#tbt – High (Scoring) Liturgy

by | Jan 16, 2014 | Uncategorized

Football god courtesy Flickr user katw311

Behold the newest addition to our “#smh – Liturgy” files. Our friends at Deadspin dug up this gem and I wanted to share it with you because it combines two loves of mine: sports and liturgy.

My goodness… Jesus as the pregame festivity to football? The Sunday service’s ten second Rite of Communion is like sacramental NFL RedZone, giving you all the high-impact grace without the filler of, you know, community or scripture or prayer. Just grab some wine and bread and you’re good for the road!

All of this liturgical-athletic tomfoolery reminds me of the Dutch Catholic priest, Rev. Paul Vlaar. You might remember him as the priest who led his congregation in an Orange Mass in order to cheer on the Oranje against Spanish in the 2010 World Cup (or to get the Habsburgs out of the Low Countries, one of the two). Below is a Dutch news piece about him. Warning: you will see sporting equipment in the sanctuary and priestly vestments in non-liturgical colors!

Two takeaways from this. One, who is his tailor? I have some shopping to do!

Two, that parish was packed to the rafters. It is consoling to see a church in Holland – you know, secular Disney World – full of happy, buoyant Catholic worshippers on a Sunday. There must have been something about Fr. Vlaar’s message that goes beyond merely (and irreverently) kicking a soccer ball during the presentation of the community’s gifts. He was a pastor who made a deep connection with his people, and for all the liturgical shenanigans, I cannot knock him for knowing and engaging his flock.

Football as religion courtesy Flickr user marsmettt tallahassee

Hail Mary pass?

Yet I cannot allow myself to mix sports and liturgy. For me, Mass is not a self-serve pregame party to get through before the main event like the first video. Neither is Mass a pep rally for my favorite teams like in the second video (mostly because my teams tend to lose when I pray for them). It’s the center of my life as a Jesuit and a time when I can be with my dearest Companion, Who incidentally, is a huge sports fan. When I mix sports and liturgy, the effect of each is diluted because I can’t focus on one. When however I focus on each in its own separate time, then their effects are enhanced and I love each even more.

Alright, enough of this churchy stuff. Pass the nachos – game’s on!


Cover image courtesy Flickr user katw311

Hail Mary pass image courtesy Flickr user marsmettt tallahasee


Vinny Marchionni, SJ

vmarchionni@jesuits.org   /   All posts by Vinny