irish will say that a football weekend under the Dome is akin to a religious experience. There are “must see” moments such as the pep rally and the band’s concert on the steps. When you go to a Notre Dame game, you should definitely visit the Eck Visitor’s Center for Football Fridays.  You should stand in front of an Irish Guard giant and try to make him smile. You should stand on the steps of the Bond Hall architecture building and listen to the drum circle. You should eat a steak sandwich cooked by the Knights of Columbus. You should wear plaid pants and as much ND logo clothing (officially licensed of course) as you can possibly afford.

All of those things are cool, whether or not you are a grad. In fact, our subway alums are so loyal that many of them attend more games than those of us who graduated from Notre Dame.

But a weekend at Notre Dame should first and foremost be a spiritual reminder of what it really means to bleed the Irish gold and blue.

You should pray through our Lady’s intercession in front of the grotto, remembering the intentions of your loved ones as you light a candle and as you place your hand on the stone brought from the Grotto in Lourdes.

You should kiss your loved one under the shadow of our Lady’s vigilant watch atop the Golden Dome. If you’re an alum, that moment should include a prayer of gratitude for your parents, who made possible your time at Notre Dame thanks to their sacrifices and support.

You should attend Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart thirty minutes after the football game ends. Win or Lose. In fact, don’t wait for Mass, but take every opportunity possible to slip into this sanctuary — especially when it’s quiet — and spend a few moments in silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in what is surely one of the most beautiful sacred spaces you will ever experience.

There are some out there who will say that my University has lost sight of her Catholic mission. To you, I wish you peace and I invite you to lay aside your preconceived notions and to simply spend a day walking, playing and praying amidst the students at Our Lady’s university. The place is chock full of the most amazing individuals, many of whom are already dedicating themselves to spiritual excellence and to service for those in need in their own community and around the world.

If you ever have a chance to spend even a few hours at Notre Dame, you will be amazed at the spiritual renewal that is possible when you step on campus and place your heart at Our Lady’s feet, asking her to carry your cares and concerns to her son.

While you are on campus, if you hear the strains of the band playing a solemn, haunting piece that sounds familiar and that touches your heart, pause and turn towards that golden dome, making of the song a prayer:

Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory’s mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee, Notre Dame.
And our hearts forever,
Love thee, Notre Dame.

After hearing that song — a few dozen times if you’re lucky — you should pray for the resolve to live up to the spirit of Notre Dame, to be the change that you desire in the world around you. Walk away worrying less about wins and losses, and more about drawing closer to Our Lord through his mother, Our Lady.

Love thee, Notre Dame.

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  • María de Lourdes Ruiz Scaperla

    Lovely, Lisa! I’m sharing this with my two Domers! As an ND Mama my experience is a little different there, but I remain a big fan of the campus and that university. It’s holy ground, and I have nothing at stake in saying that 🙂

    • lisahendey

      Thanks for reading this Maria and for commenting. If you love the University as much as my parents do, I know how full your heart is with joy at being an ND Mama!

  • Lisa, I love, love, LOVED this post! I recently wrote a blog post about Notre Dame and what it means to me, too. (If you’re interested: http://mumsie2five.blogspot.com/2013/11/love-thee-notre-dame.html).
    Thanks for sharing this.

  • Woops–I think I messed up sending that link. I’ll try again: http://mumsie2five.blogspot.com/2013/11/love-thee-notre-dame.html

    • lisahendey

      Wow — I LOVED your post! Thank you so much for sharing the link…

  • True story: when I was a wee lass in 7th grade, I got it in my head that I would attend Notre Dame. I have NO IDEA why, no Catholic reason (I wasn’t raised Catholic).

    I changed my tune to the Buckeye way of thinking later on (due to my major), but in high school, I stopped at Notre Dame on my way to Kansas City. I bought a jersey and stood in the stadium. It felt important at the time.

    Now I look back and think, “Ain’t it funny how Our Lady had her light touch on me waaay back then?”

    Beautiful story and a lovely way to spend a weekend. Good for you. I do hope to make a pilgrimage to ND again now that I’m Catholic and Touchdown Jesus is more than just an expression.

    • lisahendey

      I want to be there for your first visit. We need to dream up a reason for our friends at Ave to bring us over and then we’ll go on a field trip. You will cry like a baby when you visit the Grotto for the first time!

      • Like I need an EXCUSE to cry like a baby. #justthethoughthasmetearingup