The Sacrament of Football?

A hush fell over the crowd at the end of the fourth quarter as we awaited our fate against the team hailing from Death Valley. In the pause, someone in our group voiced the need for a Hail Mary. Though his statement referred to a play, the words of a homey prayer began circulating through my mind as one single second was given back to us in a moment of hope. Breaths were held and arms were wrapped around the Aggie nearest you in anxious anticipation as the team in maroon and white decided how to make use of the time we had left, barely enough to blink or even utter the word ‘hope.’ The thrill of hope; an invisible concept made tangible in the space of Kyle Field as one play, one touchdown, tied up our Ags with the LSU Tigers. For the next hour and a half, my mind reeled as the battle I witnessed from the third deck eerily reminded me of the spiritual battle this world presents as we fight our way home to Heaven.Some disclaimers before I rattle off about how this instant classic gave a glimpse of our journey home: this is purely metaphorical. Though I love our Ags as much as the next, the joy of Heaven far exceeds the joy of an Aggie win, and the battle to get there is infinitely greater. I am just grateful it allowed me the reminder. Secondly, LSU and their incredible team only serve as the placeholder for the army of the Enemy in this comparison. I in no way find them to be diabolical, and thank them for the fight they gave. Plus, it’s only fitting that they call their beloved stadium Death Valley.All of this being said, back to the reality of the game. What first struck me were the fans. More specifically, the disposition of each member of the 12th Man. Every single Aggie, hearts pounding, maroon blood pulsing, stood in expectation of the same thing—a fightin’ Texas Aggie win (whoop). And yet everyone had a different means of awaiting it. Some bit their nails and held their breath. Others cursed, and maybe eventually left. I personally kept one hand clutched to my heart and the other to the rosary I had found in my jean jacket pocket (thank God). All of us yelled the familiar yells and fell silent when our offense took the field. In the same way, whether we know it or not, we all are awaiting the victory of this life—seeing God face to face. We all have different ways of going about it. Some deny His existence or walk away, others embrace our need of a Savior and seek to spend the time loving Him who first loved us (1 John 4:19). Many Catholics hold to the rote prayers we know in both the trials and the tribulations. All of us have the same end, meeting reality, the One who gave it all for us, and choosing Him or running from His embrace. What differs from the Aggie game is that we know the outcome of life, and I can assure you that it is worth it to live life on this side of eternity joyfully awaiting the finish, life’s victory over death.What came next, as we all very well knew, were the seven heart wrenching finishes of the seven overtimes. Each was a roller coaster in and of itself. A few of them were less exciting, as a touchdown or field goal on our part only meant holding off the Tigers for yet another go at it. There were moments where phones were lifted to capture what we figured would be our breakthrough, only to be left exasperated again. These seven struggles reminded me of the day to day of our human existence; each day holds a battle in which Christ wants to accomplish it all for you, and at the same time the devil desperately fights for your failure. At times it is easy to be aware of Christ reigning in our lives, and the excitement of the faith takes your breath away. Many still are mundane, defeating even. The demons are at your doorstep as the Tigers were at our offense, and you wonder, why bother? But friends, the Lord is fighting for you in a way so powerful that makes this past weekend’s game look like child’s play.Finally, the moment we all waited for—the two-point conversion in the seventh overtime that won it all. And on the seventh day, He rested. And saw that it was good. No matter how we felt for the past four hours and fifty-five minutes, each and every one of us rejoiced as Mond completed that final pass to Rogers. We laughed. We cried. We embraced the other victors to our left and right. We stormed the field. And it was good. That, to me, is what arriving at Heaven’s gate will be like. We will all partake in Christ’s victory over death. The victory that, just as with the football game, we didn’t do anything really to deserve, but it is freely given to us to rejoice in. The one that will cover the hardships we faced and paint them in gold (or maroon), taking away nothing of the win but only adding to its sweetness. The one that turns a stranger into a sibling as we are intimately united in a saving grace. It is one thing to stand for hours on end in the student section waiting for a win, but how do we stand for a lifetime waiting for what has already been won? We hold on to hope. We pray. We encourage each member of the Body of Christ to do the same in the way that we can—regardless of if they sit next to you in the pews of St. Mary’s.A friend turned to me at some point in the exhaustion of what honestly could be considered the second game and confessed, “Going home would be a victory.” And he couldn’t have been more right. I hope I can speak for the body of the 12th Man in saying that we all felt at home in Aggieland that night. No matter if you left the game feeling hopeless somewhere along the way, you, as a member of the Aggie family, share in the final joy. No matter how far you feel from the faith, you are constantly beckoned home, and Christ awaits you with open arms. Though I loved every minute of Saturday night, sitting in St. Mary’s on Sunday morning, celebrating Christ the King with the Body of Christ was even sweeter; we stood together in hope for the home we are made for. I hope you’ll stand, yell, pray, cry, and rejoice with me as we hope for that victory, too. * Football is not a sacrament and is not a holy thing, as much as some people might tend to treat it as such.  Football is a sport and is in no way a substitute for experiencing God, his grace, or attending mass on Sundays.  However, a sacrament is simply defined as a “visible sign of an invisible reality.”  Therefore, because Jesus has entered into the world through the Incarnation (John 1:14), our created world has become an opportunity for us to encounter God in the normal and ordinary circumstances of our lives (or, in the case of this football game, extraordinary circumstances).  That is the purpose of this blogpost: how one person experienced God speaking to her when she perhaps least expected it.

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How to Handle Stress: a Q&A with Christopher Lafitte