Sunday, March 8, 2015

Here Lies A..... Ballplayer...Priest

Why do we re-read books? Why do we watch certain movies over and over again? By way of contrast, I can easily tell you why I return to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band any and every time they come to town or other forms of "live" entertainment. With every Springsteen concert, I'm in for a new set list. His energy changes, so do the crowd's, the latest hits and more. Every Broadway show has a new cast. Not a single baseball game is the same. But, literature, a film or even a documentary program contains something that doesn't change. So why do we revisit them? Not because they change, but because we do.

This past week, my students watched "You Don't Know Bo," about the legend of Bo Jackson; it is my very favorite in ESPN's 30 for 30 series. You might be surprised to learn how it offers me life lessons and insights in a new way. I'm not. 
At the conclusion, Jackson says: 
People always ask: would I ever go back and change anything in my past and my answer is "no."
I enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed what I did.I dance to the beat of my drums, not nobody elses.
I love that Bo says exactly what he means and he means what he says. After a silence, a reporter or maybe the director responds by saying "You wrote in your book that you want it to say on your headstone: Here lies a ballplayer."

Jackson nods and repeats, 
Here lies a ball player. That's all.
Here lies a ballplayer that gave just as much as he received. Period.
That's all it should say.
That's all it should say.
His words hit me in a sentimental way as the University of Notre Dame has mourned the death and celebrated the life of its great leader, Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC. Should you go to Notre Dame's front page, you will encounter the magnitude that this man had on the university. His image is striking. His life was long. And the one quote on this page speaks to who he was until the day he died: a wonderful priest. He said,

I never wanted to be anything but a priest, which is in itself a great and unearned grace. I hope to live and die a priest, nothing more, but nothing less either.
As much as I love the stories he tells about his adventures—he met every sitting president, he is the only civilian to have flown in the SF-71, and he's been to all seven continents! what has impressed me the most is that he remained grounded in one thing: his love for the Mass and specifically the Eucharist. In the homily at Hesburgh's funeral, the current President, Rev. John Jenkins CSC said "he prayed that on the last day of his life he would be able to celebrate Mass. At 11:00 a.m. at Holy Cross House, Father Ted joined the community and concelebrated." He died later that night.

Thinking about Father Hesburgh's tombstone, I know that it will be indistinguishable from the others. He is laid to rest under a simple cross, one that is the same as his brothers in the Congregation of the Holy Cross. But if he were to write it, I have a feeling his wouldn't be much different than Bo Jackson's. Hesburgh's would say:
Here lies a priest. One who gave as much as he received....maybe more. 
Jackson's message hasn't changed. Events in my life however have. His words offered me the opportunity to think of Father Ted in a special way and this prayer 
  • Thank you, Lord for the grace that you extended to Father Hesburgh in the gift of the priesthood.
  • Thank you for the gifts you have extended to Bo Jackson as we witnessed for a short but glorious time.
  • And I cannot let this tribute go without adding why I show "You Don't Know Bo" in the first place. It was a shared joy between a former student of mine, Brendan Tiggs. He died too young. He too was a ballplayer. 
  • Thank you, Lord for the gift of my students. Amen
Photo Credits
Bo weighs in

Screenshot of Father Ted from

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