and our hearts forever…

Forgive me, friends. Today I can think of nothing but Notre Dame.

We’re playing for a National Championship for the first time in decades. And I say “we” because Notre Dame is a place and a people that have always been plural: ours, us, we.

irishOur team hasn’t gotten this good or this far since I was a child, but I couldn’t sleep last night as if it were Christmas Eve, thrilled with what the prospect of this day might hold. Regardless of the game’s outcome, it’s a day that Domers will never forget.

Last night as I lay awake in the dark, I thought about how Notre Dame has changed my life. All the “soggy sentimentalism” of an alum, of course.

Because it was where I made my closest friends.

Where I fell in love with the suavest engineer this side of South Quad.

Where I learned how to be part of something bigger than myself.

Where I even learned to follow football – the sport I swore I’d never understand, let alone love – as it taught me rituals all its own.

But as my thoughts trailed off into the wee hours ticking towards game day, I thought about how Notre Dame changed my writing, too. All those years working for the student newspaper. The semesters I spent as an English major. And the awakening to faith that keeps calling me deeper into a vocation of words.

This blog is shot through with my alma mater, from one mothering spirit to another. What I know about home and family and prayer is all touched by its people and place and presence, even as my college years fade farther in the rearview mirror than that last shot of the Golden Dome leaving campus.

So today and always, Tom Dooley’s words still ring true, the small metal plaque by the brave young doctor’s statue covered today by a January dusting of snow, flickering in the light of all those candles, the heated hopes of every Irish fan:

But just now…and just so many times, how I long for the Grotto. Away from the Grotto, Dooley just prays. But at the Grotto, especially now when there must be snow everywhere and the lake is ice glass and that triangular fountain on the left is frozen solid, and all the priests are bundled in their too-large, too-long black coats and the students wear snow boots…if I could go to the Grotto now, then I think I could sing inside. I could be full of faith and poetry and loveliness and know more beauty, tenderness and compassion.

Thanks to Notre Dame, my life – and, I hope, my writing – knows more faith and poetry and compassion than I would have ever imagined as a nervous 18 year-old, pulling up to Walsh Hall for the first time.

So in gratitude, today and always, I say GO IRISH.