This weekend, Notre Dame Seniors will enter the Stadium where they never saw their team lose this season. But they won’t be cheering for just another football victory. They’ll be cheering for a far more important victory – their own graduation. Keep in mind: football is a nice touch, but our whole purpose here is the education that culminates in graduation. And that’s why more of our football players graduate here than anywhere else (and by “more” I mean very nearly every single one of them). So it is fitting that victory be laid on top of victory by conferring degrees in the 360 degree arena of triumph known as Notre Dame Stadium…until they change it…again.
I know change doesn’t go down well here. It never has. But somewhere there seems to be written a list of things that can never change because of that equally elusive value called tradition. I will now shatter a few ill-conceived, though perhaps cherished, notions about change and tradition with respect to things on this campus. Shall we start at the beginning – yes, we shall.
My Log Cabin. These days, that ramshackle old hovel where I sheltered from the blinding (literally) winter of 1842, is reverently called the Log Chapel. Sure, we made it a chapel, after we built a suitable, modern building. Believe me, there’s nothing that can’t be turned into a chapel, and no building is complete without one. But the cabin was not my creation; it came with the property…and there was a reason Steve Badin was only too happy to be rid of all of it. So every time you genuflect going by the cabin-chapel, remember that it’s an outbuilding I moved out of as soon as I could. Oh, and it’s not real. The original Log Cabin burned down, just like so many things here. What you’re looking at is a replica.
My Old College. That’s what it’s called now. When I built it is was just The College, whole, entire, and complete. It was basic, utilitarian, and constructed with absolutely no eye toward architectural beauty. And it shows. It probably should have been torn down at some point for the sake of reusing the bricks in something better. But it’s built like a brick sh outhouse, so there was no sense in getting rid of a perfectly serviceable building. Still, I’m sure the lads who live in it now would agree with the outhouse analogy on more levels than one. Its floors slope at various angles in every direction; the doorways are low and trapezoidal; and it creaks and groans like a tramp steamer hung up on a rocky shoal. Yes, our little carbuncle called Old College is what Notre Dame originally looked like. How do you feel about change now?
My Sacred Heart. Well, it’s Jesus’ Sacred Heart, but my church. Again, not the original. Check the cornerstone – it says 1871. Did you think I had no church between 1842 and 1871? And the Lady Chapel is an addition. When The BVM says She wants a place of Her own, you build it, even if you have to add it onto the back.
My Main Building. Everyone knows it’s not the original. It’s actually the third. Like it? Most people do. But it didn’t come with a Dome. That wasn’t added until three years later. And it wasn’t Golden until three years after that. Again, when The BVM says She wants a giant gold footstool, you do it. Remember, too, that the Main Building was offices, classrooms, dining hall, and dormitories all in one. Change is a blessed thing when you can move a horde of raucous and pungent college lads out of your office. Which brings me to…
My Hall. The luxuries I gave my lads! A standalone dormitory with private rooms! I had already given them electric lights – first college in the country using that exciting modern science (really, I’d do anything to get away from open flames). But My Hall, which now thinks it’s a college…fine…does not appear in its original form. The wings are later additions so we could pack more bodies in there. And the porch came even later than that. The porch was built onto the front to prevent the lads from dumping buckets of water out the upper windows and onto unsuspecting victims entering through the main doors. No joke.
The list could go on; but let’s focus on the thing at hand – the Stadium. Built in a rush (as so many of our building have been) it was elegant in its own way. But just ask my esteemed successor Ted Hesburgh and he’ll tell you the Stadium was unpopular just 30 years after its opening, by which time it was considered antiquated, undersized, and crude. Ted considered demolition and reconstruction (a fire is much cheaper), but he had priorities: First a Library, and then Ned Joyce’s sports big-top. So the Stadium survived until it was encased in a concrete shell that can never be called elegant in any way.
Onto the Stadium we now want to add offices, classrooms, dining facilities, and something called “luxury boxes” which is precisely what I called the private sleeping rooms in Sorin Hall when we built that. So it will be just like the Main Building was originally. We are returning to tradition! But traditionalists aren’t happy because at Notre Dame there is a pervasive confusion between “custom” and “tradition.”
Custom is the way things are generally done, and have been done for a while. Tradition is a collection of customs that have been handed on from generation to generation and age to age, so that they have become freighted with deep, symbolic meaning. Customs change; traditions endure. Anything that changes over time is, therefore, a custom. Something that has never changed is a tradition. And there are no such things as new or recent traditions – unless you’re talking about oxymorons.
Furthermore, we’re talking about THINGS here. Buildings are things, and things cannot be traditions. They can be old or beautiful or relatively unchanged for many years. But they’re still just things, and we do not place inordinate value in things. I was upset when my second Main Building burned – but I built a better one. And then I installed electricity. And recently, they entirely rebuilt the interior. That sort of change is called progress. This place started with someone else’s log cabin – but look at it now! Since it’s summer, we’re going to build even more buildings that I never thought of. So I suppose you could say it’s a custom at Notre Dame to preserve its older buildings; but one of our most cherished traditions is progress.
Do what you want to the Stadium. It was already changed once. And it’s just a thing. Victory is a tradition. We have preserved that tradition on Cartier Field and in Rockne’s original and into the current Stadium-within-a-stadium. But the greater victory, the tradition of graduation, we have preserved even longer…on the Main Quadrangle, in Washington Hall, in the Fieldhouse now gone, in the Stadium, on the South Quadrangle, in the Joyce Center, and back in the Stadium again. The location is just a custom; the graduation is a tradition – and a glorious achievement. Congratulations, Seniors! And be prepared: Notre Dame will have changed by the time you come back. It always does.
Send three volleys of cheers on high for our Seniors! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hooray! As final exams end today, so begins your last week at Notre Dame. Be proud. Be gracious. Be generous. Be humble. But above all, be happy! For you have achieved something great. And you have achieved it together. When you arrived here as a herd of freshmen in 2009, did you think that in your Senior year you would see your classmates lead your football team to an undefeated season and a #1 ranking? Probably not. And so you have learned something – you have learned to believe. You see, we use football not just as a diversion, we use it as a teaching device. That’s the only way to be #1 on the field and #1 where we are now…graduation.
What, then, did you learn on the field and in the stands over the past four years? You learned that the only way to achieve victory is through very hard work, every single time. You learned that success is not instant – it is gradual and it requires both dedication and change. And you learned that to any goal which you ardently desire, you must devote your intelligence, your courage, and your strength.
In the classroom, which you have occupied far longer than the Stadium, and which you have shared not just with your classmates from the football team, but from every one of our tremendously successful teams, you have learned to think and to reason, to calculate and to deduce. In the classroom you learned to use your mind; in the stadiums and arenas, you learned to use your heart. And that is why, when you graduate, you wear a mortarboard on your head and a black robe across your chest. You are clothed in the uniform of achievement and victory.
But this cap-and-gown is really the Shamrock Series uniform of your life – it’s pretty funny looking, it’s comprised of a combination of odd colors, and you only wear it once. It also leaves out something essential…it leaves out your hands. You’ve learned to use your intelligence and your courage, your mind and your heart. But what about your strength? That’s in your hands. Hands that will write, compose, and design; hands that will care, heal, and cure; hands that will instruct, admonish, and encourage; hands that will pile up treasures and give away gifts; hands that will hold your children or be anointed with the oils of holy orders.
And it is onto your hand that is placed the most important symbol of Notre Dame graduation: The Ring. A beautiful ring that at graduation is taken off, flipped around, and put back on for the rest of your life. Our Lady’s Golden Dome on one side; Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope on the other; sprinkled throughout with the Irish symbol of blessing, the shamrock. It is not a symbol of graduation – it is a symbol of life.
Whenever you have the chance, look at the ring of an older alumnus. It is nicked and dinged, and there are chips missing here and there. So, too, will your life be marked by tests and trials, failures and losses. But these blemishes do not diminish the overall beauty of the ring; they make the ring unique to the wearer. And neither will these travails diminish the overwhelming beauty of your life; they will make it your life.
Whenever you have the chance, look at the ring of an ancient alumnus. It has been made smooth by age and years of hard wearing. All the sharp features are gone, along with all the scratches and scars, and it shines brightly all over. Let that happen to your life, too.
Make no mistake, your hands haven’t spent all of the last four years bent to work or folded in prayer. Your hands have caught footballs on the quad and held beer cans at parties. Your hands have clapped when your teams have won and when your friends have made fools of themselves in ridiculous situations. Your hands have stashed things in pockets, and executed pranks and dirty tricks. Your ring doesn’t somehow consecrate all these exploits, but it reminds you of all these good times that you’ve enjoyed under the Dome etched in its side – and in your hearts forever.
When you arrived here as a herd of freshmen in 2009, we said, “Welcome to Notre Dame!” As you graduate in 2013, we say, “Welcome to your lives!” No matter where you’re going, whether it’s across the country or around the world, you won’t be far. Because this place will always be here. And a good part of you will always be here…forever.
On Thursday, Notre Dame unveiled a concept sketch of an expanded football stadium. I wonder how the ND fanbase would react?
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” If you tell me that’s from a really cool folk rock band and you like to listen to it late at night when you’re drunk and nostalgic because it reminds you of your high school senior retreat, I’ll increase your Theology requirement from two courses to 16. It is Biblical Wisdom Literature, and in this fleeting season of dramatic transition, we turn to it for guidance. Classes have ended, papers are coming due, final exams loom, and bags are being packed. Soon all students will leave for home and Notre Dame will fall silent, if ever so briefly. Let us take just a moment now to reflect on the year past, the summer upon us, and the year to come – to reflect on our seasons and our purposes. Besides, it’s a “Reading Day,” and this is a lot more edifying than the beer labels, bar menus, and South Bend Silver Hawks tickets you’ve been reading for the last two days.
A time to be born, and a time to die. Figuratively, the year that was 2012-2013 is dying. But, oh, what a year it was! Grapes have to die to make fine wine, and one good school year must come to an end in order for a new one to be born. The vintage that has been 2012-2013 will find a place of honor in the cellars of Notre Dame du Vin. And it’s just a foretaste of the sweetness that will be 2013-2014, which is ready to be born in just three months’ time. Now let that sublime thought wash over you while grinding out that last Philosophy paper or studying for that Chemistry final. And knock it off with the wine, or you’ll fail both.
A time to plant, and a time to uproot. We have some lovely grounds, don’t we! Especially in Spring with everything is in bloom. When you step out in the last few days on campus, let the natural beauty of the place form a lasting memory for you, so that whatever unpleasant tasks you must complete, you will remember Notre Dame and rejoice in anticipation of your return. But don’t pluck any of the flowers, or you will find a groundskeeper revving his lawnmower right outside your window at 7:00 in the morning. And, groundskeepers, while your plantings are gorgeous, I wouldn’t be at all offended if you cut down those flowering trees that smell of profound body odor.
A time to kill, and a time to heal. Kill all those tiffs and grudges you’ve held onto throughout the year, especially with your roommates. You may not be living with them next year, and you may not be living anywhere near them next year. But – who knows – you may never see them again either. You don’t have to part company on great terms, but at least go your separate ways on civil terms, because you yourself were no prize to live with. And if you’re having trouble healing the wounds in any friendship, kill a bottle of wine with your old pal; at least you’ll forget why you can’t stand him.
A time to break down, and a time to build up. Your rooms – you’ve had to break down your rooms. And I know that was very hard for some of you, because you invested hours and great effort in making you little square of Notre Dame a showplace. Truly, I have never seen cardboard beer cases used to create so many fetching interior designs. I don’t really know what a “Man Cave” is, but if you made a fine one this year, perhaps you can advance to a “Masculine Cavern” in your new room next year. Over the summer, some dorms will be renovated, most will not – but either way, you won’t be able to tell the difference. And Morrissey…there’s nothing we can do about Morrissey.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh. I hope you love Notre Dame, I really do. But cool it with the weeping. It’s college – it’s only supposed to last four years. So love it, but don’t get maudlin. And we had llamas. I would think that seeing llamas on the quad would be enough to make you laugh – why do you have to set couches on fire just to get a giggle?
A time to mourn, and a time to dance. Less dancing during “Reading Days” and you won’t be mourning when your grades come in. And you can’t tell me that St. Edward’s Yacht Dance is not an elaborate scheme to flee parietals by seeking refuge in international waters. If your parents are hippies, you get three months of no parietals – so just deal with my French boarding school rules for a few more days.
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. Ummm…the Grotto is a large gathering of stones…and…well, we know that there were certain medicinal plants in ancient Israel that caused fantastical dreams or hallucinations. That might account for some of the visions in the Bible; and it might account for this mysterious piece of advice. So we’ll just leave it at: don’t get stoned and avoid stoners.
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. Nothing after midnight from here on out. Your bed at home is your homefield – you may welcome as many fans as you want. Just not here in The BVM’s house.
A time to keep, and a time to throw away. Make a list of all the good things you did this year, all the achievements and all the celebrations. Then make a list of all the disappointments, mistakes, and failures. Keep the first and promise yourself that you will repeat and multiply everything on that list next year. Take the second, wrap it around a stone, and throw it in St. Mary’s Lake. It’s deep – you will never see that list again. And the act of writing might get you off our butt to finish that Philosophy paper.
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak. It’s important to speak to those who are important to you before the whirlwind of finals week begins and comes crashing to a staggering close. Don’t miss the chance to say ‘see you next year,’ or ‘farewell,’ or even sometimes ‘goodbye.’ But then respect those quiet hours. Just because you’re confident you’ll pass, doesn’t mean your neighbors are. If you’re having trouble keeping your voice down and maintaining a respectful silence, imagine you’re an alum sitting in the Stadium during a big third down – that’ll shut you up tighter than a duck’s butt.
A time to love and, and a time to hate. It’s been a pretty good year – indeed, this year was, itself, a time to love. If you made the most of your year, you really shouldn’t have had much time to hate. But if that’s not the case for you, come back in August and start over as though from the beginning. Remember: one Spring, as my lads went home, the Main Building was a smoldering heap of rubble – but by the time they came back in the Fall, a new one had risen in its place. And it’s still there.
A time of war, and a time of peace. Have a peaceful summer. The war starts at 3:30 on the afternoon of August the 31st, in the Stadium.
The 2013 NFL Player Selection Meeting a/k/a “The Draft” took place from last Thursday, and The University of Notre Dame did well. Six players were drafted over the course of seven rounds, with TE Tyler Eifert going first as the 21st pick overall and S Zeke Motta going “last” as the 244th pick overall. This was a very good draft for Notre Dame, the most since 2007 when a total of seven Irish got the coveted call. Here’s how it shook out:
First Round: Tyler Eifert was a lock to go in the first round. The only real questions were “when?” and “to whom?” After The Jets and The Vikings passed on him, the Cincinnati Bengals grabbed Tyler with the twenty-first pick overall. You can read more about Cincy’s newest “Ochocinco” here.
Second Round: Manti Te’o should have gone in the first round, but weighed down with questions about his fake girlfriend, he fell to the San Diego Chargers with the thirty-eighth pick overall. Actually, Te’o was never a consensus first round pick and the Chargers traded up to get him. You can read more about San Diago, which of course means “whale’s vagina in German,” and their newest, classiest linebacker here.
Sixth Round: Jamoris Slaughter ended a multi-round drought for Notre Dame when The Browns grabbed him with the one hundred and sevety-fifth overall pick. Coming off a season-ending Achilles injury against Michigan State and the disappointment of being denied a sixth season by the NCAA, Slaughter was surprised to get called. You can read more about his injury status and his draft experience here.
Sixth Round: Theo Riddick had to wait until the one hundred and ninety-ninth spot to get his call and it came from Detroit, but I am sure he will not let the pain of either hold him back for long. You know that Theoooooooooo did pretty much everything at ND, from returning kicks to catching passes in the slot, but did you know that The Lions’ number one pick sounds exactly like Dikembe Mutombo? And is a recent convert to football? You can listen to him, and learn more about Detroit’s thoughts on Theo, here.
Sixth Round: Kapron Lewis-Moore made it back-to-back Irish. True story, though, the last time Kap heard his name called on draft day, he got sent to Anzio. But, seriously, was there a better pair of draft day stories than Kap and Jamoris getting drafted after everything they had been through? Sure, EJ Manuel made a great story, but he wasn’t the only person in the Bills organization crying when they heard his name. Anyway, after shredding his ACL in the National Championship Game, KLM had every reason to pack it in or doubt himself. His selection is a massive credit to his performance and character over the years. You can read more about Baltimore’s newest Raven here.
Seventh Round: Zeke Motta was the last Notre Dame player selected in the 2013 Draft, going to Atlanta with the two hundred and forty-fourth pick. While getting drafted by The Falcons will condemn him to a first-contract’s worth of disappointment behind The Saints, Motta had a strong senior season and anchored a secondary that you, me, and your cousin thought would cost us at least two games last season. You can read more about Zeke’s new nest here.
UDFAs: Once, or, more accurately, AS the draft was going on, other Irish were getting calls that would ultimately lead them to signing free agent contracts. As of Sunday afternoon, four Irish signed as undrafted free agents: Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Jr., Cierre Wood, and John Goodman. Obviously, it’s great that these men get to chase their dream for another day.
Analysis: So, that’s nine total players who signed on the dotted line in the most public and hyped “Match Day” in the world. The six draftees make this the second-best Irish class in the last decade. Still, compared to their peers, Notre Dame had a strong, but not superlative NFL Drat. Florida State saw ELEVEN players get drafted, while Alabama, LSU, and Florida had nine, each. Although D.J. Fluker may count for two. Anyway, good luck to all of them and Go Irish. (Author’s note: this post reflects “passerby”‘s correction in the comments section below.)