In a scene from the movie Rudy, the title character takes his first tour of the locker room underneath Notre Dame’s football stadium. Everything about it feels sacred to him, from the dressing stalls bearing the names of team members, to the school colors. The walls, adorned with memorabilia, drip with history and heritage from Knute Rockne to present day stars. Rudy is wide-eyed throughout the scene, soaking up the setting and committing every minute detail to memory.
Consider that you and I occupy a similar shrine that doubles as a locker room when we celebrate the Liturgy of the Mass or sit quietly in God’s presence in the worship space of our own church.
In the world of athletics, the locker room represents the place where you can loosen up. Here you can take some time to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what you’re about to do. You can focus on what’s expected of you. You can envision using your strength, conditioning and skills to make play after play that helps your team. You can take a few quiet moments and breathe deeply in anticipation of some breathless activity on the field of play.
Here’s where you suit up and make sure you have all the proper equipment. This is where you listen to your coaches remind you of what’s ahead and where you should concentrate your efforts. This is a place to encourage your teammates to give their all. It’s the place for you to turn up your determination, fire up your courage and promise yourself that you’ll play hard through the whistle ending the game.
This is also where you come for a break and a breather at halftime of the game. Coaches have a chance to help you adjust your play to what the other team is doing. You change your space if only for 15 minutes or so before you head out to get loose for the final half of the game. You take one more moment to realign your commitment, your courage and your perseverance. In short, you get yourself ready to play all over again.
If you’re still wondering what any of this has to do with your time in church, consider these:
It’s about what you do during the week. Like it or not, worship time isn’t where we’re judged as to the faithfulness of our walk with God. The true measure is how we live out our faith in the remaining hours of our week.
You have a sacred safe haven. God himself provides the locker room, the place where you can come and be quiet, to strengthen your resolve and to remember your purpose for being on the planet.
You hear from the coach. In addition to your quiet time, the presiding celebrant and homilist can give you some practical tips on living out the two great commandments.
You encourage others. Sometimes your presence alone can be the source of encouragement to others at church. Don’t you find that to be true of someone whom you know has suffered a devastating loss and still participates every weekend? At other times, your words of strength or consolation may get another person through the coming week.
You get a breather before you get out there again. The practicing Christian, Catholic or otherwise, can hand it all over to God, rest calmly and peacefully in his presence, and know that because he is God almighty and in total charge, everything will turn out exactly according to his plan. You take a few deep breaths, clear your head and get back out there on the playing field of life.
Yes, it’s out there where we work and play, raise our families, care for the sick and dying, and console and encourage family, friends and co-workers — that’s where the true game of faith is played.
Carroll is an entrepreneur and author based in Mount Pleasant. E-mail him at email@example.com.