A new year, a new decade; this is a welcome thing for Notre Dame Football. Legends, a popular university owned and operated restaurant and ale house is an ND sports fans paradise. Along the perimeter of the pub is a time line that chronicles the success of Notre Dame athletic history with the inception of its football team in 1887. It’s a thrill to take that walk around the restaurant and note Notre Dame’s accomplishments, particularly in football: 11* National Championships, 7 Heisman trophy winners, some legendary coaches and a striking number of All-Americans over 100+ years. When you arrive at the decade we just left however—the ’00s, apart a victory in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl to end the NCAA's record nine-game bowl losing streak, Notre Dame Football is painfully M.I.A.rub some dirt on it.
Football has a lexicon of its own—the gridiron, first down, and in the words of every other NFL player “it is what it is.” Perhaps one of its lesser known but more colorful phrases is to "rub some dirt on it." A player would tell a teammate to do this after a failed attempt or a missed hit. It is synonymous with to “shake it off” or to “move on.” I also hope to take this expression and apply it to my own life.
Being a Christian means I am asked to respond to the challenge and call of the Gospel. Jesus’ teachings were counter cultural, even in His day. Living in an increasingly secular place, this is no easy task. I am amazed and how often I am criticized, even attacked for what the Catholic faith may ask of me. More often than not, people offer their charged personal views and ask questions of me about the church’s teachings that they do not want answered. What people may not realize however is that I take their criticisms to heart. If someone has been hurt by a negative experience in the church, I cannot help but take that personally. However, this year, I have decided that when someone launches an unsolicited criticism on what I hold as sacred, and they typically do so at an inappropriate time e.g. in a bar or during a nice dinner, I just need to “rub some dirt on it.”
I am not the sole defender of the faith, nor do I want to be. I try to keep my faith front and center of my life but this is exceedingly difficult. Fortunately, my family members, friends and mentors nurture my faith and are willing to partake in the effort required to build it. Attacks on Christianity or assaults on the Catholic Church aren’t going away (and I’ve had my own!) so this year when they do occur, I hope to remember the wisdom St. Francis who said "Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." In 2010 and beyond, I hope that the example of my life will serve as an answer to their questions, a counter to their criticism and if it don't, let's all just "rub some dirt on it."
*stands for the 1993 National Championship that was robbed from Notre Dame by Florida State. Despite the fact ND beat FSU during the regular season, the BCS gave Bobby Bowden his title and declared FSU #1.
**I cannot write this posting without recognizing two former students. Thanks to Alex for sharing with me, 4 years ago now, the goodness that is Peyton Manning. Alex, you know where it lives. And to Roy, what you declared about your beliefs (and your family's) during your Faith Stance your senior year took a tremendous amount of courage. I know you bring that same courage to the LAX field at Cornell.