Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz cracked jokes and shared his faith before thousands packed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles Sept. 15 at the annual Los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

“I’m so old, my birthday candles cost more than the cake,” Holtz said during his keynote, which followed a morning rosary led by the Los Angeles auxiliary bishops and a Mass celebrated by Archbishop José H. Gomez.

The prayer breakfast, now in its 11th year, brings together Catholics from throughout the archdiocese to pray in community and celebrate their common faith.

Holtz had the group in stitches, despite the rainy weather having moved the gathering from the plaza to the cathedral, thereby delaying breakfast.

“God doesn’t care who wins the game, but his mother does,” Holtz said, recalling a conversation he had with a rival football coach.

He also shared three keys to living a good life: Always do what’s right, be committed to excellence and show people you care. Those virtues lead to trust, commitment and love.

“If you want to be happy all your life, give yourself to Jesus Christ. Don’t make him wait,” Holtz said. “It’s great to be a Catholic.”

He shared professional as well as personal challenges — from football to his wife’s battle with cancer.

“God doesn’t make junk and he didn’t put us here to be mediocre,” Holtz said. “He made us to be excellent at serving others.”

Sister Faustina Peppe, a Carmelite of the Most Sacred Heart, found Holtz inspiring.

“It’s something every person in the cathedral could take to heart and really apply to their lives,” she said. “He has a very simple recipe for success.”

Carmelite Sister Isabelle Mason noted how appropriate it was to be joining together in praying the rosary with the auxiliary bishops on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.

“All our sufferings will be turned into joy by the resurrection,” she said, paraphrasing part of the archbishop’s homily.

Before filing out for a brown-bagged breakfast, the gathering was treated to a photomontage honoring Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the cathedral. During his time as pastor, Msgr. Kostelnik oversaw the construction of the cathedral and established many successful initiatives, including the popular “Dog Day Afternoon,” which brings thousands of dogs and their owners together at the cathedral plaza.

Like Holtz, Msgr. Kostelnik received a standing ovation.