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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Little Pre-Game Prayer

Hope you don't mind, but like all grandfathers, I'd like to do a little bragging about my grandson.

Very much unlike me, he's a sports nut who has been playing in one form of organized basketball or another since he's been five. It's the sport he loves above all others, and he plays year round, from hot summer days to icy weekends.

He juggles hoops with baseball and football. Thankfully for him, we're not biologically related. I'm still learning how to dribble.

At this time of the year, he plays on two or three different teams, so he gets around. And let me tell you, there are some very gifted young athletes in the Lehigh Valley. I've seen ten and eleven year-olds from Allentown who could probably hang with some high school teams.

This year, one of the teams Dat (that's my grandson's name) is playing for is the Notre Dame Hoops, where he goes to school. It's a CYO production, coached by Emil Giordano. (Giordano is also a Northampton County judge in his spare time). Dat loves it because he's finally playing with his own classmates. Kids like Grant Hershman, grandson of none other than the Allentown Watchdog, Lou.

Last Saturday, they faced a very good team from Saucon Valley. The game itself was exciting and fun to watch, but what stunned me was what happened before the game. In five years of watching Dat play three different sports, I had never seen it.

Coach Giordano matter-of-factly called the boys together, chewing gum like the jock he is, and suddenly suggested they recite a little prayer. They all dropped to their knees, crossed themselves, and recited the Hail Mary or something. While they did this, Dat looked into the crowd for his mom, and gave her a big smile.

That's an image I'll always remember.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all for separation of church and state, and understand the problems that arise when a public school forces kids to pray. The Supreme Court has spoken. On the other hand, I think these little things help ground the kids, and teach that some things are a little more important than a basketball game.


Anonymous said...

Emil is one of the best youth coaches i have ever had one of my sons coached by.

Anonymous said...

CYO kids always prayed when I was a kid. When in Rome ...

Nice story.

Anonymous said...

My kids have always played CYO and have always prayed before a game in basketball as well as football.
CYO basketball is a great program, there is a lot of talent.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean you can't dribble. You dribble so much, I'm thinking about sending you a bib. Your stained shirts are proof enough.

noel jones said...

Bernie, being a passionate agnostic and defender of the separation of Church and State--a concept under continuous attack by religious fundamentalists these days, I have to respectfully disagree. I find it alarming that a public school coach would ask his kids to pray.

While I totally get the appreciation for keeping kids focused on something larger than winning a game, I think there are other ways to do it than insisting that kids believe in a god, with no regard to what that child or his/her parents may believe.

I also don't believe that a god should be mentioned in a pledge of allegiance, or that it should appear on our money. These symbolic gestures that all Americans must partake in, exclude all those (and we are many) citizens who do not believe in a god.

A moment of silence to think about all other things in life more important than winning a game would do just fine. But any kind of guided prayer, I am against imposing on children or anyone.

Even the most open-minded religious people when leading a prayer, rarely leave it open enough for all religious and nonreligious people to feel included. Major religions such as Islam, Judaism and Christianity can generally agree to refer to "God," but that does not honor the beliefs of the Hindus, the Pagans, the Buddhists, etc., and it certainly doesn't include those who are not religious. No matter how you slice it, unless it is a simple moment of silence, it is a biased coercion.

The same kind of thing on a more extreme level is happening in our military right now. Christian evangelism is pervasive among our boot camps, and new troops are pressured to attend chapel or understand that they may not be looked at as favorably, or promoted as fast.

The tendency toward assimilation in general is alarming to me, as it is precisely what erodes independent thought, and independent thought is what we need most in our country right now.

So while I appreciate the sentiment, I just had to speak up. It's a great topic for debate, so thanks for bringing it up!

Bernie O'Hare said...


I am not referring to public school, where there is a separation and even pre-game prayers are verboten. I instead refer to a parochial school, where it is allowed.

In 5 years of watching my grandson play sports, I had never seen it until Saturday. I have to say I liked it and so did my grandson. It does ground the kids.

I agree with everything you say about the need for keeping religion out of schools, but it's kinda' sad. Most kids are not atheists or agnostics or even Buddhists. I think this seculariozation, this emphasis of logosover mythos, is actually anti-educational.

I sometimnes wonder if we were more adanced two thousand years ago, when we believed there were many ways of acquiring knwoledge.

Public schools have a real violence problem, something you just don't see in the parochial schools. All of them have their problems with drugs and booze, but I can't help feeling that an education without some kind of religious experience, is deficient. I disdain fundamentalism or shoving the church down someone's throats, but shouldn't an education include some exposure to religion?

As always, I appreciate your point of view and you are in the majority here.

Sanctifying Grace said...

Ms. Jones,

I value your opinions and welcome your thoughts. I believe that everyone has a right to their beliefs or lack there of.

But there was one thing that you said that kind of raised some red flags in my mind. If you allow me to expand upon it?

"The tendency toward assimilation in general is alarming to me, as it is precisely what erodes independent thought, and independent thought is what we need most in our country right now."

Part of what you have written may be true and may not be true. I am going to try not lace my opinion with catch phrases or idioms. But there is one that I have to use:

"Only the truth can set you free."

Now comes to the qualifing part of what is "The Truth."

Unlike any other setting I have ever been in, only with the Church (and particularly with the Catholic Church) have I been allowed to speak my mind, freely. No one puts words in my mouth. I don't have to be politically correct. More so, I don't have to be politically correct because I say or write my words with any malice. My words are very transparent. They mean no harm. They are merely vehicles of communication, seeking understanding.

No where else on the face of this Earth can I do that without someone twisting my words, to garner negative ramifications.

The Church has always gotten a bad reputation. But the Church, as many have not seen, never seeks to suppress "The Truth" or open and free thinking. The Church depends on science to promulgate and strengthen its teachings. The Church, within its natural boundaries, works quite well to encourage free thought. It helps the Faith grow.

When one borders on heresy, that is when the Church steps in. It corrects the wrong. Thus strengthen the faith further and nourishing the thinker.

Without free thought, individualism, and philosophy; the Church and religion would be a lot less in magnitude. I can't think of anyone else that didn't have the ability to think freely more than Saint Thomas Aquinas. And yeah, he got some things wrong. But don't we all.

I am not trying to actively convert you. But I am trying to see your point. And the point isn't fundamentally sound. We need free thought in this World right now. We need new ideas. But we need them grounded in a solid foundation. This is how you proceed orderly and properly. If not, we are bound to make the same mistakes over and over again.

I am not suggesting a Theocracy. Yet I am not suggesting a free-for-all either. I am just asking you to keep your mind open. Religion isn't a bad thing. But cramming religion or lack there of down someone's throat isn't allowing anyone to grow to a better understanding.

Good luck on your journey through life. You are in my prayers.

Peace be with you, ~~Alex

ironpigpen said...

Our coaches always asked us to bow our heads for a moment of silence before games.

Prayer was classified as optional but bowing the head and staying quiet for a minute was mandatory.

Sanctifying Grace said...

Here is one for you,

I have to give the opening prayer at my high school reunion. How do I say a prayer without insulting anyone? I am a Catholic. And I have been asked to give an opening prayer that is non-demonimational and non-controversial.

The lucky part of it, is that I am not a priest yet. Therefore, I cannot bless anything or anyone.

But do you see what I am trying to relay in my last writing? How do I remain politically correct and encompass everything generically? Can't be accomplished. I mean well, but my words, no matter what I say, are going to be used against me.

I think I am going to ask everyone to bow their heads in a moment of silence. And to "pray" in their own way or tongue. In my moment of silence, I will try my best to ask God to forgive me for not holding true to my convictions and beliefs.

Any suggestions?

Peace, ~~Alex

Sanctifying Grace said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. My high school reunion is due from graduating for a public high school.

Anonymous said...

"I think this seculariozation, this emphasis of logosover mythos, is actually anti-educational."

Very well said; request permission to use your line.

Aquinas challenged the faithful to question and investigate as a way to strengthen faith. Atheists and agnostics should have as much "faith."

CYO pregame payers are a reminder to the faithful that all endeavors in life should be undertaken to glorify God. Striving for personal excellence while being gracious is a balance that many of today's sports have lost. A little grounding would be a good thing.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Go Dat! Good job. Keep up the work and love for the game.

Anonymous said...

Who Dat?

Anonymous said...

Nice kid. Hopefully you have no influence on him.

Carol said...

Biology doesn't make a parent or grandparent thereof, loving, mentoring and nurturing does. I don't always agree with you Bernie, but I certainly admire your relationship with Dat. I find grandparenting to be a very special experience, I now worry about children ( albeit grown up) and grandchildren.

Carol said...

As an afterthought, I graduated from high school in 1953 (eons ago)however, we were a class of Catholics, protestants, Jehovah Witnesses and one Jewish young man, we all stood for opening exercises, those who didn't wish to participate stood silently. Unfortunately, political correctness has intimidated common sense and common decency.

Anonymous said...

A young woman teacher with obvious liberal tendencies explains to her class of small children that she is an atheist. She asks her class if they are atheists too. Not really knowing what atheism is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode into the air like fleshy fireworks.

There is, however, one exception. A beautiful girl named Lucy has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks her why she has decided to be different.

"Because I'm not an atheist."

Then, asks the teacher, "What are you?"

"I'm a Christian."

The teacher is a little perturbed now, her face slightly red. She asks Lucy why she is a Christian.

"Well, I was brought up knowing and loving Jesus. My mom is a Christian, and my dad is a Christian, so I am a Christian."

The teacher is now angry. "That's no reason," she says loudly.

"What if your mom was a moron, and your dad was a moron. What would you be then?"

She paused, and smiled. "Then," says Lucy, "I'd be an atheist."