December 10, 2015

Winter Prayers

Last year we started a new tradition of inaugurating each sports season with a Mass or prayer service.  Yesterday we kicked off the winter sports season with a prayer service after school in our gym.  The service was relatively simple, consisting of a Liturgy of the Word, a reflection by me, a prayer over our players and coaches by Mr. Mailloux '72, and a presentation of icons of St. John Baptist de la Salle to the six head coaches.  While short and sweet, these prayer services are important to remind us that our ultimate mission is not winning games or championships (although that is certainly a lot of fun!) but rather to give glory to God!

You can read my reflection below:

You may recall that last month we had an assembly to honor the alumni of St. Joseph’s High School for Boys who died serving our nation in World War II.  As we did the research for this assembly, we poured over tons and tons of old yearbooks from St. Joe’s.  The yearbooks were more like quarterly magazines and each one had news updates, student written poems and stories, and athletic results.  St. Joe’s was a small high school, having probably 100-150 students in the entire school each year.  However, despite being so small, their mascot was the Giant Killers.  They earned this name because the teams would routinely defeat much larger schools like Central and Nashua, namely in basketball and football.  When the school moved to this location and changed its name to Bishop Bradley High School in 1951, they changed their mascot to the Pioneer.  There were three reasons they chose the name  “Pioneers”:

  1. Bishop Bradley High School was the first diocesan Catholic high school in New Hampshire.
  2. Bishop Dennis Bradley, the school’s namesake, was the first bishop of Manchester
  3. The Christian Brothers, the order that founded St. Joe’s and Bishop Bradley were pioneers in the field of Catholic education, especially in service to the poor
The founder of the Christian Brothers, St. John Baptist de la Salle, literally invented Catholic education.  Fr. de la Salle was living a comfortable life in France in 1681 when he was asked to help train a group of men to be teachers.  De la Salle came up with the idea of classroom teaching and teaching the poor, not just those who could afford it.  He also believed in forming the whole person - academically, spiritually, and physically.  While he never addressed sports specifically in his writings, he wrote much about the vocation of teaching  and the role students play in our salvation.  I love the following quote from de la Salle but note that I have changed it slightly to apply to our coaches:

“Since you are ambassadors and ministers of Jesus Christ in the work that you do, you represent Jesus Christ himself.  He wants your players to see Him in you and receive your coaching as if he were coaching them...your players are a letter which Christ dictates to you, which you write each day in their hearts, not with ink, but by the Spirit of God.”

In just a moment, Mr. Mailloux will present each head coach with an icon of St. John Baptist de la Salle.  May they be permanent reminders to our coaches of the powerful vocation they have to form our athletes into young men and women of faith, scholarship, and character.  In return, may our athletes let their light shine on the court, the ice, and the track this winter and help bring glory to God...and the Pioneers! 

May God the Father bless our coaches and players this winter season, as they look to imitate God the Son, all with the help and guidance of God the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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