Just as ideas, faith, and music can connect people and bring them together in their own unique ways, so can playing sports. This past weekend, 19 seminarians from Mundelein traveled to Conception College Seminary in Missouri to compete with seven other seminaries in the 2019 Thunder Cup Soccer Tournament. I am not the sportiest guy and I don’t play, however I went to support my fellow brothers, to experience what they experience, and to share in whatever the outcome might be (SPOILER ALERT: We won!).
In that short weekend, I experienced so much: everyone’s excitement, one team evaluating another during social hour and developing strategies, a group of seminarians from different seminaries who laugh together, share experiences, and pray together. The beginning of each game, as well as the end, opened with a prayer. Each game was quite exciting because you see men playing with heart and giving the team the best they have. In tournaments where seminarians participate, it is not all about the “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” as the Olympic motto says. Yes, it is nice to go home with a trophy, but what is even better and far more important is the fraternity that builds during the tournament, whether it is with other teams or with brothers on your own team. Those are the moments worth remembering. Lived experience is what counts.
I enjoyed getting to know my brothers on the trip there and back. I enjoyed learning their stories. I enjoyed studying together in the car for an upcoming midterm. I enjoyed conversations about Cardinal Dulles’ “Five Models of Revelation,” and how to efficiently memorize a definition in Latin. I enjoyed praying together and not endangering the traffic while doing it. I enjoyed the laughter. I enjoyed standing on the sidelines of the soccer field and cheering in a loud voice. I enjoyed each goal we scored. I enjoyed high-fives as one brother would come out of the game and another one would go in. I enjoyed seeing a brother that got hurt go beyond his pain and run back in because the team needed him. I enjoyed victoriously rushing onto the field and lifting our teammate Dominic into the air as he held up our trophy. I enjoyed celebrating at Jethro’s BBQ in Des Moines on the way home.
Most of all, I rejoiced in being present. And isn’t that similar to what priesthood is about?