Faith, Football, Filters & Frames

by Fr Richard Heilman | May 24, 2019 11:03 AM

I am a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan. In my impressionable childhood years, the Green Bay Packers, with legendary Coach Vince Lombardi, were experiencing their glory years (three consecutive championships: 1965, 1966, 1967). The photo I used for this article was from what we call, “The Ice Bowl[1]” (wind chill -48 degrees) which commemorates a legendary (for Packer fans) touchdown made with 16 seconds left in the 1967 NFL Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. My hero, right guard Jerry Kramer #64, made the key block for Bart Starr. Needless to say, from that point on (I was 9 years old, at the time) football became my passion. Once I got to high school, I took Jerry Kramer’s[2] number 64, and went on to receive Wisconsin All-State Football honors in my senior year. Even my present email address has Jerry Kraemer’s number 64. I had every intention to become a Packer football player, until a neck injury sidelined me in my first year of college. I joke that “God broke my neck” to change my direction.

Appreciate the Grind

While I was forced to leave football, football never left me. The principles of hard work, determination and “goal setting” are engrained in me. While I never spent one day in the military, I believe those early years on the gridiron sowed the first seeds of a warrior spirit that prepares well for battle, empowered to combat the forces of evil and fight for souls. I’ve come to believe that the desire to enter the fight is a desire to enter into a genuine training in holiness, pursuing the goal of becoming one of God’s champions. St. Paul put it this way:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

St. Paul talks about a strict training and a desire to run in such a way as to win. Green Bay Packer Coach Vince Lombardi would’ve heard these words from St. Paul many times in his life, as he went to Mass every day (often as an adult altar server for the Traditional Latin Mass). In fact, he admitted, “I derive my strength from daily Mass and Communion.” As Coach Lombardi describes what it takes to be number one, see if you don’t recognize a bit of St. Paul in his words:

“And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”

Kingdom Filter

So, like St. Paul’s reference to a race, I think in terms of being well-trained to “advance the ball down the field, gaining first downs and touchdowns.” With this football analogy, since I now live no longer for myself but for Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20), what I am looking at is how to “advance the Kingdom of God.” In other words, I ask myself, in every situation, “is what I am choosing to do or what I am choosing to say, advancing the cause of the ‘The Kingdom’?” This is what I call my, “Kingdom Filter,” which all of my choices must pass through. Is my choice going to advance the cause of the Kingdom, or am I going to lose yardage for the Kingdom by any of my poor choices?

This is why my heart, mind and soul are constantly looking for more and more ways to “advance the Kingdom.” This is why I preach, constantly, that “it is not about winning the argument, but winning the soul.” Personally, I have made bad choices in how I try to relate something to another. Very possibly, I may have been upset, and I tried to win for me, instead of winning for the Kingdom. I realized that “I lost yardage for the Kingdom,” and I try to learn from these mistakes; I try to get better at using my “Kingdom Filter.”

This “Kingdom Filter” asks all of us to be ever mindful of the way we speak to others; the way we treat others. For example, is our Catholicism, or kind of Catholicism (as some make these distinctions), winning souls for Christ? Or, is it giving one a quick fix of “superiority”? A humble, kind, joyful, willing to help Catholicism can inspire others to seek this Catholic life for themselves. Conversely, a haughty, negative, grumpy, accusatory Catholicism can repel others from seeking a Catholic life … losing yardage for the Kingdom (but, gaining “quick fix” yardage for oneself).

Oftentimes, it is how we choose to “frame things,” as we use our “Kingdom Filter.” What I mean by that, is that some will often frame their argument in a way that may have some truth to it but, as someone once said, may contain “alternative facts.” Take the issue of the Chic-Fit-A controversy[3] … according to pro-LGBTQ supporters, the owner of Chic-Fil-A hates LGBTQ people. Well, that is one way to “frame it.” Another, more accurate way to “frame it,” would be that the owner is a Christian and, like most Christians, has simply stated that he favors traditional marriage, while he has no hatred for anybody.

How do we “frame things”? Do we use “alternative facts” to present something or someone in the most negative light? Or, are we always trying to frame things in a more positive and accurate way in order to “Advance the Kingdom”?

Let’s always have a desire to move the ball down the field; to “Advance the Kingdom of God.”

  1. The Ice Bowl:
  2. Jerry Kramer’s:
  3. Chic-Fit-A controversy:

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