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Leon Suprenant wards off the temptation to spend more time thinking about football than God each Sunday in the fall.
BY LEON SUPRENANT
season is now in full swing. I know this because my 5-year-old son Samuel and I
camped in the basement on the first weekend of the season.
As we said our prayers in our
sleeping bags following Notre Dame’s defeat of Georgia Tech, Samuel quoted one
of his favorite lines from Rudy:
“Notre Dame our Mother, pray for us!”
My pious son was praying for
victory. He was not, however, thinking of a great battle like Lepanto or even of victory over sin and the triumph of Our
Lady’s Immaculate Heart. Rather, the object of his prayer was the home opener
versus Penn State. (His prayer apparently was
efficacious, as the Irish crushed the Nittany Lions
Football is a terrific sport, but
we can take this form of entertainment too seriously. Sometimes our athletic
allegiances go so far as to border on the sacrilegious. For example, when I
first moved to the Pittsburgh
area, I heard of a priest who would wear black and gold vestments in honor of
I also heard of a parish that
would give updates on football games during Mass, as though our salvation
depends on that.
Those examples may be extreme, but
they point to a reality faced by pastors around the country, as football and
the Christian faith vie for our attention. It’s not uncommon for a Catholic to
complain about the homily going five minutes too long (apparently the pastor
was out of time-outs), only to watch seven hours or more of football later that
same day. Many football fans will spend more time watching commercials on a
given weekend then they will spend in church.
There are countless parallels that
can be drawn by which we can assess where our own treasure lies. In preparing
for Sunday, do we spend more time reading the sports page than reading the
Gospel and other spiritual fare? Do we more frequently think of the Saints as
our intercessors in heaven or as the NFL team that drafted Heisman
Trophy winner Reggie Bush? Do we tend to spend Advent preparing for Christmas
or for the playoffs? The list could go on.
We armchair quarterbacks would do
well to reevaluate our priorities in light of what’s truly most important in
life. I have to admit I’ve hurried home from Mass so as not to miss any of the
“big game.” What did that say about the importance I was placing on the Lord’s
Even those of us who aren’t
football fans may occasionally find ourselves at Mass thinking about the
activities planned for later in the day rather than what’s taking place on the
altar. If we were watching a football game or engaging in one of our favorite
pursuits, would we let our mind wander so much?
When the Church emphasizes the
need for “full, active, and conscious” participation in the liturgy, the goal
is not the proliferation of speaking parts and sundry liturgical ministries so
much as to beckon us to enter more deeply into the realities celebrated in the
liturgy, to be aware of who we are and what we’re doing at Mass.
Our participation makes all the
difference. If we don’t engage ourselves in heavenly things, we will put
disordered energy into worldly pursuits. As great as Notre Dame football is, God desires more for us than that.
Notre Dame our Mother, pray for
Leon Suprenant is the president of Catholics United
for the Faith and
Emmaus Road Publishing.