The days around Thanksgiving are when college football is ripest. It’s pure, unfiltered, crisp fall air. It’s the cracking of leaves under your feet. It’s the The Game when Harvard beat Yale 29-29. It’s “Punt, Bama, Punt!” and that poor Stanford trombonist and “Hello, Heisman!” It’s Hail Mary – but not that Hail Mary.
Rather it’s also the time for the church to renew itself and restart the liturgical calendar. It’s Mary’s Fiat and listening to everyone’s crazy cousin, John the Baptist. In short, it’s Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. And this year it’s also a time to celebrate and honor consecrated life – the ways that people devote themselves to God in a public way for the service of God and God’s people. People who imitate Advent heroes Mary and John as well as Christmastide champs like Anna and Simeon. This all logically leads us all back to college football.
Sister Lisa Maurer is a Benedictine sister at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN who coaches football in her spare time. Yes, as in a woman – a nun, no less – coaching a bunch men how to play a “man’s game.” Read the New York Times article here and see how her rosary walks serendipitously led her to become special-teams coach of the undefeated Saints while also maintaining her position as a health-care professional. Her knowledge of the game and her love for the student-athletes make her the perfect candidate for special teams coach.
What struck me most about the article is the way her religious vocation, professional duties, and coaching side gig work seamlessly for the Kingdom. Like Sister Lisa, I am someone who is a vowed religious with professional responsibilities (teaching) and an assistant coach (Go Hornets!). I see this triple role as a three-headed means to further the personal growth of the students – what we Jesuits call cura personalis. I teach students during the day; I coach lacrosse after school; I witness my vocation the whole time. Like vintage college football – the wishbone triple-option – I have three ways of getting to the apostolic endzone.
Unlike the triple-option, Sister Lisa, I and other religious who serve this way don’t have to choose between religious life, a professional life, or a mentoring relationship like coaching. Religious have and utilize all three means. We need to be proficient in our skills and ready for whatever God and the People of God need. This is the case whether we need to plan a lesson or serve on a hospital’s board, whether we need to help our players with their stick checks on defense or make sure the kicker is ready for a game-winning field goal, or whether we live the Ignatian or Benedictine (or Franciscan, Dominican…) charism. That’s a winning combination for all if I ever heard one.