MIAMI — As Alabama and Notre Dame prepare to face each other in college football’s Bowl Championship Series, both teams will also have the chance to spiritually prepare for the big game.
Father Gerald Holloway, who has been the pastor at the parish attached to the University of Alabama for nine years, explained to Catholic News Agency that he says Mass for the Catholic members of the team before every game.
Alabama and Notre Dame will play their championship game on Jan. 7 at 8pm Eastern in Miami. Notre Dame is ranked No. 1, and Alabama is No. 2. If Alabama can win the game, it will be the first team to win consecutive Bowl Championship Series.
Alabama has won two of the last three national championships for college football, and Notre Dame has not won the championship since 1988.
Alumni and fans from both schools were scheduled to be involved in a service project in an inner-city area of Miami the day before the game, spending a few hours building an urban garden with the group Roots in the City.
“We are thrilled to partner with our friends from Alabama and the wonderful people at Roots in the City to roll up our sleeves to build a garden for the Overtown community,” said Dolly Duffy, director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association.
The Crimson Tide’s coach, Nick Saban, is a devout Catholic and provides for the spiritual needs of both his Catholic and Protestant players. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is also Catholic and played football at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.
Father Holloway said that, in addition to Mass, there is a service provided for Protestant players at Alabama.
Notre Dame is perhaps the nation’s most well-known Catholic school and is operated by the Holy Cross Fathers.
Father Paul Doyle, who is among Notre Dame’s chaplains, told the National Catholic Register that Mass is said before every game the Fighting Irish play and that blessed medals of a saint are also handed out.
“We’ve had Mass for the team on game days since the 1920s at least, and the medals have been a part of it for as long as I can remember. We give inexpensive oxidized medals of a different saint to the players and coaches before every game, along with a short catechesis on the saint,” he explained.
Just about half of Notre Dame’s players are Catholic, but Father Doyle said all the players appreciate the saints’ medals and hear about the relevance of each saint in today’s times.
Another expression of the Catholic faith on display at Notre Dame home games takes place after the final whistle sounds and the players gather in the end zone to sing Notre Dame, Our Mother.