University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

The Recreation of a Seminarian

by Rev. John Cavanaugh
The Priests of Holy Cross, 1905

At Notre Dame it is easy to provide abundant and varied recreation; nature and art have combined to equip that favored spot with all the resources that go to make up an ideal home for growing youth. The visitor who chances upon the seminary precincts on the regular recreation days may well fancy that he has blundered into some royal pleasure-ground. Likely enough the first prospect to catch his eve are the two pretty lakes over whose burnished waters the seminarians glide in their trim canoes, and the shouts with which they cleave the blue are not precisely bids for sympathy from the outer world. Or perhaps a boat drones on in more meditative mood past banks where the wild thyme grows and where billows of wood flowers run down to meet billows of foam, while the seductive bait is cunningly lowered to beguile the confiding trout. Rare old Izaak Walton, how thy gentle spirit would have relished a few days on these lakes! For those who are not Brothers of the Angle there are all the delights of inland bathing in waters as fresh and transparent as the atmosphere, for they bubble visibly -- almost audibly -- out of a multitude of scintillant springs alongshore; and there are water games that boys wot of, and refreshment and life and laughter galore.

Baseball, is of course, the supreme sport from April till October, and the seminarian who does not manage to qualify for some sort of nine, regular or emergency, is almost as extinct as the dodo. Handball, too, though it never grips the colleges very firmly, so far as I have observed, seems to be a prime favorite in most seminaries. As for football, the murderous modern sort is coldly regarded by the superiors, but the old-fashioned game, with its free movement and open play and its accompaniment of long runs and inflated lungs and bruised shins, is gladly approved for such as have the hardihood to be attracted by it. When the season for track athletics arrives the seminarian no less than the collegian is bitten with a madness for running short and long dashes, doing jumps both high and broad, hurdling, pole vaulting, shot-putting, hammer-throwing, relay work and all time other accomplishments of the track.

And the long walks over the country-side in the cool hours of evening with a company of friends and cheerful talk and innocent mirth, with the freedom of the hills to expand the heart and the spacious breadth of the prairie on which to stretch the tired mind and restore its elasticity -- what joyful remembrances they recall to many a priest in school and mission and what grateful elixirs they are to the jaded spirit of the bookworn student! From time to time the seminarian adds to his regular exercises certain larger adventures: cross-country running, under right conditions as goodly sport as ever was steeple chasing or riding to hounds; trolley rides to one of the neighboring towns, always tramping home afoot; gay pilgrimages to interesting bits of scenery on to spots made historic by the early missionaries and explorers; a picnic in the woods in season and -- crowning delight of summer experiences -- camping out during the hot spell, when all but essential discipline is flung away for a brief space and when amid hastily improvised furniture and experimental breakfasts and the keen curiosity of mosquitoes and all the delicious discomforts of living close to the heart of nature, the day wears far into the night with song and yarn and merry prank until tired nature must perforce be at rest at last. This be rare sport, my masters, hardly to be excelled even by a trip down the river on a raft.

The winter season is the cloistral season everywhere, but even the winter brings its own delights to the seminarian at Notre Dame. One can no longer go a-swimming in the lake, to be sure, but there is the natatorium with its mammoth tank containing thousands of gallons of water. Boating, too, is no more, but for compensation there is glorious skating for steel-shod enthusiasts, with hockey and shinny and other ice-games. The long walks and the trolley rides are still possible on occasion, and handball goes on vigorously under roof. Indoor baseball, rather pathetically, indeed, does its best to take the place of the other kind; but then there is always basketball, and basketball needs no apology among boys who know. The occasional bob-sled party replaces the occasional picnic al fresco, and the activity of the large physical exercise room in the seminary itself is supplemented by a weekly visit to the superb gymnasium of the university. Needless to say, chess, checkers, billiards and all the other ordinary indoor amusements are accessible in abundance. Winter, too, is the season for debates and seminars and entertainments in which the literary on forensic or dramatic talents of time seminarians have free scope to discover and develop themselves; it is the season likewise in which lecturers, concert companies and strolling players most do congregate in the university theatre, one of the proudest traditions of which is that its boards were once trodden by Mr. Augustine Daly's world-famous company of actors.

Much more might be told of the social and recreative side of the seminarian's life, but enough has been said to show that his days are neither a perpetual ecstacy in the chapel, nor an endless grind in the lecture room. Let no one be surprised that extra ordinary precautions are taken to secure health and normal development for his body as well as for his mind and soul. There was day, as ancient men assure us, when pallor and leanness were thought to be marks of grace in a seminarian, but that tradition has happily been lost; and the firm step, the erect carriage, the eager stomach, the bright eye, the glow of health on the cheek and the wiry nerve-tissue that endures strain and resists disease, are believed to be sufficient compensation for whatever good and gentle things may have perished with it.

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