Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tower of Ivory, House of Gold

I'm not a big sports fan. I might watch game seven if the Red Sox were in the World Series. Mostly because of my wife ( St. Mary's gal), I'll watch Notre Dame footfall if it's an afternoon game. Last Saturday's game against Pitt was an edge-of-your-seater, only decided in the third overtime.

At the end of each ND game, the team, students and fans gather at the end of the field and sway and sing as the band plays the alma mater:
Notre Dame, our Mother
Tender, strong and true
Proudly in the heavens,
Gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory's mantle cloaks thee
Golden is thy fame,
And our hearts forever,
Praise thee Notre Dame.
There is, I suppose, a bit of ambiguity about whether the lyrics refer to Mary, the mother of God, or to the institution, whose most recognizable symbol is the golden dome of the old Administration Building topped with a gilded statue of Mary. Either way, I think it is lovely that a hard-fought macho slam-bam contest ends on such a gentle, feminine note. It's neat to see those big lug linesmen holding hands with tears running down their cheeks.

When I was a student at Notre Dame, I spent my share of time at the replica of the Lourdes grotto praying to the Virgin. A dozen years later and it all seemed rather silly. Not the quiet times of contemplation, but the beliefs that went along with them. The Immaculate Conception. The Virgin Birth. The Assumption.

It’s an article of Catholic faith, an infallible doctrine, that the mother of Jesus was taken up into heaven bodily, uncorrupted, and presumably exists somewhere today pretty much as she was on earth. On the face of it, that's not any more far-fetched than other articles of faith, and for those who believe, more power to them. For myself, I have never been able to summon enough cognitive dissonance to take the Assumption seriously. And once one miracle falls by the wayside, pretty soon the whole miraculous structure comes tumbling down.

But if you are going to have a religion, then Catholicism has the Blessed Virgin going for it. She has served as an almost goddess, a feminine counterpart to the Father and Son, and is often worshiped with greater devotion. It is not Jesus up there on the Golden Dome, but a female quasi-deity. And that, I think, is all to the good. Any religion that can foster the gentler, less macho, nurturing side of the human spirit is Ok by me. I'll take the Mother Goddess any day.