SOUTH BEND — Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, said he found the secret to the University of Notre Dame during a nighttime visit to the campus Grotto.
During the 2013 commencement speech Sunday in Notre Dame Stadium, Dolan recalled meeting a man on a train who was an observant Jew who had graduated from the university.
“He turned out to be a fanatical, in-your-face, obnoxious Notre Dame alumnus. Have you ever met one?” Dolan joked. “I guess I’m one now.”
The alumnus suggested to Dolan that he visit the Grotto when he reached campus, and the cardinal took his advice.
“Last night, I snuck down to the Grotto to discover the secret of Notre Dame,” Dolan said. He saw graduates and their friends and family members there, and saw hundreds of candles burning. The man on the train was right, he said.
“At this Grotto, there’s a touch of the transcendent,” Dolan said. “There’s a whisper of the sacred that reminds us that we’re just not minds and bodies, we’re hearts and immortal souls.”
More than 3,000 graduates received their degrees under sunny skies Sunday.
Notre Dame is named for and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the mother of God. She is not just a patroness, but also a model, Dolan said.
Mary placed herself in God’s hands in order to give birth to Jesus and provide Him his human nature, the cardinal said. He urged the graduates to be just as ready to do God’s will.
“For at her best, this university has the heart of Mary. Meaning this university is us, Jesus and His church, and clings to them both with love, and loyalty and service,” he said.
“Here at Notre Dame, we want to be not just another Harvard or Oxford, but a Bethlehem, a Nazareth, a Calvary, a Cana,” the cardinal said. “Here our goal is not just a career, but a call. Not just a degree, but discipleship. Not just what we’ve gotten, but what we’re giving.
The university presented honorary degrees to Dolan and five others: Gu Binglin, former president of Tshingua University in Beijing; Sister Antona Ebo, a longtime human rights activist; Marilynne Robinson, a novelist who won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for her book “Gilead”; Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University; and Kenneth Stinson, a 1964 Notre Dame graduate and chairman emeritus of Peter Kiewit Sons Inc., a construction firm.
Notre Dame’s annual Laetare Medal was presented to Sister Susanne Gallagher, Sister Therese Harrington and the Rev. James H. McCarthy, founders of the Special Religious Education Development Network, a religious education network for people with developmental disabilities.
The valedictorian was Mallory Meter, a psychology major from Beverly Hills, Mich.
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