A Notre Dame Holy Saturday Tradition

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart marked the end of the Triduum with a celebration of the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, March 30. Complete with the traditional customs of receiving catechumens into the Church, candles, and additional readings, members of the Notre Dame community have come to adopt a practice unique to the university—an exceptionally long line. 

The Easter Vigil Mass begins at 9 p.m., with doors opening two hours prior. For excited students and individuals from the surrounding area, however, waiting in line is an all-day endeavor. This year, the line began forming nearly twelve hours before the start of the liturgy, with eager Mass-goers sitting on the basilica steps promptly after the conclusion of the 9 a.m. morning prayer service. 

One of the first people among this group was Junior Luke Dardis. Dardis has been the first to arrive at the basilica for the past three years.  

When asked why he chose to wait, Dardis told the Rover, “I find waiting in line for the Vigil one of the best ways to pray during the Triduum and to prepare for the Vigil … Some of the most inspiring conversations during my time at Notre Dame have happened with friends either in that line or on walks between shifts waiting.”

He continued, “Since the Vigil is both a personal and communal experience, the time spent with others in line is a reminder not to become so lost in prayer that we forget to pray with and for our friends, since we walk together towards Christ.” 

As the day progressed and the temperatures rose, more eager Vigil attendees appeared. Equipped with blankets, lawn chairs, and homework, some even brought trays of food to share with their neighbors. Groups of people clustered on the sidewalks and surrounding quad of the basilica to pass the time by playing games such as volleyball, four-square, and frisbee. 

For others, the waiting time was a space for deep prayer and spiritual preparation. Students from the Militia Immaculata joined in praying a 2,000 Hail Mary devotion, led by Sophomore Juan Lawas. 

Lawas shared with the Rover, “The 2,000 Hail Mary devotion is really popular in the Philippines. I’ve really wanted to do it since I’ve had a reversion when I arrived at Notre Dame.” He additionally shared how he had promised to offer the prayer for a woman who had recently joined the Church over the summer but that he “kept putting off the devotion” because of time constraints. Lawas resolved to use the time waiting in line to fulfill his promise to her.   

By evening, large crowds had congregated on all sides of the church, their number now reaching into the hundreds. Fifteen minutes before the basilica doors opened, people began to amass, condensing near the entrance. At this point, the line extended almost all the way to Walsh Hall, several yards down God Quad.

Within minutes of opening the doors, the basilica was filled. 

Freshman Reynaldo Guillen, who arrived at the basilica early to prepare for altar serving,  described his experience watching the crowd’s entrance to the Rover. He said, “I was standing in the west transept when the doors opened. The second the doors were unlocked a swarm of people came sprinting into the basilica rushing in from all doors to claim a pew.” He attested that even those who had lined up early “ended up sitting more than 3/4 the way down the basilica,” due to the spots occupied by the neophytes and their families in the front pews. 

Attendees of the Easter Vigil later reflected on their experience to the Rover

Freshman Mariela Rodgriguez commented, “Waiting in line, I anticipated experiencing a beautiful Mass celebration and growing in communion with my friends and faithful strangers around us. The line allowed me to reflect on how the 40 days of Lent were coming to an end.” 

Sophomore Theo Austin, who had accompanied Dardis since the early morning, shared, “I find it appropriate to spend the vast majority of the day waiting in anticipation of this liturgy, and doing so in community . . . I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.” 

Rooted in prayer and surrounded by friends, to many, the custom of waiting in the Easter Vigil line is more than merely getting a good seat. 

Elizabeth Mitchell is a freshman currently studying marketing. She also participated in waiting for the Easter Vigil and would highly recommend the experience (though she secretly thinks it’s a bit crazy). To discuss the freckles or volleyball skills she acquired while in line, please contact her at emitche8@nd.edu.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Richter

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