Sunday, January 31, 2016

(168) The 2016 March for Life Pilgrimage, Encounter With Pro-Abortion Demonstrators, and a Blizzard........An Unforgettable Adventure

Stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76/70) with over 500 vehicles for up to 32 hours, including our two buses from southeastern Ohio, a busload of students from Iowa built a snow altar on the side of the interstate.  It was an act of faith since they did not have a priest with them.  However, word got around and six priests showed up, including one with 600 hosts.  Soon 500 students gathered for this beautiful impromptu Mass in the boonies along the highway near New Baltimore in south central Pennsylvania about half way between Somerset and Bedford in the Allegheny Mountains not far from the Allegheny Tunnel.  For a video click on http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2016/01/23/stranded-march-for-life-pilgrims-celebrate-mass-on-snow-altar-on-pennsylvania-turnpike/.  There’s more photos at https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/stranded-catholic-march-for-life-participants-celebrate-mass-on-altar-made.   Another such Mass (unconfirmed) was reported to the West on I-70 which shoots off the Turnpike.   According to another account, the priest only had 30 sacred hosts and, while breaking them into small pieces to give communion to some 500 pilgrims, they seemed to multiply…….miraculous if true.  For coverage of conflicting accounts, click on https://churchpop.com/2016/01/28/priest-who-led-turnpike-mass-responds-to-miracle-claims/.   In any event the greatest miracle of all is the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ that occurs at every Mass all over the world. 

            On Thursday night, the day before the March for Life on January 22, we watched a dramatization of the Donner Party on the Weather Channel in our Maryland Holiday Inn.  The wagon train with 86 people left in June for the allure of California, expecting to arrive in September.  However, instead of going the normal southern route, the party decided to follow a tip and take a “short cut” through the Rockies of northern Nevada with an ox pulling and the men pushing each wagon up the mountains.  The short cut turned into a long cut and they were stuck in the snow and lived in an improvised shelter.  Half of them died of starvation and the rest somehow survived, thanks to the dead that helped them.  Was this a harbinger of what was to come with our two covered wagons?

            Let’s digress to the very beginning of the journey when we left St. Louis Church  - Gallipolis at 4:30 am Thursday January 21 with Fr. Tom, our pastor and five others from our parish plus a couple from St. Joseph - Ironton.  Timmy and Chrissy Stapleton with their two lovely older daughters, Aubrey (11) and Riley (10) as well as Fr. David Schmidt decided to go separately in their reconstructed four wheel drive Chrysler Aspen SUV.  The Stapleton clan rebuilds salvage cars for a living…….a small industry in the Crown City area. 
 
          After picking up passengers from Sacred Heart -Pomeroy, St. Ambrose – Belpre, St. Paul's and Christ the King (Ohio U) in Athens, and St. Francis Xavier – Parkersburg, we had a full bus.  The northern bus had people from the four parishes of Noble County, St. Bernard’s – Beverly, St. Mary’s Basilica – Marietta, Assumption – Barnesville, Christ Our Light – Cambridge, St. Mary's in St. Clairsville, etc.  

    Of my six marches this came closest to being a pure pilgrimage/retreat.  A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place to pray.  There isn’t much holy in Washington, but we did make this journey to pray.  Of course, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a Basilica, where we attended the solemn Vigil for Life Mass, is indeed a very holy place.  Also holy is the St. John Paul II Center, the Franciscan Monastery, etc.  In pilgrimages of the Middle Ages, pilgrims went by foot for weeks and encountered highway robbers and the weather.  Our pilgrimage was much easier than that, but we were not without hardship and sacrifice which we offered up for Life.…….an end to abortion, euthanasia, and illicit research that destroys fertilized eggs and utilizes aborted fetuses.     
   
         Fr. George of St. Francis Xavier – Parkersburg led the Rosary and the Chaplet of Diving Mercy on the way there and twice on the very long 31 hour trek back.  We watched six inspiring and thought provoking movies on the trip…….Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Boy in the Striped Pajamas” in Auschwitz, Fatima, “Bella”, “Man for All Seasons” (St. Thomas More), and “For Greater Glory (Blessed José Sánchez del Rio)”.  
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            We were privileged to have with us Sharon Colvin, Director of Development of the Pregnancy Resource Center (PRC) out of Athens http://athenspregnancy.com.  She gave us two seminars on the bus, one each way.  On the way back we discussed our encounter with the pro-abortion demonstration.  Sharon brought out that about 40% of women who have had abortions attended church regularly.  About 70% identified themselves as Christian.  Roughly a third of all women over the age of 45 have had an abortion.  Thus many women in our midst have had abortions.  Two thirds of the women believed that abortion was murder before their abortions, but fear drove them into it……..fear of shame, fear to their reputation, fear of the ire of their parents, the disruption of their careers.  Very common is that the boy friend  and even the mother push the girl into the abortion.  This shows the great importance of fostering a loving pro-life mentality in the home.

          Notice the caps that one of the women made for all of us……90 all together.  She even runs marathons.  Those black and white caps really helped us to stay together in the big crowd.  Since they kidded me about getting lost two years ago (I lost them because they met across from the Supreme Court building, not in front of it).  I was saying that it’s less stressful to follow the black and white hats.


National Prayer Vigil for Life.  After checking in at our motel in Hyattsville, MD, we took two Metro commuter trains to the magnificent Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.  I went down the center aisle and somehow found two seats just before it was blocked off.  I couldn’t bear to see an empty seat with so many people standing.  So I got permission to look for a woman or elderly person.

To my surprise almost all of those alone were young…….in their teens and twenties.  The future of the pro-life movement is full of hope.  Finally, a beautiful young woman asked for the seat……Kendra Burger, the Director of Educational Outreach for Iowa Right to Life.  She related how she started a Students for Life group at Simpson College, a very liberal school, where she was majoring in Opera.  Kendra related that someone put sugar in her gas tank and another cut the valve stems from her tires.  The administration made it as difficult as they could.  Jacob Hoback of Sacred Heart – Pomeroy, a music major and recent on-fire convert discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood, is trying to do start a Students for Life Chapter at Ohio U.  Hopefully, he will contact Kendra.  Her most beautiful voice to my right gave me a concert within a concert.  She reminded me of the great pro-life Irish singer, Dana Scallon (see http://danaofficial.com/about/ and listen to Dana Rosemary Scallon - “Little Baby in My Womb” on www.youtube.com).  May Kendra also use her great gift for the pro-life cause!
       
The procession of concelebrating priests (including our pastor, Fr. Hamm), bishops, and cardinals took some 20 minutes.  The choir was heavenly.  Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York was the principal celebrant and a great homilist.  His story about the poor woman who left her new born baby in the empty crib of St. Patrick’s Cathedral before Christmas was inspiring.  Last year Seán Cardinal O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston had the same role.

















Why Do We March?   One sign answered that question.

  • To preserve families.
  • To preserve families.
  • To tell the truth about what it means to be human.
  • Standing for life is standing for women.


     Our March Before the March. The next day we were expecting the worst as the Weather Channel was predicting.  Our organizers, led by John Spencer (a field agent for Knights of Columbus insurance), decided to have our own march before the March, an hour before the official 1 pm start so that we could quickly exit Washington and avoid weather delays.  I passed up the pre-March rally to meet my godson in the Archives Building at 9th and Constitution, a few blocks away from the starting point at 15th and Constitution.  The Archives has a fabulous museum with the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  Since 1776 we fought for the inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  For almost a century slaves were excluded and for the next century the civil rights of blacks remained an issue; today we are fighting for the right to life of the most defenseless of all…….the unborn.

I was unaware that my godson would not enter the building since all of Washington was starting to close down late in the morning.  I left to meet my group at noon, but regained contact with Dan who was held up.  He decided to accompany me on our mini march despite having left the Church and being “pro-choice”.  Since the streets weren’t blocked off yet, we had to go against the current.  In other years we saw people of all ages, mostly youth with their elementary schools, high schools, and colleges.  Last year I noticed students from Ave Maria University, Christendom, Franciscan, Benedictine, colleges from the Midwest, etc.  Notre Dame alone brought 14 busloads of students and a few professors from South Bend, Indiana. 


   
This year John Carroll U of Cleveland and Franciscan University of Steubenville among others had busloads of students.  Inspiring was Fr. Chester Papan of Noble County and Fr. David Schmidt of Sacred Heart Point Pleasant, both recovering from hip and knee surgery respectively, who nevertheless made the trip.  As always, there were babies and very young kids.  They add so much to the atmosphere because this March is all about babies.

We obtained signs that were distributed by the Knights of Columbus, Students for Life, and Americans United for Life.  There included “Quitting takes courage”; “Defend Life”; “I am the Pro-Life Generation”; “Yo soy la Generación Pro-Vida”;  “Team Life”; “Life counts”; "Standing for Life is standing for women"; "Why we march -  to preserve families"; “Fewer women would have abortions if the womb had windows” by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a former abortionist who admitted his responsibility for 75,000 abortions after seeing the light of truth and becoming a great pro-life fighter.

       Another sign quoted Abraham Lincoln: “No law can give me the right to do what is wrong”.  In addition we had a quote by Martin Luther King.  It might have been the very relevant "Our lives begin to end when we stay silent about things that matter".


 The Pro-Abortion Counter Demonstration.  At the end point, the Supreme Court where the legalization of abortion occurred on January 22, 1973, a counter demonstration of perhaps 75 feminists awaited us.  They were dressed in apparently bloodied white pants for back alley abortions.  Their angry chants communicated bitterness and hate with signs such as “Abortion on Demand --- No Apologies”.  We later learned that eight of them were arrested.  In the 43 Marches since the fateful Roe v. Wade Decision, I know of no pro-life marcher ever having been arrested.  People from our group knelt down in prayer and we all prayed the “Our Father”.  One of the priests shouted back: "We love you".   Dan was impressed, not only from our going to Washington on January 22 year after year in all kinds of weather, but also the contrast between the peaceful and prayerful pro-life group and the angry boisterous pro-abortion demonstrators.


Many actually believe that a baby is not a baby until it takes its first breath.  Certainly, these are hurting women who have had abortions.  Post Abortion Trauma is very very real. There are many many women who suffer tremendous guilt and depression.  Many resort to drugs and some are even suicidal.  We took the Metro, a block away back to our motel where our "covered wagons" were waiting.  We had no desire to get stuck in Washington if all of the roads out were closed down.  Since all government offices were closed by noon, it is questionable how many legislators and officials noticed us, but we were there, our witness and prayers.  We know that God will still bring good out of this weather.  He actually has because of increased media attention.  The driver of another bus was healed of a prior abortion.  Some day, our nation will respect life from the womb to the tomb……..from conception to natural death.  Some day we will have a culture of life and love, not death.
     
For our two “covered wagons” it was “Westward Ho” and Home through the snow and the mountains at about 2 pm on Friday.  Instead of taking our normal route I-68 West and WV 50, we tried to circumvent the blizzard by going north to the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76/70) and I-70 W and I-77 South through Marietta.  It turned out that our short cut was a long cut.  The storm changed course and got ahead of us.  One car had an accident; a truck hit him; a bus tried to get around them and got stuck.  Under blizzard conditions some 500 vehicles were stuck on the eastern slopes of the Allegheny Mountains a few miles from the Allegheny Tunnel between Bedford and Somerset.  According to another version, one or more 18 wheelers couldn’t make a steep grade and jackknifed, blocking everyone behind.  That was about 6:30 pm.  That was really irrelevant since it was questionable whether we could have made it through 18 inches or more of snow. 



Tim Stapleton and his crew went through the southern route.  That may have been even more dangerous for us.  Tim drove under almost white out conditions.  He didn’t even know where the road was at times.  Hitting the rumble strip was reassuring.  They prayed to Our Lady of the Snows for her intersession.  Lo and behold, they got behind a semi and followed its red back lights the rest of the way.  They made it back at 3 am while we were still hunkered down on the Turnpike which was closed.  I-70 and I-79 were also closed for a while.  

      We passed the time by sleeping, reading, praying, playing cards, watching videos, playing in the snow, having great fellowship and joking amidst Michael’s macabre jokes “We’re going to die”.  We survived on potato chips and granola bars.  The water was getting low, but we had a lot of snow we could use.  One of the priests used the snow to brush his teeth. Since our bus was topped off at 87 gallons of gasoline, it idled all night, providing sufficient heat.  However, our backsides got a little sore.  It would have been scary being stranded in a car.
  
The covered wagons of the Donner Party couldn’t get through the snow of the Rockies.  Our buses couldn’t get through the Appalachians until the highway was plowed.  The Turnpike employees were working overtime to clear the road of snow and any wreckage.  The National Guard was called; they checked for the safety of people in cars. 

      There was one jackknifed semi after another along the road.  Finally, after 17 hours at 11:30 am, we were on our way.  It was clear sailing the rest of the way.  To our surprise, the roads were clear with over a foot of snow on the sides.  Although the students of Franciscan University accompanied by their president, Fr. Sean Sheridan (see his letter in the Appendix) and my daughter's roommate Elizabeth, were close to us, their eight buses were stranded for 32 hours and obtained food and shelter from the National Guard.  They also left earlier than usual as we did.  I wonder why they were stuck for 15 hours longer than us.  Other buses were headed for all points as far as Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, etc.
      
The secular press reported that “hundreds” of faithful braved the weather.  You’re kidding me!  Every year it’s the same.  Usually the secular media ignores the March and if it takes any notice at all, it grossly underestimates the numbers.  We had hundreds stuck on the turnpike alone.  There were certainly thousands in the March itself.  Typically it’s about 300,000.  In some years it may reach 500,000.  It’s enough to mobilize the Washington police and close down the 20 block path (about 2 miles) up Constitution Avenue and around the Capitol Building and past the Supreme Court.  There was even a rumor that the city would cancel the March for Life permit.

Next year come with us for another adventure (who knows what it will bring?) or at least watch the Vigil Mass at 5:30 the night before and the Rally and March at 11 am on January 22 on EWTN, the Catholic Cable Channel or via the internet on www.ewtn.com.  Many thanks to the Catholic Women’s Club and the Knights of Columbus who helped to underwrite this adventure. For more photos click on  https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B0RQ4q-Brjr-a3NJSmM5d0lFV1U&usp=drive_web (our thanks to Michael Stapleton). 


APPENDIX 


We invite accounts by other pro-lifers who were stuck on the Turnpike.  I'm especially interested in the snow altar and the veracity of the possible miraculous multiplying of the sacred hosts.  Was there another Mass on the side of the highway at another location?  The Mass on Pennsylvania Turnpike between Bedford and Somerset is well covered in the media and confirmed. You can put your own observations in the Comments section or send them to me at paulrsebastian@yahoo.com.  I will be happy to add them in this appendix.   

LETTER OF FR. SEAN SHERIDAN, PRESIDENT OF FRANCISCAN UNIVERSITY  

January 24, 2016

Dear Parents: 

When you look back over your life, what do you remember?  Often we recall the moments where the unexpected collides with our plans to create an adventure.  As most of you know, our trip this year to Washington, D.C., for the March for Life was an adventure we will long remember.
 
While I was sorry for the long delays that our students, staff, friars, and faculty endured with me on the return trip, I was not sorry to have made the journey. Instead, I found my heart filled with gratitude.

First, I was grateful that our students chose to brave winter's worst to show love for mothers and unborn babies. Franciscan University students have braved January weather many times before to give a courageous and compassionate voice to those who cannot speak.  You can be proud of your students - their commitment is both challenging and humbling.

Second, while this storm came on faster and on a different course than expected and our earlier-than-usual departure from D.C. proved fruitless, I am grateful for the spirit of the cooperation that occurred on our motor coaches.  One of the reasons the University sends buses to this event is that we know so many of our students will participate, regardless of whether we send buses or not.  As a result, we want to offer the availability of the safety of motor coaches rather than individual vehicles for them.
  
While we will probably have mixed emotions about the PA turnpike in the future, we will also remember the conversations, the movies, and the moments of laughter and prayer as each bus faced down the long hours of waiting. Multiple times I was thankful that most of our students had chosen to ride in motor coaches rather than drive. I did offer a prayer for any students who were not riding in our coaches.

Please join me in asking a prayer of blessing for our coach drivers.  These seasoned professionals skillfully returned us home safely and in good spirits.  When I think of the 500 vehicles stranded with us - truckers, student-athletes from Duquesne and Temple universities, elderly couples, young families - I realize that in comparison, with our full gas tanks, heated coaches, movies, and restrooms, our adventure was safe and fairly tolerable.

Most of all, however, I am grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ for the good that came out of our situation - the increased media attention brought to the March for Life, the bus driver with another group of marchers who was healed of a past abortion, the witness of the outdoor Masses celebrated by two parishes - and for the good that we will only see in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, or only when we enter into our heavenly reward.

As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, suggestions, and affirmation.  Thank you for your ongoing thoughts and prayers.  You have entrusted us with your students and your support.  We do not take either lightly.  Together, let's continue to be courageous in our pro-life and pro-woman witness, ever committed to building a true culture of life and love.

In Christ and St. Francis,
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
President 

Monday, January 11, 2016

(167) Life Lessons From the Brutal Pittsburgh Steelers - Cincinnati Bengals Football Playoff Game

Antonio Brown dazed after receiving an illegal hit by Vontaze Burfict at the end of  the play.  

                                                  Professional football gives the fans a game full of strategy and superb athletic skill.     The men devote much of their adult lives to being the best football players they can be even though so many retire from the game with chronic injuries that will seriously affect their quality of life for the rest of their days, causing even premature death later.  Ben Roethlisberger, for example, has had many injuries…….knee, ankle, foot, shoulder, multiple concussions, etc.  This season four injuries knocked him out of games.  These players are beat up for life.  Jerome Bettis, the Steelers Hall of Fame running back, could hardly make it up and down the steps of his home the day after a game.  This weekly battering over 5, 10, even 15 years takes a toll on the body.
 
       Too often fans look upon these football players as gladiators rather than skilled athletes.  They love to see a good hit even if it takes a player out of the game.  In the Steelers – Bengals Wild Card Playoff game of January 9 it was a war of attrition.  Entering the game, the Bengals played without their starting quarterback, Tight End, and Defensive Tackle.  During the game Cincinnati’s stellar safety Reggie Nelson was the first Bengal injured.  Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick followed him to the sideline; then defensive tackle Domata Peko; later running back Giovanni Bernard suffered a concussion on a very questionable high hit by Ohio State alum Ryan Shazier of the Steelers; and finally Jeremy Hill was injured, who had previously put Cincinnati on the scoreboard a minute into the fourth quarter.  

     The Steelers entered the game without their two top running backs, their All-Pro Center, and a starting offensive lineman among others.   During the game FB Will Johnson (hamstring), LB Vince Williams (hamstring) and S Robert Golden (shoulder) were injured.

Ben Roethlisberger being carted off the field. 
       Towards the end of the 3rd Quarter, the Steelers were ahead 15 – 0.  The Defensive Back, Vontaze Burfict sacked Roethlisberger, apparently driving his knee into his shoulder while already down to put Big Ben out of the game with a severe shoulder injury. Numerous bloodthirsty Bengal fans cheered and jeered at the Steeler quarterback being knocked out of the game and taken to the dressing room, even throwing debris……very reminiscent of the gladiators and their fans in the Colosseum of ancient Rome.  

      Previously, after a couple of good blocks by Steeler Offensive Guard David De Castro ended up in a wrestling match, Burfict threatened in gangster style: “Watch your knees” and spit in his face.  Then came the Steeler meltdown as Cincinnati rallied to go ahead 16–15.  With less than two minutes left in the game Burfict intercepted a pass from Landry Jones, the backup quarterback, that apparently put the game away.  All the Bengals had to do was hold onto the ball.



Bengal linebacker Voltaze Burfit (55) closing in on the head of Antonio Brown (84) after the play was over (an incomplete pass) to knock him out of the game and the next playoff game with Denver for a severe concussion (see http://sports.yahoo.com/news/steelers-bengals-clash-results-83-665-fines-221946169--nfl.html).

   Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier forced a fumble by Jeremy Hill and Pittsburgh had some life.  The injured Roethlisberger, only able to throw short passes with his injured and very painful shoulder, completed 5 of 7 short passes.  With 18 seconds left, he threw a longer pass that was incomplete.  With the play practically over and already defensed by a teammate, Burfict (55) made a gratuitous late hit with his helmet and shoulder for no logical reason to the head of Antonio Brown, the Steeler star receiver.  That left Brown on the ground with a concussion for a 15 yard penalty.  While the trainers were helping Brown off the field, there was some trash talk as Adam "Pacman" Jones slugged or pushed Steeler Coach Joey Porter and made contact with a referee for another 15 yard penalty, putting the Steelers within easy field goal range to win the game 18 – 16 with only seconds remaining.

Although the Steelers advanced to the next round on the road to the Super Bowl, no matter who had won the game, either team depleted by injuries, not to mention all of the bumps and bruises, would be at a big disadvantage against the next round opponent who has a bye, thus well rested with home field advantage.  With a forced fumble, a sack, and a key interception, Burfict quickly went from hero to goat, having initiated the Cincinnati meltdown that will be remembered by both Steeler and Bengal fans for as long as football is played.  Hopefully, some good will come out of this debacle.

 Discipline on the Field. Vontaze Burfict has a history of dirty play since he played for Arizona State (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vontaze_Burfict).......sad because he has the potential to be a future Hall of Famer.  Teams would not draft Burfict; only the Cincinnati Bengals took a chance on him as they have done with other problem players in the past.  In the November Steeler - Cincinnati game, Burfict knocked Steeler star running back, Lavon Bell out of the game and the season.  To add insult to injury he then celebrated.  Thus in the three encounters he took out of games the three best Steeler offensive players.  In the December games Burfict was called for three unnecessary roughness penalties and severely fined.


  In each on the three games there were numerous unnecessary roughness penalties on both sides and over $200,000 in fines (3 Bengal, one Steeler player and two Steeler assistant coaches) this year plus Burfict’s suspension for three games next season (value $503,000 in salary loss).  Coaches have the responsibility of controlling their players and maintaining discipline regarding on the field behavior.  The National Football League must clamp down on persistent flagrant violations that involve the safety of the players.  Fines for these millionaire players are mere slaps on the wrist.  Suspensions from one to 10 games must be more frequent and a player suspended for the third time should be banished from the game for at least a year.  The coaches and teams should also be disciplined with the loss of draft choices.

Clearly, the Bengals self-destructed by their lack of discipline and loss of control in violating the rules of fair play.  In the real game of life where eternity is at stake we so often self-destruct through what is called sin in religious circles, i.e., serious violations of the rules of life, the 10 Commandments..….addictions to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, porn, gambling, sex outside of marriage, not to mention out of control anger, selfishness, greed, abortion, etc.  All of this lead to worse problems as broken lives and families as well as failure in life.
 
 The game of football should not be a battle of attrition between the Cincinnati Convicts and the Pittsburgh Gladiators.  Football in some ways is reminiscent of a battle.  Thus the military service academies have football teams for the development of their cadets.  However, even in war there are rules (the Geneva Convention) although atrocities are sometimes committed.  The knights of old fought with rules of chivalry and decency.

  Fans, coaches, and players must realize that the objective is to win a game, not to harm the opponent physically with body counts of players knocked out of the game.  May coaches at all levels use this Steeler-Bengals playoff game as a teaching tool and as an example of how undisciplined stupid play against the rules and loss of control will hurt the team and cause it to lose.  According to Matt Bokovitz, former head coach of Gallia Academy and currently an assistant coach at Meigs High School, coaches must teach and train the players of a very rough and physical sport to tackle and block in the proper way without purposely hurting the opponent.  There should be a zero tolerance on illegal hits that can do bodily harm (eviction from the game as Joey Bosa of Ohio State in the Notre Dame game) by both coaches and referees on targeting or dirty play which destroys the basic justification for student athletics.  That is to play hard, but also to play fair.  If not, there will be more career ending injuries and kids brain damaged or confined to wheelchairs with spinal injuries.  

The objective of sports at the scholastic and collegiate level is to build character; teach values; life lessons, and virtue; develop leadership and team building skills; train the participants how to compete under the ideals of good sportsmanship; sacrifice self for the common good of the team; form the athletes with such virtues and traits necessary for success in life as self-discipline, perseverance, reliability, spirit of hard work, etc.  That is in other words the five pillars of the NAIA Champions of Character program: responsibility, respect, servant leadership, integrity, and sportsmanship.  It’s NOT to win no matter how, not to form hatchet men or hit men or gladiators for the arena.

        Let us remember the memorable quote of the great sportswriter, Grantland Rice:  “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes - not that you won or lost - But how you played the game.
 
After all, the Super Bowl trophy is fleeting and will give only a day or two of euphoria that in the years to come is remembered with fondness on occasion.  But the real Super Bowl trophy that really matters is the prize of Heaven and that's forever. See my blog #151: "You're in the Super Bowl". 

      As St. Paul said: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.  Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.  Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.  No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”  (1 Cor 9:24-27).

         After the game was over, the players came down to reality from their game as they gathered up their wounded.  A group of Bengal and Steeler players got together for a moment of prayer.  God bless them and the fans too.  What transpired was just a game, but at stake was a lot of money, fame, and glory with great satisfaction for the fans who identify with the team.  But I guess life too is a game in many ways, but deadly serious; the stakes are much, much higher……….eternal life and everlasting happiness and glory with God, His angels, and His saints.  Our game plan is the Bible and Church teaching handed down from the apostles. The trophy is: “WELL DONE GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT.…….enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew:25:21).