Are You Ready?

19 Sep

Football season is now in full swing. I know this because my young sons and I usually camp out in the basement on the first weekend of the season.

As we said our prayers in our sleeping bags following Notre Dame’s upset loss to South Florida, 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 next week’s game at the “Big House” versus Michigan. (His prayer apparently wasn’t efficacious, as the Wolverines pulled off an improbable fourth-quarter comeback to defeat the Irish 35-31.)

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 we lived in the Pittsburgh area, I heard of a priest who would wear black and gold vestments in honor of the Steelers.

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 than 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 Drew Brees plays for? Do we tend to spend Advent preparing for Christmas or for the playoffs? (That shouldn’t be a problem for Chiefs’ fans this season, unfortunately.) 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 Day?

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 (or Nebraska, Kansas State, or Mizzou) football is, God desires more for us than that.

Notre Dame our Mother, pray for us!

One Response to “Are You Ready?”

  1. M. Forrest September 19, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

    Now, does that mean no more listening to the games on my Android phone during Mass, too?

    Seriously – good, timely article. Points well taken! Believe it or not, this Sunday I even managed to turn the game off for dinner. It was an exciting game (Pats/Chargers) so that was a hard one for me. But it was my 8th step for FAA (Football Addicts Anonymous). 😉

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