What I love about Notre Dame
Stephen Viz | Monday, May 1, 2023
This clip from the 2009 movie “Inglourious Basterds” can help define my attitude as we begin May 2023.
“Well if this is it old boy, I hope you don’t mind if I go out speaking the King’s” is probably not what my editor really wanted to read as we wrap up a great year at The Observer. But today marks the end of an era. As of this week, my column in this issue of The Observer marks my final published piece as a student writer for Viewpoint, and with this being my final published piece of the school year, the reality of my educational career coming to an end for the foreseeable future has finally sunk in.
On May 21, I will graduate from Notre Dame’s one-year MBA program. As a three-year graduate of Holy Cross College and a graduate of the MSM program, my five-year plan has been an eventful one within the tri-campus. While a premeditated but unique plan, my path has taken me through highs and lows that have not only opened me up to the best of Notre Dame, but to the best of myself as well. And I can’t believe it’s over. But as I soak everything up during these last three weeks of school, I believe that this final Viewpoint column can offer a great outlet for reflection on why I have come to call Notre Dame a second home. God willing, this will be the place I will continue to call home for the rest of my life.
Upon reflection on my childhood, I don’t see how my educational pathway could’ve been any different. Notre Dame was my dad’s dream school throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, and those dreams became reality when he was accepted into the class of 1989. My dad’s experience was one for the ages, as a stint in student government saw him meet President Reagan and a senior year road trip climaxed with a National Championship victory at the Fiesta Bowl. My dad’s love for Notre Dame carried over after he met my mom, as my parents were engaged at the Grotto in the summer of 1996. Quite a cliche, I know, but are there any better ways than that to invite a future spouse into the Notre Dame family? Probably not. The story goes that my mom saw an angel that very night at the Grotto, and after the ways that providence has held our lives together, there’s not a doubt in my mind that she did that day. And so, after my parents were married in the spring of 1997, future plans were certainly hatched in order to introduce any future children to the greatest Catholic institution in the United States of America.
My first formal memories here on campus switch between summer trips and terrible Charlie Weis-led football games some odd 15 years ago. But no matter the context or the timing, these memories are all remarkably foundational and pleasant. As a young family of seven (and later eight), we would take brief summer trips here to Michiana. We would pay a small fee to stay in the dorms overnight, enjoy the beach at St. Joe Lake and later hit Holland, St. Joseph and New Buffalo on our way back to Chicago. Shortly after this, my dad started to get tickets for football home games, and slowly but surely, our family became a staple at Notre Dame Stadium. And while the on-field product was a fraction of what it is today, band concerts on the steps, South Dining Hall candlelight dinners and the rise of Eddy Street Commons all act as hallmarks of how our experience has been transformed over the years. And through the good times and the bad, these experiences slowly transformed into an atmosphere that mirrored our home.
So fast forward 15 years, 70 football games and a completed education later, my thoughts on Notre Dame have rarely changed. While I have come to understand the University’s bi-partisan politics and had to cope with an undergraduate admission rejection, my position remains the same as my 12-year-old self. The University and the surrounding tri-campus are home, plain and simple. How many people who have had the opportunity to pursue higher education degrees can say that with a straight face? How many people who have attended higher education institutions can actively say they are in touch with the spiritual fiber of their university? I would argue that if anyone repeats “Yes” to what I just wrote, they probably attended the University of Notre Dame.
My attachment to the 46556 zip code is definitely heightened by these spiritual fibers, as these fibers address and indicate the people we want to know and the people we want to be. Our institution is a structure that truly encompasses this spiritual excellence in everything we say and do. The Grotto, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and our shared vision and purpose all stand out to make Notre Dame a destination for Catholics.
As I write and reflect on this, divine providence actually helped me to remember this fantastic piece published in Notre Dame Magazine in the fall of 2014. I would highly recommend reading John Shaughnessy’s ‘77 words for yourself, but I will attempt to do them justice with the Sparknotes version. After a triumphant Irish victory over Rice that Labor Day weekend, John was confronted with a situation in which he responded with a Catholic call to action. After the game, Rice’s kicker, a devout Catholic, needed to get to the Grotto before the team buses left the stadium. John helped with the rest. He writes:
“The urgency in the young man’s voice — plus the two questions he asked — immediately grabbed my attention … In a tone that was both polite and urgent, he asked someone in our group about the location of the Grotto, and if he could get there and back in 20 minutes. It struck me that he didn’t just want to get to the Grotto, he needed to get there. As someone who believes my life has been blessed by the intercession of Mary, I felt touched by that need. And so, in a split-second reaction that I can only credit to the Holy Spirit, I told the young man, ‘Let’s go. I’ll take you there.’ Then we both began running. I just hoped I could keep up with him.”
John truly understood the spiritual urgency of this situation when understanding the young man’s devotion to the Blessed Mother. And in this brief 20-minute encounter, identity, devotion, fellowship and understanding are all shared between two complete and utter strangers, brought together through a shared purpose, identity and strength. And to Catholics who seek this deep relationship and intercession with the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, encounters like these are just the beginning of possibilities that exist here at Our Lady’s University. And it is because of encounters and experiences like this that I am proud to be a Notre Dame graduate, and I am excited to see what the future has in store.
Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephenViz.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.