What Happens When You Think Your Prayers Haven’t Been Answered or a Notre Dame Fan Handling Sound Defeat at the National Championship…

Ok – So I normally prefer to focus on more spiritual aspects than football. I even had this incredible idea to write about raising Catholic young men based on observations of my sons this fall, and I will write about that later. But, when one goes to Miami to follow a beloved football team that plays for the Lady on the Dome, well… you have to acknowledge it.

 We are flying home from the game and I have to say this is the first time I have walked away from any large defeat with simple disappointment. I was not disappointed in the team, they were (and this sticks in my craw to say it) rolled by “The Tide”, a true force issued by some large players. I was not disappointed in our fans, although the blue and green of the Irish dwindled towards the end of the game while our boys were still out on that field committed to every moment. I was simply disappointed in the outcome. I will admit, I prayed a Rosary that first half after we went down by 14. But I wasn’t praying for a win. I was praying that whatever God has in mind for this team, they can have the courage to face the moments they were in and to work hard to keep going.

How do we handle petition, intention? Should we pray for victory? If we pray for victory is it not inevitable we will be disappointed? What is “right” prayer? Now I’m an amateur theologian at best, but I do feel that having insight into the core of our petitions is as much a gift as faith itself. I have had brief moments of clarity, when I know praying for healing for some one with cancer may not mean physical healing; when it is more important to pray for perseverance which may result in the better grade, or victory. Yet, there are those other times (can’t help it) where a petition for 4 more yards or that some one executes a play better just pops into my heart. Does it help? Well, I think prayer is not going to alter our team’s ability to choose (or not choose) to act and some one else’s ability to make a bad call, oh wait, I mean call the play as they see it. These are the interesting consequences of the interactions of free will.

I know some people struggle with competition. It is fascinating that human beings compete. We have done so for eons – whether in battle or games. We enjoy the Olympics and sporting contests; we are hardwired to compete. Competition pushes us towards excellence. What is the gain spiritually? Mystical theologians talk about being completely present in God in order to experience him. Athletes talk about “the zone”, that place of focus where you are completely in the moment, where your whole being is completely present. We attempt to grow closer to God by using our talents. If some of those gifts are athletic, then shouldn’t we honor those gifts by developing them? Plato often spoke of human beings as a fusion of body, mind and spirit. If we are all three, then shouldn’t we determine the best way to employ our entire being – body, mind and soul – in order to fulfill God’s will?

What endeared Manti Te’o to us this year was a combination of factors. Yet he points to the challenge from his father to deepen his spirituality this year. He faced the loss of his grandmother and, tragically, his young girlfriend, with faith. He took the desire to honor their memory and channeled that into developing his talents, dedicating his whole being to where he was at that moment. In doing so, he inspired his teammates, and they worked unselfishly to get to the opportunity to play for the Championship. One game does not erase that.

What are we doing to challenge ourselves fully to honor our gifts and be part of creation, part of the team that is our community? Do we take for granted our body and prevent ourselves from being hands that can do good things because we are sick, unhealthy and tired? Do we ignore our mind and just survive our days instead of using our imagination and intelligence to work to bring God into our lives and into lives around us? Do we take advantage of all the opportunities we have to worship and take even small moments during the day to pray so as to include our Creator in everything we take on in the day? “We are not defeated in the attempting, we are only defeated if we never choose to try.”

Fight Irish! – Honor the gifts you have and persevere. Make your perseverance in all things your prayer. If thwarted in this moment, fight on in the many moments to come! 

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About dmthreeponderings

Notre Dame Class of 1991
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