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Mary and the Golden Dome

Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre DamePhoto by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame “Uncle Jim,” cries out my young grand-niece Sophie ” who is that?”  Sophie is at an age where she asks a lot of questions and she was visiting last summer the campus with her family when she turned to me as we stood in front of the main building. I tried to tell her that it is Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who like you mother loves and watches over you. Her mother Jessica is a wonderful mother and Sophie knows she can turn to her at any time with her needs. I think Sophie understand what I was trying to say but am not sure.

Sophie is not the only one who has asked me about Mary’s statue on top of the Dome. I was celebrating Mass a few weeks ago for one of our departments and after the Mass I encouraged a question session. One of the first ones was why is Mary on the Dome.

Rev. Edward Sorin CSC, who founded Notre Dame along with 6 Holy Cross Brothers from France in November 1842 had a strong belief in Mary as a protector and intercessor in prayer as well as our journey in life. Mary lived in a family with Jesus and Joseph her husband. At the age of 14, the angel announced she would bear Jesus and as shocking as that was she said “Yes.” She also said yes to all that came her way from nearly losing Jesus at the age of 12, seeing him minister in a way that some in his family thought he was crazed,  and as Jesus walked the road to his suffering and death all she could do was watch and pray.

Mary can relate with the joys and sorrows of human life. Fr, Sorin csc had lots of joys and sorrows in developing the school including a few fires and money worries. Don’t we all have a need to lean on someone or have a confidence that they are close to you at all the ups and downs of life. I had my Grandma Bracke who was always good about listening to my woes about my Mom and Dad, my girlfriends, studies or what I wanted to do with my life to name a few.  Grandma was a good patient listener and did not say a lot.  I knew though she was filled with wisdom, compassion and courage. It seemed she always kept the door open for me and a good plate of cookies and milk as we talked.

Mary, come and be near us and our lives today. Raise us close to Jesus who is our brother and savior. May God be praised and given glory in our lives.  Amen.

St.Andre Bessette CSC


January 6 is the feast of our first Holy Cross saint, St Andre Bessette CSC. He was a French Canadian Holy Cross Brother who died in 1937 and a million people came to his funeral at St. Joseph Oratory in Montreal. Like the picture shown I was on pilgrimage with students of Holy Cross High Schools in the United States when I was campus minister at Notre Dame High School in Niles Illinois.

St Andre had a great love for St. Joseph and in his ministry as doorkeeper at the College across from the present day Oratory he drew countless numbers seeking help in mind, body or spirit.  His love for Joseph lead to efforts to build a place where people could come and pray to him for healing needs. The building was nearly completed before he died but at the current building you can see the effects of the ministry today that continues in his intercession.

There is an area off the main sanctuary where crutches have been left from people who have been healed. One of the students stopped and prayed for a friend who has a crutch to help him walk due to an accident. He felt  this was one way he could help him and he did say that he was able to recover from the accident about a month after this prayer. There was a young boy there who had cancer and his family and friends were there in prayer with him. The smile of that youngster was radiant and made my year.

Young and old, rich and poor, races and creeds were there going up the steps on their knees in prayer. Our group did the same and it was amazing seeing how these young people who could stay up all night as they had lots of energy were so quiet in our prayer up the path to the Oratory. One big football player was in tears as he prayed for his grandfather who had a bad heart and another, a cheerleader, was deep in prayer as she prayed for her best friend who had tried to commit suicide.

We were there 3 days and thousands were in prayer day and night.  I don’t know if actually healings took place but what I do know is that my faith was lifted and filled in abundance. Today over 2 million pilgrims with different needs and ethnic backgrounds  come to the Oratory in all types of weather, winter or summer to ask for Br. Andre’s intercession.

Br. Andre in his life lived the Gospel by his compassion and hospitality. May he help us this new year of 2014 love God and our neighbor.

Fourth Sunday of Advent


As the 4th candle of the Advent wreath is lit the excitement builds for Christmas. I remember after the Christmas Eve liturgy at Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs another moving story of Christmas. It was about 9 pm and the doorbell  rings. The temps are around the freezing mark and snow is falling as I peer out the window to a young couple with old worn coats and a swaddling blanket for a young infant. They are so cold they can hardly talk until I say can I help you. Yes, they said, “We need a place to stay tonight.” We had a large rectory and made room for them. The next day after Masses we cooked a nice meal for them and sat around the tree telling stories. Jill, John and young Michael were truly gifts of joy for us three Holy Cross priests. Jill and John were both seniors at nearby Colorado College. Jill was from New York state and John from Oregon. They were married a couple of years and were blessed with Michael. He was not planned and their families were against them having the child. Their families were not speaking with them so they decided to spend their first Christmas with our parish family. They stayed with us for a little over a week and continued to stay in touch with them as they settled in the area.  John and Jill both now teach at Colorado College and have added Kathleen and David to their family.  I felt their trust in God’s will even though they had lots of obstacles and their love for Michael was most real.  At our Christmas Day breakfast in the rectory they seemed focused on every movement he made. It was beautiful to see and made for an amazing Christmas for me.

The Gospel that Christmas was not just a page in a beautiful book but was a lived story that unfolded before me and the parish.  Both the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the story of John, Jill and Michael illustrate God’s calling to “Be Not Afraid.” Mary and Joseph faced lots of curious ,skeptical looks from their family and friends. Mary was young and Joseph was a bit older and they went away from Nazareth to have Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem. Strangers like shepherds and wise men from the East came to be with this family just as Jill, John and Michael came to our parish in Colorado. God is truly a God of surprise and the unexpected.


Dec. 1 is the first Sunday of Advent.     Notice the wreath above the altar space. It is circular to present time which is unending in God’s Universe. We light one candle each week in advent to represent how we invite God’s grace into our lives as we await Christ’s second coming. Advent is a time of waiting and what do we need from God this week that will help us wait in hope.

Advent Mass

Purple is a color worn during Advent to represent the royal life we all share in Jesus. It is a humble call to open ourselves to serve and see Jesus in our surroundings. Here at ND, our co-workers, Family, neighbors, the poor, marginalized, and in ourselves is the kingly grace of Jesus. Do we recognize this?

Advent Prayer