I was reluctant to write this blog as I was drawing a blank on what to write about. With the school year starting (I’m a high school teacher) and football underway (I coach QBs at Central Catholic), my free time was limited. I spent several weeks thinking about what to write about instead of PRAYING about what to write. So, I started to pray, “Lord, please provide me with something meaningful to share with my Brothers in Christ."
On Saturday, August 27th, our football team, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, had a great opportunity to play a national powerhouse out of the Washington, DC area at home, here in Pittsburgh. Besides both schools having a national ranked high school football team, both were founded and run by the Christian Brothers. The Founder of the Brothers was St. John Baptist de La Salle (1651–1719), who in 1950 was declared the Patron Saint of All Teachers of Youth in the Catholic Church.
Enough background info----This blog is not about football or the history of these two fine schools. I am writing about how the Lord has changed my life and hopefully the lives of many others during the afternoon of Saturday, August 27.
Saturday morning started with the team crowding 90 young men into the chapel on the Central Catholic campus in Oakland. It’s was a hot day and the chapel does not have air conditioning. Our Deacon, William Hahn (St. Raphael’s in Morningside), started off the service by reading Micah 6:1-8, emphasizing verse 8, "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. This was the same Scripture verse he used with the seniors during their first chapel service as freshman.
“It is my hope that as they have developed as men of Central, in reality they are becoming men of God”, said Deacon William Hahn.
Our principal, Andy Macurak, provided a powerful talk on playing the game with integrity and humility, using the hall of famer, Ronnie Lott of the 49ers, as an example of how to compete.
Head Coach, Terry Totten, concluded the service by quoting Isaiah 40:31, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
I walked out of chapel that morning thinking, how blessed I am to be a part of this type of football program, where we can use our God given platforms as coaches to spread the Lord’s message. This was my second stint at Central Catholic. During the 2010 and 2011 seasons, I never took the opportunity to go to chapel before the games. It was there, week after week, but my walk with Jesus had not yet begun.
On the field during warm-ups about 45 minutes before the game, Deacon Hahn tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was interested in participating in the Liturgy of the Hours (usually Evening Prayer or Vespers). I walked over and prayed with about 7 members of our coaching staff. This apparently has been a tradition at Central for the past 10 years.
Five minutes before kick-off, both teams gathered at the 50 yard line, where Brother Tony Baginski of Central Catholic and President Jeffrey Mancabelli of St. Johns College High School, led both teams in prayer.
We lost the football game that afternoon, 35-14, in a hard fought battle in high ninety degree temperatures. However, I walked away from this experience knowing over 100 teenage boys and 20 plus adults, heard the Lord’s message. Hopefully, one day that message will be the most important thing in their lives. It took me 33 years to understand that. I thank God for my journey and those who helped me along the way. Now it’s my turn to share the love of Christ with others.