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Before Monday night's national championship game, a University of Notre Dame football captain will lead the team through a prayer called Litany of the Blessed Virgin. "Mother of our Savior," a captain will say. "Pray for us," the team will respond.

It's a ritual familiar to Catholics. But most players on the Notre Dame squad aren't Catholic. So participation in that ritual is voluntary. And should any concern arise about praying to the Virgin Mary—a concept some non-Catholic Christians find objectionable—team chaplain Father Paul Doyle stands ready to respond. "We're not praying to our blessed mother," he says. "We're asking her to pray for us."...

Of the four captains of this season's team, two aren't Catholic, including star linebacker Manti Te'o. Following practice a few days ago, Te'o did something highly unusual for a devout Mormon: He sought and received a blessing from Father Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame. Te'o couldn't be reached for comment. But Doyle said he has talked with the young man about religion. "This is not a place where you have to apologize for your spiritual interests, whatever they are, and Manti has said he feels supported here in his Mormon religion," Doyle said.

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