With the NFL Playoff games in full swing leading up to the Super Bowl, sometimes I hear that parishioners choose to watch the “big game” rather than fulfill their Sunday Obligation to attend Mass. Let me take some time to look at Attendance at Mass through the eyes and lives of two National Football League Legendary Coaches. At the end of the Super Bowl, the winning team is presented with the “Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.” So let’s start with Coach Lombardi.
Coach Lombardi was Catholic. He begin he coaching career as a coach for a small Catholic School. He went to Mass every day. He continued to attend daily Mass every day including during the NFL season. Why? It gave him strength, wisdom, clarity and perseverance. In fact a lot of the time during the off season, he would actually serve at Mass in which he attended as the altar server. In spite of his very busy schedule, he made time to go to Mass each day.
The second NFL legendary coach is Coach Don Shula. Most of you remember that while I was born and raised in New York, around 5th grade my family and I moved to Hallandale, Florida, just north of Miami. I attended Biscayne College which at that time was the training home for the Miami Dolphins. In my senior year I lived on campus and one day while I was walking over to daily morning Mass on the sidewalk coming from the Dolphins training camp was Coach Don Shula. Since the sidewalk intersected, I wound up walking with Coach Shula to attend Mass. He was remarkable. He asked this very nervous college student (me) my name and every time I saw him he always said “Hi Brad!” It is that deep faith and love for the Eucharist that has helped him weather the bad times (including the death of his lovely wife Dorothy) and to enjoy the good times –like the 1972 Perfect Season!
The game of football teaches us some profound lessons – like the fact that our lives like a football game have a time limit. We should play each moment well. If we get knocked down, get up take a deep breath and get back into the game. Another lesson is that we are part of a TEAM – The letters in the word TEAM stand for Together Each Achieves More. If you get into the Red Zone – focus! These are just a few lessons. Coach Lombardi and Coach Shula, as well as my father taught me the importance of Mass attendance.
Enjoy the game of life! Fr. Brad