On the Feast of All Saints, Father Steve, a chaplain at St. Francis High School, asked students to raise their hands if they participate in a Fantasy Football league. After lamenting the fate of his top player Saquon Barkley, Father invited the student body to draft “Fantasy Saints” as a “top three” people to model our lives after. He said, "find someone you relate to, someone who is different than you and a living person who knows you and inspires you." When he asked "Who are your top three?" I went straight for the jugular. I named my number one; I'm not even sure I need two others. She is the greatest saint of all time: Our Lady, or as they say in French, Notre Dame.
Sports fans love to discuss who is the G.O.A.T. Nary a week goes by without a sports talk radio pundit dropping that acronym. Who is the greatest quarterback of all time? They opine, Serena Williams must win two more grand slams in order to be the greatest of all time. Others want to know, Does Tiger Woods need to surpass Jack Niklaus' total of 18 majors in order to be the G.O.A.T? Can't we just give him the honor right now?! Basketball fans struggle with this topic. Therefore, they frame their debate in the form of this question: Who is on your Mount Rushmore? Ask any hoopaholic! He or she will gladly discuss.
The enthusiasm that surrounds conversations about the G.O.A.T. and fantasy sports caused me to question: Why aren't Catholics talking about their own G.O.A.T. more often? Such a spirited conversation could motivate us to learn more about the lives of many saints. Like athletes, saints have fans and followers. They often have regional ties and strong traditions to honor and celebrate their lives, their contributions to the world and more. Indeed the saints are one of the greatest treasures in the spiritual life.
The past summer when I walked the Camino Ignacio, the leader of our pilgrimage made every attempt to convince my group that Ignatius of Loyola of the G.O.A.T. As a Jesuit priest and a Spaniard, I understand his proclivity toward St. Ignatius. However, time and again, I challenged his assertion.
I said to him, "Padre, Mary—the Mother of God, is the greatest of all saints. She is the first disciple and the original tabernacle. Her womb held Our Lord." He smiled. I added, "her fiat—let it be done unto me according to thy will— changed human history." I believe he has Saint Mary in his top three, but he remained unconvinced. I would like him to remind him that In her lowliness she is exalted; though she is the Immaculate Conception—conceived without sin, she was fully human. She must have been VERY upset with Jesus when he was lost in the Temple. The Blessed Virgin urged Christ to perform His first miracle. Did she enjoy the wine, too? I hope so. She raised Him to be a faithful Jew and stood at the foot of the Cross, knowing the power of His sacrifice. It says something to me that my Lord had a mom. Perhaps that realization alone is all the evidence we need.
Are you convinced? Is Our Lady the G.O.A.T. Who are your three Fantasy Saints that you can "draft" this season? Would love to hear more. And don't forget, ask these holy men and women to...pray for us.