It was the spring of 2007. Graduation was in the air and I somehow commandeered a print of the famous picture of Father Ted Hesburgh “arm in arm” with MLK Jr. The original had always inspired me from its post in LaFortune, and now, I hoped Father Ted could sign a printed copy of that incredible moment as a gift for my Dad, who inspired me to attend Notre Dame. As I walked across campus, the spiritual symmetry of it made me smile.
When I arrived at the library elevator, my thoughts leaped with anticipation. This was the day I would go to the 13th floor.
Ding. Dong. The elevator doors opened. It appeared like any other library floor. The books had the same looks and lights had the same brights. But in the back was the treasure most people miss. The door on the 13th floor.
Inside the door, a few rooms back, is where I found Father Ted. As I entered his office I was greeted by the smell of cigar smoke. It was a curious sight to see a priest who puffed a stogie, but his smile assured me life is worth living, and such simple pleasures and traditions connect us with ourselves, each other and the Divine. It was an appetizer of what I was in for – the wisdom of the 13th floor.
We settled in and Father Ted asked me how the day looked outside the window. Cataracts clouded his eyes but he wanted to know the state of God’s creation. It was a gorgeous day. The Dome was shining and the Basilica beamed its beauty. We agreed, never before had there been a view like the 13th floor.
Our conversation meandered from theology to dinning hall delicacies. He signed the picture. I almost peed my pants. And so things went on the 13th floor.
As our conversation came to a close, the golden opportunity arrived. My mind reached for the intelligent sounding question I had prepared, but it was lost amidst the excitement. So, in an instant, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
“Father, what one piece of advice would you tell someone trying to do good in this world?”
It was a simple question and hardly impressive of a soon-to-be graduate in Theology and Psychology. But it was good enough. Because with it Father Ted woke up the echoes.
“Come Holy Spirit. It’s what I say every day, Sean. I open my eyes and pray three words – Come Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings peace no matter what the challenge, no matter what the burden. To do good and to be good remember, Come Holy Sprit.”
Father Ted—that moment will last a lifetime. Thank you.
Come Holy Spirit to us all.