“Saints look at everything with God’s eyes; they measure their existence in God’s light; they do not give in to confusion because they live in reality and truth.”- Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan
Last week high school football began. This week, college football kicks-off. And next week, we’ll see the 2011 NFL season we weren’t sure was going to happen.
Yay football! We Texans sure love our football. (Well, I do.) I grew up in Austin so I’m fortunate enough to be able to attend games of my high school alma mater, Bowie HS in South Austin. And as a Youth Minister, one relatively easy and fun way to do relational ministry and spend time in fellowship with the teens and families of my parish is attend the local high school football games. So Friday date night in the fall for my husband and I usually consist of picking a high school football game to attend.
Now here’s where I’m going to cause some division and some of you will probably like me just a little bit less. I’m a Longhorn. So my Saturdays are usually focused on watching the UT game. And the OU game. My husband is a Sooner. Yes, as far as football goes, we have a strange, mixed marriage. Oh, and I catch a Notre Dame game if I can too, since my brother and sister-in-law are ND grads, as are many of my friends and co-workers (I work and attend a parish that is run by Congregation of Holy Cross).
Yeah, faith, fellowship and football are intertwined for me in many way. Heck, in the sacristy of our church, one of our priests has posted a sign that says “Pray like a champion today,” which is a knock-off of the Notre Dame sign “Play like a champion today.”
Another popular college team slogan (more universities use it than just UT) goes something like this: “Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late, Wear ____” It’s a great catch phrase to encourage the fans to be there in full support of their team by being early, being loud, staying until the end of the game and wearing the appropriate colors for the teams.
I think these college football slogans are great challenge for us Catholics in our faith life. There’s a reason why “Play like a champion today” was altered to “Pray like a champion today.” What if we, just like in sports, sought to do the best we could every day, giving a championship effort from ourselves in prayer? Can you imagine what would happen in our lives if we prayed like a champion each and every day? The world would change. We would change. Our focus would be more on God and less on the things of the world. We would be seeking to do as Christ calls us to do, being a part of the world, but not being worldly, as St.Paul reminds us, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” –Romans 12:2
What about faith and “Come Early, Be Loud, Stay Late”? This is definitely a challenge for many of us concerning Church. How many of us come early to Mass to prepare our hearts for Mass? And I’m not talking two minutes before Mass. I’m talking a good 10-15 minutes to prepare our hearts and minds on God. To remove our minds from the external concerns and maybe look ahead at the readings for the day. I admit that I’m not always the best at this. Being that my work office is across the parking lot from the Church building and I am frequently already at the Church working before Mass, it’s easy for me to walk into the Church just as the altar servers are standing at the aisle entrance with their candles lit.
How about be loud? Well, I’ve got that one down pretty good. I love to sing and do sometimes sing with the choir, so I’m pretty good about participating loudly with the singing. And the times when we respond in prayer or to the priest during Mass? I know those by heart. But while responding is easy, I’m not super loud. Definitely not as loud as I would be at a football game, that’s for sure. Something for me to work on.
And stay late? Well, would you ever leave the end of a close football game of your team if you could help it? What about leave before singing your alma mater at the football game? Or, if your friends invited you over for dinner, would you just leave after eating and not help clear the table or say good-bye? In Mass, after receiving Christ in the Eucharist we are called to continue our prayer with the community through prayer, including the final blessing and closing song. And we are encouraged to participate in fellowships, spending time in fellowship with the parishioners that we’ve just spent time in prayer with at Mass.
Football season can bring about many challenges in our faith lives, including adding to already busy schedules, so we’ve got to consciously remember to put God and our faith first (thank God for the DVRs). And remember football can teach us a thing or two about how to live our lives of faith. So be sure to “Pray like a champion today” and on Sunday “Be Early, Be Loud, Stay Late!”
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” –Romans 12:2