August 30, 2019

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Andrew Luck’s calm discernment is at the center of an emotional hurricane

Sean GallagherA tremendous hurricane swept through Indianapolis on the evening of Aug. 24. It was an emotional storm powered by the announcement that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was retiring from football at 29.

It brought a storm surge of shock, downpours of disappointment at the dashed hopes of fans for Luck leading the Colts to Super Bowl victories, and even bitter winds of anger heard in fans who, in poor taste, booed as Luck walked off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis after the end of a preseason game.

At the center of that hurricane, in the calm of its eye, stood Luck himself. In a hastily arranged press conference after the game, he calmly explained his well-reasoned decision. At times, he had to collect himself emotionally before describing the series of injuries that led to his retirement, his gratitude for his family and friends, and for the city of Indianapolis that he calls home.

But Luck manifested a peace that rose far above all other emotions. He was at peace with walking away from the game that had defined so much of his life up to this point, from the hundreds of millions of dollars he could have earned in the coming years and the joy that he experienced on the field.

Actually, it was the joy of the game leaving him that led him to retire. Enduring injury after injury over the past four years sapped him of the love of football that led him to give so much of himself to it. “It’s taken my joy of this game away,” he noted at the press conference.

Luck said that he made his choice in the past two weeks while rehabilitating from a calf and ankle injury that had sidelined him from all off-season training.

But this was no snap decision. When he sat out the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury, he experienced great physical and mental anguish. And he told himself at the time that he would not go through another period like that. So, when his calf and ankle injury kept lingering despite months of rehabilitation, he decided to retire.

All of this suggests a good deal of self-knowledge, reflection and discussions that Luck had about this decision with people who are closest to him.

This is part of what we Catholics call discernment. Sometimes, we connect discernment specifically with a person coming to know the vocation to which God has called him or her.

But we’re all called to discern carefully any important decision in our lives. We make those choices in light of our knowledge of ourselves, thinking about the circumstances in which we’re living, the moral principles that guide us, and discussing all of this with our friends, loved ones and other trustworthy people.

What we believers add to discernment, though, is prayer—being in conversation with our heavenly Father and seeking the light of the Holy Spirit in our deliberations. The goal of discernment for us Catholics is to align ourselves, with the help of grace, with God’s will for us.

One indication that we have arrived in discernment at knowing God’s will in our lives is the kind of peace that Luck showed at that press conference.

But this isn’t a fleeting calmness, one that we might convince ourselves we experience when we’re actually using it to justify a bad decision.

It’s a peace that endures, that stands up to renewed reflection on the question facing us and finds its basis in and is renewed by our relationship with God in prayer.

I pray that the peace that Luck showed in explaining his decision will endure as he enters the next phase of his life. And, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may all of us discern God’s will for us in the big and small decisions of life and embrace it with a faith-filled heart.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion.)

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