It has been 58 years, but the lesson learned from the incident still resonates in my journey as a 2019 Catholic Christian.
In the fall of 1961, my teammates and I were in the midst of a dream football season. It was only our second year in the newly consolidated northeast Iowa consolidated school called Turkey Valley High (chosen because it was near the Turkey River). None of us had played the game on an organized level prior to the consolidation, so not much was expected of us. Also, because we were brand new to the sport, we were not yet in a conference.
That resulted in being able to play against teams from three different conferences. Shockingly, at the end of our season we had not lost a single game and defeated three separate conference champions in the process.
Much of the credit belongs to our coaches and brutal practice sessions. They demanded hard work from all of us, and we were more than eager to impress both them and each other. Our practices were always tougher than the Friday night games. We were in excellent shape and focused on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.
In the midst of our season an event occurred that would never happen in today’s litigious society. Our coaches had an afternoon in-service session for the entire teaching staff, so instructed us to have a regular practice with no adult supervision.
What I recall most about that day is that we did not run as many laps, we did not do as many sit-ups, and did not hit each other as hard while scrimmaging. In addition, the practice session did not last as long without the coaches on our backs.
Bottom line, we did not blow our own whistles!
That is why non-practicing Catholics are missing the boat. Some consider themselves to be ‘spiritual,’ criticizing church authority and rules. Why bother with Mass? Who needs the sacraments? I can pray and read scripture on my own. When I sin, I’ll talk to God about it. He understands. I’m too busy. Besides, some of the clergy are worse sinners than me. It’s boring. The homilies are not inspiring. I hate the music. What’s with this sitting, standing and kneeling?
And the list goes on. And their solo walk with God becomes less meaningful. And it does need to be. They have instant access to Mother Church who desires to welcome them back. To blow her whistle! A whistle of encouragement. Of discipline. Of instruction. Of love. Of companionship. Of focus. Of truth.
How do I know so much about it?
Because I was once one of them.
But I’ve come back. And I assure you, that that holy whistle of Mother Church is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.