The more time I spend here at Nativity of Mary the more blessings and perks I uncover. The first week of August I received a phone call from an events director at the Hotel Sofitel. She told me that she was looking for a Catholic priest who could do a “brief service” at the hotel.
It was for a Thursday evening and it was not a common request – so I fished for more information. She told me that there was a “football team in town” and they wanted to celebrate Mass before their game. Sure enough, when I arrived I realized that I would be celebrating Mass with the Houston Texans (the Catholic ones, anyhow) who were in town to play the Vikings the next evening.
It wasn’t a Sunday. It wasn’t a holy day of obligation. It inspired me to think some of the coaches and members of the team just wanted to get together to pray the Mass. They felt a spiritual hunger for the Eucharist on the eve of their first pre-season game.
I was listening to Catholic Relevant Radio (AM 1330) not too long ago. One of the talk-show hosts was interviewing Matt Birk, former Viking and center for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Birk spoke about his Catholic faith and what a difference it made in his life. He also spoke of the tremendous stress and strain of being an NFL player. Many players, Birk suggested, face great spiritual struggles and undertake a profound spiritual journeys throughout their professional football careers.
I got a brief glimpse of that at the Hotel Sofitel that evening. One might think, at a hotel filled with NFL players, that there would be a lot of loud trash-talking, maybe some partying and reckless behavior. Instead I experienced a quiet intensity among the players. After Mass I walked past the room where most of the team was gathered for dinner. There seemed to me to be an air of apprehension as if they were a company of soldiers on the eve of battle – knowing that, after the first wave of pre-season cuts, many of them around the table would no longer be with them after tomorrow.
It is well known that legendary football coach Vince Lombardi attended Mass daily. I will post a video on our parish website that demonstrates that his faith in the Eucharist was the hidden strength of his demanding life.
The NFL regular season is soon to begin. Maybe as you settle into your couch for the game you can reflect on the great spiritual battles being fought by many of the players and their families – and offer a prayer for them. Maybe you can reflect too on some of the great spiritual battles in your own life and all that is at stake. Then maybe you too will feel the hunger and come to see how much you need the strength and help of the Eucharist as the very heart of your life.
Fight the good fight, Nativity!