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In competitive sports, it sometimes happens that one team has to overcome one other team, often a great rival, to achieve their ultimate goal.
The New England Patriots were that other team for many years for the Indianapolis Colts.
For the soccer team of the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome, it’s the team of Redemptoris Mater, a seminary of the Neocatechumenal Way, a Spanish-based ecclesial movement.
For the second year in a row, Redemptoris Mater beat the NAC 1-0 in the finals of the Clericus Cup, an annual soccer tournament for seminaries in Rome in which seminarians from around the world participate.
“It seems like a curse,” said archdiocesan seminarian Martin Rodriguez with a chuckle during a May 29 phone interview from Rome.
The championship match took place on May 29 in Rome.
A member of the NAC’s team from St. Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Rodriguez will soon complete his first year of priestly formation in Rome.
He said the one goal of the championship match was scored just a few minutes before halftime and that his team had several good shots on goal. None of them connected.
“We haven’t been able to beat them for a couple of years now,” Rodriguez said. “And now we have to wait one more year to have an opportunity to [beat them]. But there’s always next year. Hopefully, next time, we’ll have more luck.”
As the scores of their last two championship matches suggest, the two teams pair up well against each other, according to Rodriguez.
“They have a well-organized team,” he said. “They have a good defense and a good offense, too.
“I think our best ability is to defend.”
Although his team fell short of the championship they desired, being on the team helped Rodriguez adjust to living on his own so far away from home.
“It helped me to get to know right away a lot of guys who were on the soccer team. It also kept me in shape with all this pasta and stuff [that we eat here],” Rodriguez said with a laugh.
Competing in the Clericus Cup also bore spiritual fruit for him. Rodriguez said the seminarians who made up the NAC’s team would prepare short reflections for each of their practices that showed the parallels between sports and the life of faith.
That helped him put the crushing loss on May 29 into some perspective.
“We realized that we were trying to get this cup so badly,” Rodriguez said. “But in life, if we don’t take what we have learned in the chapel outside and start fighting for the other [eternal] cup, every other cup is not going to be worth it at all.”
(To learn more about the Pontifical North American College’s Clericus Cup soccer team, log on to www.pnac.org/clericus-cup.) †