Tag Archive: Football


AMDG

Richard III_4Last year there was the remarkable story, here in the UK,  of the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester.   Killed in 1485, he was the last Plantagenet King and it brought an end to the grim War of the Roses (which George R R Martin claims Game of Thrones is based on).  Richards reputation is as unpleasant as most of the characters in the imaginary Westeros and beyond (did he really kill his nephews in the tower?) His bloody death would probably fit right in to one of GOT’s episodes ‘My Kingdom for a Horse….’ and all that, and the refusal of the Tudors to give him a Christian Burial shows the ruthlessness of the time.

RIII-tomb-banner1-1024x524Despite his bad reputation, which many say is exaggerated by Shakespeare, it was decided to give him a Christian burial in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral.  With thousands lining the streets to honour his coffin (only in England!).  Then there was an interesting discussion whether or not as a Catholic King – The C of E (a Tudor development) hadn’t even been thought off – if he was to be laid to rest in a place of honour in Leicester Cathedral at least he should have a Catholic Funeral . Finally there was an ecumenically sensitive reburial presided over by Justin Welby with Cardinal Nichols in attendance which was broadcast live on Channel 4 (the Cardinal had said mass for his soul a few days before at All Souls Priory in Leicester).

_89550874_89550873So as 5000-1 Leicester City are crowned champions and make worldwide news, the same evening as another man from Leicester is crowned world Snooker Champion, is this a sign that the moral order of the universe has been restored? Is this the fruit of dignifying a King with the hallowed grounds of a Cathedral.  On the BBC this morning was a wonderful fairy tale ‘The Fox and the Ghost King’ written by the childrens author, Michael Morpurgo (War Horse).   Or could it be the Buddhist monk Phra Prommangkalachan who the Thai owners revere?  Leicester Fans are already flocking to his temple!

Although this is obviously tongue in cheek – One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is Burying the Dead.  In this year of Mercy we are asked to remember the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.  Usually burying the dead means helping those without the resources to have the dignity of a funeral – rather than just be tossed into a paupers grave. Following the example of some of the Jesuit High Schools in the US, I have asked our SVP group to negotiate with Manchester Council on offering a dignified funeral here at the Holy Name for those homeless who die on the streets of Manchester. We think of all those buried in unmarked graves in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.  We also pray for Burundi and the alarming noises being made by the president of the senate about ‘Spraying cockroaches with bullets ‘ and ‘Starting Work’ (echoes of Rwanda) . There are growing fears of a Tutsi genocide in Burundi, more unmarked graves, more mass burials.

images (4)Today’s Saint – Saint Lawrence – is famous as a deacon in Rome.  As a deacons in the early church, Lawrence had the responsibility for the material goods of the Church & distributing alms to the poor.  In the third century when the Roman emperor ordered the death of the Pope, the prefect then ordered for the churches goods to be handed over. When St. Lawrence was asked for the treasures of the Church he brought forward the poor, among whom he had divided the treasure as alms.”Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the church’s crown.”

images (1)When reading this I though of the commitment to the poor of Pope Francis – like Lawrence his faith was rooted in the daily struggle of the people he lived with.   It is a rooted faith – and then of course I thought of his football team San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence).   It is great to hear that he is keeping his membership up (reminding me to renew my Liverpool membership card!).   Like many football teams San Lorenzo’s roots are actually ecclesial.   San Lorenzo was formed by a group of kids that used to play football in the corner of two busy  streets of Buenos Aires.  Due to the increasing traffic in the city, playing football at the streets became a risky activity for the boys. Fr Lorenzo Massa, the priest of the neighbourhood’s church, saw how a tram almost knocked down one of the boys while they were playing in the streets. As a way to prevent more accidents, he offered the boys to play in the church’s backyard, under the condition they had to go to mass on Sundays.  Wanting to call the club after him the priest denied to be honoured that way. Nevertheless, the name was finally accepted by the priest, explaining that the name would not honour himself but , St Lawrence of Rome

images (3)Pope Francis still pays his annual membership fee – and so proud of their fan becoming the Pope – San Lorenzo recently took to the pitch with his face replacing the advertising on their shirts.  A faith that is rooted and close to the passions of the people – that reminds us that God is close to us in all things.   A faith that shares the passions of many. The 34rd General Congregation of the Jesuits published a decree on our mission and culture – at one point it says  “(as Jesuits) …. We have sometimes sided with the “high culture” of the elite in a particular setting: disregarding the cultures of the poor and sometimes, by our passivity, allowing indigenous cultures or communities to be destroyed”  ….. On a final note I recommend a great book called ‘Thank God for Football’ by Wirral author Peter Lupson – he traces the roots of  Aston Villa, Barnsley, Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers, Everton, Fulham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Southampton, Swindon Town and Tottenham Hotspur all back to churches and priests / ministers!

Faith in & of the Police

AMDG

Driving into Manchester 10 days ago to drop off my stuff turned out to be a very eventful journey.  My brother and I were riveted to the radio listening to the findings Independent Hillsborough report (click here).  Many friends were involved in the crush at that Liverpool match in 1989, but thankfully no close friends were among the 96 who died, although we knew some of the victims.  As has been known on Merseyside for a long while, but now thankfully by the rest of the world, the subsequent smearing of the fans could well be the biggest cover up in British history lead by South Yorkshire Police.  However as is often the case, out of tragedy and suffering some good has come, including a solidarity with other fans, the beautiful gestures by United at Anfield on Sunday and dignified leadership by Alex Ferguson. So with mixed and strong emotions, my twin brother (an Evertonian) and I arrived in Manchester.  The radio coverage was riveting but one thing that distracted our attention was driving past a huge video screen that was offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man called Dale Cregan.

Three days later this man, whose face seemed to be all over Manchester, shot dead two unarmed policewomen and then walked into a police station to give himself up.  Acts of wanton destruction and evil like this are always disorienting and confusing.  After a week of anger towards the police for the Hillsborough cover-up, these killings put policing back into perspective.  It is unprecedented for two police women to be killed, and the worst police deaths since the 60’s. But again amidst all the shock, healing started to happen from an unusual source. The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police in an interview talked about how his faith was helping him.  This is what Sir Peter Fahy, a Catholic, said

“I think a lot of us feel passionately that policing is a vocation. It is a calling. I feel that in terms of my own faith but I know a lot of officers that don’t have a faith, but feel exactly the same – that it is a vocation, that it’s not just a job and I think that’s almost what you go back to in difficult times and difficult circumstances that how unfair something may feel, how inadequate you may feel you do actually rely on that you’re doing your best, and that this is your vocation. The chance for me personally to be able to, every day, to have bit of quiet time, pray, think about your own values, your own sense of vocation, and to examine your own conscience I think is really, really important…… For me personally and a lot of people of faith, prayer is important… you do often feel so helpless, so praying for the dead officers, praying for their families, becomes your own reaction, your own expression of hope really for them, at a time of great need.”

Very powerful words – particularly at a time when there strong pressures to silence the religious voice in the public sphere, or to portray faith as being the realm of bigots and fundamentalists.   It also made me think – would the interview have been picked up elsewhere in the country or is this a fruit of the BBC relocation to Salford?   There is much to reflect on what he said about the healing power of prayer, but maybe more importantly what he also said about examining your conscience.  If only more of the South Yorkshire Police had engaged in that activity more regularly.

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