Often, in the darkness of a gathering (or raging) storm, we are shown a ray of light that or two that are intended (if we will allow) to remind us of the goodness in/magnificence of life. The year I spent beneath the Golden Dome certainly was no exception. While there were many “challenges” (e.g., three months of “solitary confinement” in the house on North Lafayette, back surgery over Thanksgiving break that left me shuffling around campus for several weeks like Tim Conway’s character on the Carol Burnett Show http://tinyurl.com/6jq7v86 , the worst winter (172” of snowfall) in South Bend history (believe me that’s saying something!) http://tinyurl.com/cotm4d6, a second semester roommate in Pangborn Hall http://tinyurl.com/cabq883, who, among other things, insisted on leaving the windows open at night – even in the teeth of that winter, academic pressure like none I had ever encountered, etc.), it also was one of the most memorable and growth-filled years of my life. It was a year that allowed me to re-connect or perhaps really connect for the first time with my brother. It also was the realization (albeit not entirely the way I envisioned it unfolding) of a lifelong dream (of attending Notre Dame) and a period that I began to re-discover and strengthen my faith in dorm-based evening masses and in the tranquility of time spent at the Grotto http://www.nd.edu/~wcawley/corson/grotto.htm. There also were some terribly funny times – clumsily falling backpack first into the snow-filled reflection pool in front of the Notre Dame library and momentarily feeling like they “would find me in the Spring” before emerging like the Snow Creature in Scooby Doo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKVj9Crret8 and scaring the begeezus out of an unsuspecting library clerk, who, after recovering from her heart attack, was kind enough to tell me that classes had been cancelled due to the heavy snow, and driving back to Miami for Christmas break in a blizzard that seemingly didn’t let up until we reached Kissimmee with $25 in our pocket and a 1974 Dodge Colt whose heater was broken. Most importantly, however, Notre Dame was where I met Beth and, at 20 years old, discovered, for the first time in my life, what true friendship is meant to look and feel like – and its healing and sustaining power. To this day, I count among my fondest memories the sometimes hours-long daily walks she and I took around St. Joe’s Lake – talking about classes, current events, life, our families, politics, our aspirations, religion and (too often) obsessing about mutual long-distance relationships with others – all the while showering each other with compassion, understanding, honesty, support, acceptance and, ultimately, unconditional (non-judgmental) love. In three months time, we forged a friendship that would last a lifetime, a friendship that had its roots in a little boy’s dream – and a football team. I ultimately would leave Notre Dame after my sophomore year and return to Spring Hill, in part, because I was convinced I would never fully assimilate into the glorious and dynamic fabric that is campus life for those who begin and live out their college experience in the shadow of the Golden Dome. However, more than once it has occurred to me that there were lots of college football teams I could have hitched my wagon to as a boy, none of which, save for one, would have required me to get up at 6 o’clock on Sunday mornings. But I chose Notre Dame. Simply fortuitous? I don’t think so. Ultimately, however, it’s up to you to decide whether you believe it was. Before you do, I urge you to keep reading!