Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lou Holtz's "Pep Talk" to Catholics

Did you see this advertisement during the Notre Dame-Alabama national championship game on Monday night?

Mathew Schmalz has some thoughts on the ad at the Washington Post "On Faith" blog.  Here is a taste:

Academics like me make our livings picking stuff like this apart: It’s an infomercial! It dumbs down Catholicism!

But if academics are dismissive of the approach of Catholics Come Home, then we really could use a helmeted-head-butt to clear the cobwebs.

The approach in the Lou Holtz spot is quite sophisticated indeed. Having a Catholic coach from Notre Dame talking about Catholicism when Notre Dame is playing for the National Championship-it’s genius placement and messaging. But it also opens up a host of deeply felt Catholic themes that persist in American culture. Notre Dame has always been the most visible Catholic institution in America. Notre Dame’s success on the football field was emblematic of the progressive integration of Catholics into American life. Success on the football field also showed a powerful application of Catholic values to a quintessentially American past-time. Football is a team game, of course, but it’s also quite hierarchical. To this extent, it can be a symbolically quite potent representation of Catholicism’s sense of itself. If you add to that the athleticism and self-discipline necessary to triumph on the field, you can see quite striking parallels to aspects of Catholic spirituality as it often has been taught.

But football is also about enduring and inflicting pain to win. I would imagine that many people who have left the Catholic church felt as though they had been taken down by a blind side tackle, or by a late hit out of bounds. The coach says, “Get back in the game!” They play through the pain. But they finally reach the point that the pain becomes too intense to endure
Of course, athletic metaphors can’t really express what it feels like to lose your faith, what it’s like to leave home.