Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, IN (Exterior)

Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Location: Notre Dame, Indiana, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 26 April 2014, 2:00pm

The building

A classic cathedral in size and shape, profusely gilded and ornamented, with 116 stained glass windows (1200 panels of glass). This is the tallest university chapel in the United States, and mother church of the Congregation of Holy Cross (which founded and operates the University of Notre Dame).

The church

From their website: The Basilica "is a place of worship and prayer for students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as for regular worshipers, pilgrims and countless visitors." The Basilica (but not any other campus chapel) is available for the baptism of family members of students, alumni and faculty of the University, and it is also a popular venue for weddings. The Basilica and the museum that is a part of it are also open for tours at those times when liturgical functions are not taking place.

The neighborhood

The Notre Dame campus is a bit isolated, a residential university with a strong community tradition. As an example, the dormitory system integrates all four academic years in housing and dining. The campus is green, leafy, and football-oriented.

The cast

The shipmate we know as Hart, and his fellow seminarian, Patrick, who had been ordained to the diaconate several months previously, were being ordained to the priesthood today. Presiding: the Most Revd Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Concelebrating with the bishop were over one hundred priests. The Revd Tom O’Hara, CSC, superior of the United States Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, presented the candidates for ordination.

What was the name of the service?

Liturgy of Ordination to the Presbyterate

How full was the building?


Did anyone welcome you personally?

We were running late and Hart had already ceased greeting people in order to vest for the ceremony. Hart's father and sisters greeted us as we arrived at Hart's reserved seats.

Was your pew comfortable?

Well-shaped wooden pews with kneelers; comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, with well-organized bustling about that suggested major preparations. Some talking, a few children, but otherwise an air of quiet expectation.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning and welcome to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

Only a specially prepared bulletin of 16 pages.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, guitar, bongo drums, and the Notre Dame Folk Choir, who have a unique musical sound and a broad repertoire.

Did anything distract you?

The gilding and ornamentation – the Basilica is beautiful and easily distracting.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Ordination in the mother church of the order operating the premier Catholic university in the United States is going to be about as far up the candle as Catholic tradition can make it! Hart and Patrick were vested as deacons up until the moment of consecration itself, at which time they exchanged their deacons' stoles for priests' stoles and chasubles. Not only the bishop, but also all priests present, laid hands on Hart's and Patrick's heads, symbolizing the passing down of the priesthood from the apostles. After receiving the chalice and paten, Hart and Patrick joined the bishop and other concelebrating priests at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer. You may view the video of the ceremony on the Holy Cross website.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

14 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – Well-structured, well-paced; clear and understandable. Bishop Rhoades is an articulate and personable bishop, and apparently very popular and well-respected among the seminarians.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

It is fitting that the sacrament of Holy Orders be conferred at Eastertide, as the risen Christ is is the crowning truth of Christianity. As St Paul emphasized in 2 Corinthians 4:5: "We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord." These two new priests will preach Christ Jesus to the world in a multitude of ways – not just via the sacraments but also in their service. They will learn from the example of Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the order of Holy Cross, who loved Jesus and his gospel and considered it an honor to renew the presence of Jesus every day on the altar. If they love Christ and his Church with a passion, they will serve God's people in holiness.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

The choir were simply as fantastic as you would expect. And the sacrament of Holy Orders is probably an act of the most complete dedication possible in our society. The most poignant moment of all was at the final blessing, when the bishop, after giving his blessing, removed his mitre and knelt before the two new priests to receive their blessing.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

Navigating and parking on the Notre Dame campus (you'd think we would know these things after being here before)!

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We stayed around taking pictures for almost a half hour: The new ordinands with their families, with the bishop, with Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, the oldest member of the community – it was a continuation of the celebration.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

Well, after about two hours of reception spread out over three floors at the main university building, followed by a two-hour banquet at the Moreau Seminary, followed by a party in the basement – we slunk away defeated by food without attending the party that started after all the other parties had wound down. Bishop Rhoades was heard to remark that he himself was not a Holy Cross priest, but that if they always partied like this he'd consider joining!

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – Because it was wonderful, but unfortunately not practical.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Definitely! And we want to wish Hart and Patrick long and satisfying careers in their chosen calling.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I don't think we'll forget a single moment of it! But if we had to choose: the testimonies presented in support of why Hart and Patrick would make good priests; the beautiful music; and the bishop kneeling to receive the first blessing from the two new priests.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools