It was awfully nice of the University to remember my 200th birthday on February 6. I am very grateful that I haven’t been forgotten…since everyone has been riding my cassock-tails since roughly 1842. I was honored that the Dining Hall put on a legitimate French spread. I’m sorry for all you good, corn-fed, Midwestern, Irish-Americans who prefer meat and potatoes three times a day. Call this multiculturalism.
What bothers me is Rozum. Now, don’t get me wrong. George and I have a great friendship. But he’s had…like…50 or 60 fewer birthdays than I have. Yet he had the gall to celebrate in style the very day after I had my bicentennial. The nerve of the man! Of course, it could have been his beloved Alumni Hall Dogs (why they can’t spell correctly never ceases to amaze and sorrow me) who put him up to the stunt. God Himself knows, they have put that fine CSC up to enough Irish funerary stunts over the years. Either way, I found it to be poor form – I mean, I don’t see a Rozum Hall on campus…yet.
This whole week brought the issue of anniversaries to my mind. If any of you still studied Latin (which you don’t, because you’re weak), you would know that the etymology of “anniversary” means “returning every year.” Birthdays return every year, and not just for distinguished founders and fine, but more lowly, hall rectors. All sorts of things return every year, and we mark their coming and going.
The key is whether or not you did better on this returning date than you had on the previous date. I don’t mean financially (but if you did, you owe us a check). I mean in terms of your long journey through life. Believe me, at 28 I had no idea whether or not my Northern Indiana Project would succeed. At 38, things were better, but not great. At 70, things were pretty good – but could be better. Then I met Rozum in 1887, at the first Notre Dame football game.
My point is this: Treat every birthday or anniversary as an opportunity to look over the last year and decide in what ways you have done better. It may not be in every way or every facet of your life that you have succeeded; it may be in just one small way that things got better. But celebrate that when you celebrate a birthday or anniversary. Believe me that’s the only way to get to 200…or George’s carefree 146.
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.”