It was a mad scramble in the Sr. High boys locker room getting dressed for game time. Our uniforms were clean and neatly tucked in, the knee socks in perfect position. Coach made us polish our high-top black football shoes and re-tighten any loose cleats before every game. He advised us to use that specific chore as a time to meditate on the upcoming game and get our “heads right” as we visualized our play execution and techniques against our well scouted opponents.
After a pre-game team prayer and a lot of rah-rah from the coaches and captains, we’d work ourselves into a frenzy pounding on the lockers, walls and each others shoulder pads. The exterior door was opened like the gate at the rodeo and we would charge out of the building, down the hill, across the maintenance field and stop in front of the entrance gate to the football stadium. The captains would yell out questions about what we were going to do like, “WHO’S GONNA WIN TONIGHT?”… “WHO’S READY TO PLAY?” The entire team would shout back short, loud answers like, “WE WILL”… “WE ARE”… as the home crowd now sensed our presence outside of the stadium. The double cyclone gates creaked as they slowly pulled open towards us and our animal-like growls slowly turned to loud roars as the goose bumps were on top of goose bumps under our fancy game uniforms.
The shape of our tight mass of team-mates bulged towards the open gate as we gained momentum across the cinder track and high jump pit behind the goal posts and formed a train like shape of players. The captains, with team in tow, were at full throttle as they blasted through the giant paper barrier between the cheerleaders under the cross-bar of the goal. A sea of people in the stands, surrounded with light towers, erupted with an overwhelming roar and standing ovation as we spilled out on to the brightly lit playing field and spread ourselves evenly over half of the play field. Calisthenics in sets of twenty would begin with jumping jacks. Vapor clouds puffed out of our helmets as each team member would shout each repetition as loud and as baritone as possible. Our voices became one giant sub-woofer echoing sound off the area buildings, stands and landscape of nearby houses. The goose pimples were now three deep on every square inch of flesh as we fought to hold down our own supper from the thrill of celebrity.
For many, that’s as close as we come to feeling “EXULTED” or unified in a cause. Maybe your version of exultation varied by a degree or two and came from similar events associated with other team sports or large group performances in music, theater or scholastics resulting in standing ovations. Possibly later in life resulting from a job related performance and reward, recognition or promotion. Some never get the opportunity to participate in a competitive team or group situation and can only guess at what it’s like to feel exulted. I’ve been fortunate enough to be present at all the home games of both runs at the American League Championships and Word Series the Minnesota Twins made in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. The real miracle there is, I still have working ear drums. As exciting as that was to witness, it still fell short of feeling exulted.
Life goes on. I have a wonderful life, a wonderful marriage, wonderful kids. I belong to a wonderful church community at HNOJ, a wonderful organization like the KC’s. I have a wonderful job and house in Plymouth. All things way more important than a stupid high school football game. Maybe this is a lesson as to how “impressionable” we were as youth or how age makes us “conservative” as our kids accuse us of being. One way or another, experience and common sense pare down our youthful willingness to become exulted. Emotions are tempered to maintain control. Religion is supposed to make us feel exulted, but usually not to the degree spoken earlier. Consider the Faith, Hope and Charity our catechisms taught us about. We all believe we will be “exulted in the Lord”, in the end, as we complete the “HOPE” portion of our beliefs. Possessing a strong Faith in Christ is something we all profess. Charitable works we support through deeds and donations provide many warm feelings, but none that make us froth at the mouth, growling like animals and count to twenty as loud as we can in a football stadium, while doing pre-game calisthenics.
Catholicism and receiving the KC “Degrees” of Knighthood is a shared common ground with Catholic men from more than a hundred years ago and for as far forward as we are capable of seeing. We are united in all that is Catholic. Working together as a team to protect and defend our Church from media “blitzkriegs” against our doctrine, our religious clergy, our Pope, the un-born. Working together for hundreds of worthy causes, Pro-Life, Special Olympics, Seminarians, keeping Christ in Christmas and “…under God…” in the Pledge of Allegiance, Catholic education for the under privileged, restoring important historic Catholic buildings and artifacts, for more worthy causes than I have room to write about, the least of which are the millions of members who have benefited from our KC insurance coverage. Our collective voices now combine and echo off of voting poles rather than end zones, in cities, neighborhoods and schools, in letters to congressmen and newspapers – when appropriate, in church committees and community activities, in special prayer services, in our homes when we pray with our own families.
I realize it’s a big stretch to draw parallels between High school glory days and Catholicism, but it’s up to each of us on our own Faith journey, to provide our own pre-game or half-time pep talk and subsequent goose pimples. It’s up to each of us to choose how we want to be counted. How “exulted are we willing to let ourselves be? How motivated? How Spirit-filled? How open are we to “being called” to do things in our short time on earth? Joining the KC’s might only be a starting point or stepping stone to future events in your life. For some, the only calling they get is to be a good Christian, father and husband. Not everyone has to move to Calcutta India or El Salvador. I’m going to end with a quote from famous “contemplative” Monk, Thomas Merton:
“…The whole thing boils down to giving ourselves in prayer a chance to realize that we have what we seek. We don’t have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”