The two teams are matched, if only in one regard. They have deacons, and we have deacons. “Deacon” is one of the Holy Orders. “Holy Orders” is not what a waiter says when serving a party of 46 – it is the Sacrament of ordaining ministers for the Church. Only men. Just like college football. Since we are dealing with the Church, there is a complex hierarchy. Just like college football. Let’s examine all the Holy Orders and observe some other parallels between our pastime (Church) and our religion (football). In ascending order of importance, they are:
16. Porter: Don’t get excited – I’m not talking about a rich brown beer…yet. As the name implies, a Porter was in charge of opening the doors of the church for the faithful. He was also in charge of keeping out the un-Baptized. These are the same as our Stadium Ushers. They check tickets, oversee seating, and remove unbelievers who hurl foul abuse at the Irish during the ceremonies of the game. Unfortunately, some Ushers try a little too hard to be Porters and attempt enforcing reverent silence; good for solemn funerals, bad when it turns the Stadium into a tomb where undefeated seasons go to die. Exult, brother Ushers! Open wide the doors to a perfect season with glad shouts and great rejoicing!
15. Lector: This is a reader of Sacred Scripture. He declares the good news in a beautiful, clear voice, just like the Stadium Announcer when he says, “The Irish scoring drive covered 80 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a touchdown pass from Everett Golson to Tyler Eifert, and the extra point by Kyle Brindza puts the Irish ahead of Wake Forest 35 to 3.” Those may not be the words of everlasting life, but they will surely liven up a crowd of 80,795 watching the first undefeated home season in FOURTEEN (14) long years. Preach it Brother Michael-the-Archangel Collins!
14. Exorcist: These guys cast out demons. Tomorrow every lad on the Fighting Irish squad will by an Exorcist for the afternoon. They shall cast out not only the Demons of Wake Forest, but the demons of the last 10, 14, 19 years!
13. Acolyte: The Acolyte is the chief logistics officer of the liturgy. He assists the sacred ministers, he handles the sacred vessels, he makes the divine worship happen in God’s House. In Rockne’s House, the Acolytes are the Student Managers. The Sanctuary is the Sidelines and from the Entrance Procession out of the Tunnel to the Kiss of Peace Victory, the Managers make sure it all flows like a seamless garment.
12. Subdeacon: He assists the Bishop in dressing for Mass and he prepares the Altar. This is your Trainer and Graduate Assistant all in one. Rather than putting buskins on a Bishop, he tapes up the players to prevent injury. Rather than making ready the table of the Lord, he sets out the training table, not with the bread of life, but with good whole grains – and absolutely no wine.
11. Deacon: Not quite a Priest, but very important to the sacred rites. He reads the Gospel, assists at the Consecration, and can baptize a baby or marry a couple. He’s got all the knowledge, just not all the powers. He is the Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator of the Church. He may not be in charge, but you can’t do it without him. Some Deacons are married with children, and don’t go on to become Priests. This is noble and honorable service and allows the man the best of both worlds – rather like remaining as Defensive Coordinator of the Fighting Irish and not leaving to be a Head Coach somewhere else (too subtle?).
Being a Deacon is the last step toward becoming a Priest. In the Church, if you get as far as a being a Deacon but you don’t make the cut to be a Priest, they make you a Jesuit so everyone knows that you did something wrong.
10. Priest: The Head Coach. Just as in a parish, he gets all the praise when he makes the right decision, and all the blame when the people don’t like the result. He should be used to getting walked all over, since he had to lie face down on a hard flood to be ordained. He can withhold absolution or forgive sins (bench a player, or put him back in the game after a fumble). He can turn bread and wine into the Sacred Species (go from 8-5 to 11-0). And he visits the sick before death closes their eyes (that’s you, Trojans). A Priest wears the maniple on his left arm to symbolically wipe away the sweat and tears that come with his calling. I suspect Father Coach Kelly is on about his 22nd maniple of the season.
9. Monsignor: A Priest who, by politicking and currying favor with the right people, gets to tell other Priests what to do. In charge, but not necessarily in the right. These are Referees.
8. Bishop: The fullness of orders. The Bishop has all the powers and all the authority. The Bishop can dismiss Priests and Deacons, prevent any minister from being promoted, and he sets the schedule of Feasts and Masses. He is the Athletic Director. Even though a Bishop is in charge of his diocese, he still has to work with other Bishops from other diocese. This group is called…you guessed it…a Bishops’ Conference. And it is just as much of a useless and counterproductive debating society and money pit as the collegiate variety.
7. Archbishop: A super-Bishop. A Bishop with extra powers that other Bishops do not have. A Bishop with greater authority because of his wisdom and intelligence. There is only one equivalent: Director of Athletics at the University of Notre Dame.
Now we get to the Cardinals. Unlike a Stanford Cardinal, a Church Cardinal has actually achieved his goal. But there are three different kinds of Cardinal.
6. Cardinal-Deacon: These are overseers who supervise and second-guess the workings of the Universal Church from their desks at headquarters. These are replay officials. And Rome is the booth.
5. Cardinal-Priest: These fellows think they have worked long enough and hard enough that they get to sit back and watch while other people work. Occasionally they criticize; every once in a while they praise. But they have an opinion about everything and they expect everyone else to listen while they pontificate. Game commentators and sportscasters.
4. Cardinal-Bishop: There are only six of these in the world and they only hang around with the Pope. They provide him with two different foursomes for golf or bridge. They always give him advice, but he usually doesn’t listen to it. These are older gentlemen who have been around for a long time, and who are convinced they’ve earned the best seats in the house. Yes, these are the stiff-as-a-Board of Trustees.
3. Pope: The Boss. He makes the rules and everyone reports to him. From parietals to uniform changes, he signs-off on it all. The President of Notre Dame is the Pope of this little universe. And yes, he is infallible…so long as the team is undefeated.
It might seem odd to the uninformed reader that the Supreme Pontiff is only #3 in the Notrecclesiastical power-rankings. Permit me to enlighten you by finishing the list:
2. Ted Hesburgh
1. EFS CSC
Son, in 199 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm pretty tight with Him.
Now I’m going to tell you a whole lot of things I’ve kept to myself for years. None of you ever knew me. I was along before your time, but you all know what a tradition I am at Notre Dame. And one of the most important things I ever said was, “Friends, sometime when my University is up against it and the breaks are beating the students, tell them to go out there with all they’ve got and win at everything for Padre. I don’t know exactly where I’ll be then, friends,” I said, “but I’ll be looking right over your shoulder.”