Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Patron Saint of Knute Rockne

There is no shortage of resources for prayer available to us on-line. Perhaps you have one that you follow or pray with daily. For many years, I used Online Ministries out of Creighton University. For those times I want to put down tech, "Living with Christ" or "This Day" have proven an excellent way to pray with the daily readings. Since Advent 2015, I have been praying with Faith ND. It includes today's Gospel reading, a reflection on the Word, a formal prayer and the Saint of the Day. 
I never tire of discovering whose Feast Day falls on what day. Today was no exception, and yet it was.... This saint was totally new to me. It said
St. Canute, patron saint of Denmark and Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, pray for us!
If I didn't revere a man who shares his name, I'm not sure I would have inquired further about his life. But in pursuit of information about why he I came to discover there is no shortage of resources on Catholic saints. I found this report from Holy Spirit Interactive to be the most interesting. 
St. Canute was a strong, wise king of Denmark and was called Knud IV. He was a great athlete, an expert horseman, and a marvelous general. He married Adela, sister of Count Roberts of Flanders. 
At the beginning of his reign, he led a war against the barbarians and his army defeated them. He loved the Christian faith so much that he introduced it to people who had never heard of Christianity. Through his kingdom, he spread the gospel, built churches and supported missionaries.  
St. Canute knelt in church at the foot of the altar and offered his crown to the King of kings, Jesus. King Canute was very charitable and gentle with his people. He tried to help them with their problems. Most of all, he wanted to help them be true followers of Jesus.
But trouble started in his kingdom because of the laws he had made about supporting the Church and he fled to the Island of F√ľnen. Then one day some angry people went to the church of Saint Alban where Canute and some of his followers were praying. He knew they had come to harm him. 
While his enemies were still outside, King Canute received the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion. He felt compassion for those who were upset enough to kill him. With all his heart he forgave his enemies. 
Then, as he prayed, a spear was thrown through a window and he was killed. It was July 10, 1086. 
St. Canute tried to be a good king so he could thank Jesus for all the blessings he had received. We, too, should thank God every day and offer him a crown made up of good deeds.
Unfortunately, I do not know enough about the personal life of Knute Rockne to know whether or not he shares any of the attributes of his patron saint. But thanks to the TRADITIONS tab on the University's Athletics webpage, I get a wonderful summary of his life. He is more than one of the greatest coaches of the game, he was a true pioneer—an original game changer.
Rockne was the first football coach to take his team all over the country and initiate intersectional rivalries. The Irish competed in a national arena. He challenged the best football teams in the land and almost always won.Using his medical and anatomical knowledge, Rockne designed his own equipment and uniforms. He reduced the amount of bulk and weight of the equipment, while increasing its protectiveness. He also introduced the gold satin and silk pants that cut down on wind resistance. 
Rockne foresaw the day of the two-platoon system and often used his "shock troops," a full team of second stringers, at the start of most games.Inspired by the precision and timing of a chorus line, Rockne added the Notre Dame shift to his playbook. In the shift, all four backs were still in motion at the snap. Opponents were so dumbfounded by the shift that they couldn't find a consistent way to handle it. The rules board finally enacted a law against the shift. 
Rockne also attempted to outsmart his coaching peers by downplaying his squads' talent. He never boasted about his team or its strengths; rather, he lamented his squad's lack of skill every chance he got. 
Rockne believed that half of football strategy was passing, while most of his counterparts kept the ball on the ground. 
But football was never enough for Rockne. He also served as Notre Dame's athletic director, business manager, ticket distributor, track coach and equipment manager; he wrote a newspaper column once a week; he authored three books, including a volume of juvenile fiction; Rockne was principal designer of Notre Dame Stadium; he opened a stock brokerage firm in South Bend during his last season; he was a dedicated family man to his wife Bonnie and their four children and for years raised much of the family's food in his garden. Rockne also made several public speeches a year and served as a public spokesman for Studebaker.
I have always thought that
  • Rockne was blessed with a great name and 
  • that every Notre Dame fan ought to know his impact on the game of football and in particular ND history.
Perhaps that's why during Freshmen orientation the alumni association makes a point of showing "Knute Rockne: All American" for students and parents. To realize he accomplished all that he did in just 43 years is remarkable. Tragically, he died in a plane crash on March 31, 1931. 

The impact of people like St. Canute or Knute Rockne ought to be recognized, remembered and celebrated. Two different men in different times and places but both left a legacy as strong as their name. And the strength of that name ought never be relegated to the history of Notre Dame football. It ought to be remembered and celebrated on this Feast Day or the day he died, March 31.

Thank you FaithND for teaching me about St. Canute and to a different type of FaithND for what I know about Knute.

Photo Credits
FaithND

1 comment:

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