Change of Seasons Brings New Rituals

The winds of change are swirling.

While it’s not yet fall, the sun is starting to set earlier as the days get shorter. The mornings are a bit cooler.

School doors have opened again, welcoming back our children. Swimming pools that were just a few weeks ago filled with sun-baked swimmers are now looking like ghost towns, abandoned and empty.

We know that for all intents and purposes, summer is over. Labor Day weekend has passed, so even though the calendar says it’s still summer for another few weeks, we know it really isn’t summer anymore.

So, if it’s not yet fall but it’s also not summer anymore, what season is it?

College football season.

Yes, that’s right, college football. In our household, college football reigns supreme. While most women lose their husbands on pro football Sundays, my wife knows that my attention span for anything other than college football on fall Saturdays is nil. But she’s right there with me, taking it all in, as football is her favorite sport. We love the Ravens, too, but Saturday’s during the college football season are definitely different, bordering on somewhat of a religious experience for the Heathcotts.

Yes, there are rituals. There are rites.

University of Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly watches his team during practice. (CNS photo/Jeff Haynes, Reuters)

First, there’s the raising of the colors. Humming the prelude to the fight song, the colors of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame are marched from the laundry room out the front door and raised proudly, as the “ND IRISH” flag flies in all its glory. Then, the family dons Irish football gear virtually from head to toe. This includes all children, including our 3-year-old twin girls. This summer on the way back from vacation, we restocked on ND apparel, stopping at the bookstore on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Once the flag is proudly flying and the family adorned in Irish gear, the appropriate provisions are prepared – chips and dip, other snacks and beverages – to provide the nourishment needed to survive the nerve-racking four hours, sure to bring moments of extreme jubilation and wild celebrations as well as frustration, worry and disappointment.

My friends, many of who root for other college football teams, will occasionally remind me that God doesn’t play favorites when it comes to Notre Dame. “God doesn’t care who wins,” they say.

I smile and nod, relishing in their foolishness. I mean, let’s be honest, what other team has a mural of “Touchdown Jesus” overshadowing its football stadium?

Just before kickoff, there’s the occasional prayer that is said, mostly that the players on both teams will be safe and avoid serious injury. But I cannot lie – I seek a little divine favor and intervention for the Irish, as any good fan would for his or her team.

Victory or defeat will eventually come, but in the end, it’s more about enjoying rituals and experience of the day.

At least that’s what I tell myself when Notre Dame loses.

Today, a new season begins. There’s excitement in the air as old, familiar rituals return. I’m left with one overwhelming feeling…


Peace to you!

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.