First of all, I’d like to ask my readers to pray for my niece Alyssa. She’s going through an (apparently) very tough time because of the breakup of her parents’ marriage. She has had psychological issues with self-cutting before, but was thought to be under control. Last night I found out that she’s entertaining thoughts of suicide. Your prayers and mass offerings will be greatly appreciated.
On another note, since our pastor left our parish, we’ve been seeking a new parish, and visiting a variety of other parishes. We decided to attend Mass at a parish we haven’t set foot in for 20 years (it’s in a neighboring town, there’s a bridge toll, and outside the diocese). So, after Mass we’re studying the altar piece (which has a painting of Christ, Archangels Michael and Uriel, Eastern fathers St. John Chrysostom, St. John Damascene, St. Basil, St. Ambrose, Western Fathers St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory), a long-lost shipmate of mine calls to us-he’s playing in the choir. I’d been thinking of him, and suddenly, God bumps us into each other, almost literally. It’s funny, the guy works in the town I live in, and we’ve never bumped into each other there…
On a completely different tack, I’ve been a New Orleans Saints fan for almost 50 years now. I was born and raised there. And the last four weeks have been painful. This week, we were poised to watch Drew Brees set another all-time NFL record, held by Johnny Unitas for 50 years. On the plane back from their loss to Green Bay, Drew thought he’d do something nice for the exiled coach of the Saints, Sean Payton, and invite him to the game, to be there when he broke the record. During the game last night, I started to get angry at the NFL for what they did to my team, and feeling sorry for Sean Payton. I cannot imagine he enjoyed being there very much. He was all alone with his son, and not allowed to communicate with anyone. I’m sure he came for Drew.
Let me say now that I believe that what Greg Williams instituted, as the Defensive Coordinator for the Saints, was wrong. I, however, do not think the Saints are the only ones doing it. [That doesn't make it right, either, that everyone or anyone else is doing the same thing.] I have always believed in pay for performance. Teams hire players because they expect them to make tackles, sack quarterbacks, catch passes, throw touchdowns, and so on. I also believe that NFL teams do try to sideline the opposing quarterback, because this gives them an enormous edge. I would not be surprised to know that a player gets a bonus for taking the opposing quarterback out of the game. Teams always look to exploit the other team’s weaknesses. As soon as the starting cornerback goes down, the offense will pick on the replacement, because they know he’s not as good. It’s the nature of sport.
The reason sports is so appealing to watch is because all teams start with equal opportunity. In the NFL, any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday. The ball bounces funny, referees miss calls, and so on. Usually, the difference in any game is one play, whether a player gets hurt, a big play gets called back or whatever. Last night, while watching my team, I admit that I almost turned off the game, when the Chargers intercepted the Saints for a touchdown, which would have put the game out of reach for the Saints. San Diego would have had a 17 point lead with about 10-12 minutes left in the game. However, on the same play, a rookie defensive linemen used the crown of his helmet to smash into Brees, negating the interception. The Saints went on to win the game. The point is not that the teams are equal. They’re not. But they have equal opportunity, play with the same rules, and must overcome human mistakes in order to win games.
Lastly, I wanted to talk about what religious liberty is, and what the current administration is trying to make it. The First Amendment to the Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The key question, to me, and to many, is “What constitutes “ prohibiting the free exercise thereof”???
The government, at least the administration, seems to believe that this means that people can go to church freely on Sunday, but during the rest of the week, they have no right to practice their faith. Either that, or they think it means that they’re free to go into a church building, but once outside, you’re on their terms, not those of your faith. Most people I know and associate with believe that attending Mass or worship services is instructive, and teaches you how you should live your life the other 167 hours of the week. But is it ok to profess one thing in the confines of the Church building, and go out and promote or practice something else? Is it limiting the free exercise of religion to coerce or encourage, or force, someone to do something that’s inherently against their faith? This does not entail being allowed to smoke peyote in order to attain a state of nirvana, or something like that. The government can legitimately prohibit the use of narcotics to those who don’t need it, or to deny the right to have multiple wives. The government can decide that some ways of public worship are against the law. But telling someone how they can practice is entirely something else. If your faith is important to you, as it is to me, the actions of the current administration should tell you how you should vote…