July 31, 2009


Giving people a second chance in life

For many people, life is about second chances.

In the simplest terms, it’s about conversion or changing your ways for the better.

Consider the life story of the Apostle Paul.

Or St. Francis of Assisi.

Or Michael Vick.

As people of faith, we know St. Paul’s conversion story.

He was a Jew who was educated in Jerusalem according to strict ancestral law who persecuted Christians early in his life.

But as Pope Benedict XVI explained at a prayer service in Rome in June 2008 to open the recently completed Year of St. Paul, the Apostle later became, through an encounter with Christ, the “teacher of the gentiles of faith and truth.”

We also know St. Francis of Assisi’s conversion story.

The patron saint of peace, the environment and animals was anything but saintly in his early life.

The young Francis, as described by Pope Benedict during a visit to Assisi in 2007, was a “king of partying” who in the first 25 years of life was mainly out for fun and entertainment. He was vain and placed a lot of emphasis on image, the pope said.

Then, as he encountered the poor and sick, Francis began to change. His conversion truly took shape when, praying before a crucifix, he heard God’s voice telling him to “repair my house.”

Which leads us to Michael Vick, the exceptionally gifted athlete who excelled on the football field for the Atlanta Falcons in the National Football League for several years.

As we know, Vick’s world came crashing down when the quarterback was identified in April 2007 as “the key figure” of an extensive unlawful interstate dogfighting ring operating over a period of five years. This led to separate federal and state felony charges and convictions under plea agreements as well as payment of approximately $1 million for the care and rehabilitation of dogs. Vick was sentenced to a 23-month federal prison term for his actions. He served 18 months and was released in May.

To say Vick’s crimes were heinous would be an understatement. Any decent human being should be appalled by the way that he and his cohorts treated the animals involved in their unlawful operation.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell rightly suspended the quarterback in August 2007. At the time, Goodell said Vick must show remorse before he would consider reinstating him.

The commissioner did just that by conditionally reinstating Vick on July 27.

“I accept that you are sincere when you say that you want to, and will, turn your life around, and that you intend to be a positive role model for others,” Goodell said in his letter to Vick. “I am prepared to offer you that opportunity. Whether you succeed is entirely in your hands.

“Needless to say, your margin for error is extremely limited,” the letter said. “I urge you to take full advantage of the resources available to support you, and to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your life and your career. If you do this, the NFL will support you.”

Thankfully, one of the resources available to Vick is Tony Dungy, retired coach of the Indianapolis Colts, who will serve as a mentor to the quarterback.

Dungy, who we know from his many years in Indianapolis, wears his faith on his sleeve. We believe he is an excellent choice to work with Vick on his road to conversion. Dungy has already met twice with Vick in person and spoken to him on the phone.

As a husband, father, coach and mentor to people from all walks of life, Dungy has shaped countless individuals and planted seeds of hope—and faith—throughout his journey.

Helping Vick get his life back on track could be one of his biggest challenges.

“I believe in second chances for people who admit their mistakes, and are committed to changing,” Dungy said in his All Pro Dad’s online diary on July 28.

In today’s cynical world, it would be easy to brush off any chance of Vick turning his life around.

Whether we support him or not, our duty as Christians is to pray for Vick as well as Dungy and all the other people working to rehabilitate him. We are also called to pray for all people who have fallen and are seeking redemption—including ourselves.

As we learn in the conversion stories of St. Paul and St. Francis of Assisi and so many other people of faith, without prayer, none of us would stand a chance.

—Mike Krokos

Local site Links: