Friday, October 20, 2006

Catherine Zeppa Di Matteo: A Convert to Notre Dame Football

When Catherine Zeppa Di Matteo first e-mailed me from Italy after reading "Sports and the Catholic Fan," she seemed as far away from being a "Fighting Irish" fan as a Southern Cal Trojan. But Our Lady was to change that, as this series of e-mails indicates.

9-4-06
Hi, I'm writing from Italy. Just a few weeks ago on the popular Catholic radio station here, Radio Maria, Padre Livio, the founder of the radio and a big sports fan too, shared with us listeners this anecdote about one of the seers of Medjugorje: one afternoon there happened to be an important match between the Belgrade and the Zagreb teams and Jakob, the youngest of the six seers of Medjugorje, really had had his heart set on seeing the game, but as luck would have it ...the match coincided with his having to be present in the church with the other five seers for the apparition of the Blessed Virgin. He was about seven or eight years old at the time. During the apparition, Jakob asked the Blessed Virgin if she already knew who would win the game. She smiled and then said that heaven is not occupied with such things. Funny as this is, it seems to say all that needs to be said about sports and our spiritual lives.
best wishes,
Catherine Zeppa Di Matteo

9-5-06
Martedì, 5 set 2006, alle 03:13 Europe/Rome,TACOToole@aol.com ha scritto:

Catherine,
> Perhaps not all. While I'm not doubting Mary wanted Jakob to skip the
> match that day, John Paul wouldn't have written countless sermons
> about the positive aspects of sports, let alone start a sports office
> at the Vatican if he didn't think sports can lead people to Christ.
> You are totally missing the point of sports, which, like the arts,
> can inspire men to consider the eternal (Phil 4:8). And, if someone
> prays to Mary that they, or someone else, use their gift (which
> happens to be the ability to play a sport) for the glory of God, do
> you not think Our Lady will listen?

>
> God's grace and Mary's prayers,
> Tom O'Toole
>
> PS If you still think it silly to pray for Notre Dame, I still ask you
> to pray that my writing may lead souls to Christ.


9-5-06
Dear Mr. O'Toole, It was very kind of you to take the time to write back. Sorry if my parting words were a bit terse. I didn't mean for them to be. I think Our Lady, like any mother, uses whatever are her children's consuming interests in order to get through to them. And we know how God can transform anything into an instrument for our redemption.

Notre Dame football is certainly an exciting example of what sports and faith can do together. And your article really illustrated this so well. There in America where we Catholics share a living space with a majority which is not Catholic, Notre Dame football is certainly an appealing, visible example of Catholic faith and tradition. It's got to be one of the most effective evangelizing tools Catholics ever had in America--and there is no Protestant tele-evangelizing that can hold a candle to it. Cardinal Bertone, who is soon to be invested as the Vatican's secretary of state, is a big football (soccer) fan and even appeared at the stadium in Genoa as one of the commentators. I did not see this on TV but it was certainly much talked about at the time, and he remarked on it the other day in a newspaper interview. Here it is in a rough translation. I think you will be gratified!
--------------------
Journalist's question to Cardinal Bertone: "Some criticized you for having played the part of a sports commentator at the stadium--would you do it again?"

Bertone: "Obviously, at the present moment, I would not do it again, even though the desire to see a live football match every now and again will remain with me. The stadiums are modern areopaghi [off hand I don't remember the English for this--I think it is the name of the public place where St. Paul spoke to the Greeks about the faith] frequented by thousands of young people and the not-so-young who need to be educated about the value of sport, who instead in some cases learn only how to be part of a herd-gang and commit acts of vandalism if not out-right violence. I would like to point out that the stadiums are also places of huge youth assemblies; at the Ferraris stadium I conducted a Via Crucis. In any case, the first time I went to the Genoa stadium, I didn't go as a sports commentator, but in order to speak to the spectators of a match which unfortunately was being played on the evening of the Easter vigil, thus coinciding with the vigil of the most important feast day for us Christians. I spoke for five minutes in front of forty thousand people who listened to me in silence. Therefore, my first time at the stadium was in order to announce the paschal faith. Then I wished a good game to everyone."
-----------------------
What I meant in my parting statement was just that. Sports, like many another things, can be for us a step up towards God. There comes a moment though in this going towards God where one finds so much in God alone, that one abandons the terrestial passions of sport, or music, or fashion, or whatever. I believe this is what Our Lady, in all her apparitions, comes to help us achieve--to make our passions holy ones and invested directly in God! But this certainly doesn't exclude football, or great Italian cooking or anything else that gives joy to us while in this earthly exile.

To respond to your question, I cannot doubt that Our Lady listens when someone prays asking that their gift of running or tackling or kicking a ball be used for the glory of God. I think she surely takes them up on it, but sometimes for the greater glory of God we are called to renounce these gifts--such as an injury prevents us from ever kicking a ball again--but instead of thinking we no longer have that gift to use for God's glory, that same gift gains immeasurable value when we accept the loss of it and offer the sacrifice of it as a sign of our love for God. This gives maximum glory to God...like Abraham's sacrifice or Mary's own sacrifice of a beloved Son...or Jesus' sacrifice of his life and all that was dear to Him.

Now, forgive me for taking so much of your time here. And I'm so sorry if I sounded preachy. Best wishes to you, and you know, if perchance I did think it "silly" about praying for Notre Dame, well, now I promise to remember Notre Dame football in my prayers--together with your writing, that both may always lead souls to Christ!
Catherine Zeppa Di Matteo

9-6-06
Mercoledì, 6 set 2006, alle 07:11 Europe/Rome, TACOToole@aol.com ha scritto:

Dear Catherine,
>
> Well said.
>
> God's grace and Mary's prayers,
> Tom

Coming Saturday: Catherine's final e-mail and a splendid suggestion for the Irish fans and the guys with the Golden Helmets.

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