August 21, 2015

Editorial

Rosary rallies help football teams build on their faith

We see it at so many sporting events.

A baseball player making the sign of the cross before stepping into the batter’s box.

A football player offering a prayer of thanksgiving after scoring a touchdown or making a big play.

Other athletes kneeling silently in a prayerful, meditative state before they step onto the field or take to the court. Or stopping to pray as a group after a game—win or lose.

In today’s ever-increasing secularistic world, it’s refreshing to see people—including respected adults like professional athletes—who don’t shy away from public expressions of their faith.

Though some would argue of its inappropriateness, we applaud those who are not afraid to let others know God is an important part of their life—even outside the Church building where they worship on weekends.

Which is why, only a few days removed from the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Aug. 15, we were happy to learn how several high school football teams across the United States have made faith a staple of their workouts as they prepare for the upcoming season.

The football team at Our Lady of Providence Jr.-Sr. High School in Clarksville was one of six Catholic high school teams to participate in a Rosary Rally on July 31 in nearby Louisville. All told, 521 players and coaches and more than 200 parents took part in the prayerful gathering.

Louisville, Ky.-based SportsLeader (www.sportsleader.org), an independent Catholic nonprofit dedicated to helping coaches instill virtue in players, hosted the gathering, which was one of at least 20 rallies scheduled nationwide.

According to a Catholic News Service (CNS) story, the original rally was held in Cincinnati in 2014 with nearly 500 players attending, and its success spawned the expanded 2015 schedule. Bristol, Conn., Little Rock, Ark., Phoenix, Ariz., and Minneapolis, Minn., are among the cities added. The program is open to both private and public high schools.

“We started showing the photos and explaining the story to cities across the country, saying this is what happened here and asking if they want to do something similar,” said Lou Judd, director of SportsLeader. “Since then it’s been up, up and away.”

Though numbers differ in attendance at the rallies, most follow the same format. Players, coaches and parents gather; a talk is given by a notable speaker; there is exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; and the rosary is prayed. Players get a free rosary and a prayer card of St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes.

Judd told CNS the rallies appeal to student athletes—male football players mostly so far—because it is a masculine environment where they feel natural and can witness to their faith. Players and coaches aren’t the only supporters.

Judd noted that Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kan., attended the rally in his city, and Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Rice of St. Louis attended the event in that city. Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati took part in the rally at the city’s Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in late July.

“Through this rosary rally, we see that in fact coaches and school administrators are taking seriously their charge to make certain that every aspect of a Catholic school education is a mode of transmitting the faith,” Archbishop Schnurr said.

The rallies, Judd said, have a singular purpose.

“In my heart and the heart of everybody that’s in SportsLeader, we want to bring souls closer to Christ,” he said. “That’s what we want. We just happen to love sports, and want to have this as an avenue to do it. I love seeing these families and young men praying. I’m praying this plants a seed or inspires them to want to grow closer to Our Lord.”

The goal is to eventually open the rallies to all sports, not just football.

As we have learned through generations, sports can teach young people valuable lessons. When it comes to faith on or off the field: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

And after every competition, win or lose: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Tm 4:7).

We are rightly taught that life is a team sport. No one can play it alone. St. Sebastian, patron saint of athletes, pray for us.

—Mike Krokos

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