Friday, 13 January 2012

Next Tuesday is pub quiz night - may I pray for my team to win?

I mean, we always seem to come second third (and there aren't that many teams anyway).

Would it be wrong to pray for a victory? Would it be trivialising the word of the Lord when he states: "Ask and you shall receive?" And I ask for a paltry win?

Isn't that meant for important things like passing an exam, hoping that your Grandpapa gets through the operation or that your child will return to the faith?

Of course, it is but Our Lord placed no qualifications when He told us to ask of the Father what we will.

Now please do not rush off and throw yourself on your knees babbling prayers about lottery wins or football coupons. God only gives us what we need for our welfare and for our good.

I often thank God that he has ensured that my lottery ticket is yet another dud; how would I cope with all that dosh? I am happy now, I do not think that £1 million would make me any happier, quite the reverse (but I still buy a ticket - one can do a lotta good with £1 million! and, anyway,  my ambition is to build my own seminary somewhere in the Thames Valley area and I need several million for that!)

But, just once I would like to win the pub quiz and wrest the weekly award of a bottle of plonk away from those clever clogs at the far end of the bar.

Praying to win, to stay safe or in thanks?

My attention has been drawn to this issue by American Footballer, Tim Tebow. Tebow is not a Catholic (just for the record) and, prior and, sometimes  during each game he goes down on one knee and prays.

Good man!

Apparently, it upsets a lot of people quite badly. Excellent! We need to do a little more upsetting these days.

Just a point here; we do not actually know that he is praying for victory, he may be praying that he avoids a nasty kick in the shins or a thumb in the eye.

But I am pretty sure that the word "win" crops up in his conversation with the Almighty. And why not?

But what about the opposing team? What happens if they win?

Well, I do not think that God is overly concerned about the results of a football match.
But, I am sure He listens to the prayers  of both teams and makes His decision accordingly - or not, as the case may be.

Take the case of my favourite Italian priest, Don Camillo.

In "The Little World of Don Camillo" he pits the church football team (the Galliards) against the Communist Mayor's team (the Dynamos).

Tragically, for our priest, at the last minute, the Communist team scores a goal as a result of the referee calling a foul. Shock and horror.

Read on.....

"Don Camillo was bewildered. He ran off to the church and knelt in front of the altar.
'Lord', he said, 'why did you fail to help me? I have lost the match'

'And why should I have helped you rather than the others? Your men had twenty two legs and so had they, Don Camillo, and all legs are equal.
Moreover, they are not My business.
I am interested in souls. Da mihi animam caetera tolle. I leave the bodies on earth.
Don Camillo, where are your brains?

'I can find them with an effort,' said Don Camillo.  'I was not suggesting You should have taken charge of my men's legs, which in any case were the best of the lot. But I do say that You did not prevent the dishonesty of one man from giving a foul unjustly against my team'.

'The priest can make a mistake in saying Mass, Don Camillo. Why must you deny that others may be mistaken while being in good faith?'

'One can admit of errors in most circumstance, but not when it is a matter of arbitration in sport!
When the ball is actually there..........Binella (the referee) is a scoundrel.....'

He was unable to continue because at that moment the sound of an imploring voice became progressively audible and a man came running into church, exhausted and gasping, his face convulsed with terror.

'They want to kill me,' he sobbed. 'Save me!'

The crowd had reached the church door and was about to irrupt into the church  itself.
Don Camillo seized a candlestick weighing half a quintal and brandished it menacingly.

'Back, in God's name or I strike!' he shouted.
'Remember that anyone who enters here is sacred and immune!'

The crowd hesitated.

'Shame on you, you pack of wolves! Get back to your lairs and pray God to forgive you your savagery'.

'Make the sign of the Cross,' Don Camillo ordered them severely, and as he stood there brandishing the candlestick in his huge hand he seemed a very Samson.

Everyone made the sign of the Cross.

'Between you and the object of your brutality is now that sign of the Cross that each one of you has traced with his own hand. Anybody who dares to violate that sacred barrier is a blasphemer. Vade  retro!
He himself stood back and closed the church door, drawing the bolt, but there was no need.

The fugitive had sunk onto a bench and was still panting. 'Thank you Don Camillo,' he murmured.

Don Camillo made no immediate reply. He paced to and fro for a few moments and then pulled up opposite the man.

'Binella!' said Don Camillo in accents of fury. 'Binella! here in my presence and that of God you dare not lie! There was no foul! How much did that reprobate Peppone  give you to make you call a foul in a drawn game?'

'Two thousand five hundred lire'.

'M-m-m-m!' roared Don Camillo, thrusting his fist under his victim's nose.

'But then.......' moaned Binella.

'Get out,' bawled Don Camillo, pointing to the door.

Once more alone,  Don Camillo turned towards the Lord.

'Didn't I tell You that the swine had sold himself? Haven't I a right to be enraged?'

None at all, Don Camillo,' replied the Lord.
'You started it when you offered Binella two thousand lire to do the same thing. When Peppone bid five hundred more, Binella accepted the higher bribe.'

Don Camillo spread out his arms. 'Lord,' he said, 'but if we are to look at it that way, then I emerge as the guilty man!'

'Exactly, Don Camillo. When you, a priest, were the first to make the suggestion, he assumed that there was no harm in the matter, and then, quite naturally, he took the more profitable bid'.

Don Camillo bowed his head. 'And do You mean to tell me that if that unhappy wretch should get beaten up by my men it would be my doing?'

'In a certain sense, yes, because you were the first to lead him into temptation. Nevertheless, your sin would have been greater if Binella, accepting your offer, had agreed to cheat on behalf of the your team. Because then the Dynamos would have done the beating up and you would have been powerless to stop them.'

Don Camillo reflected awhile. 'In fact,' he said, 'it was better that the others should win.'

'Exactly, Don Camillo.'

''Then, Lord,' said Don Camillo, 'I thank you for allowing me to lose. And if I tell You that I accept the defeat as a punishment for my dishonesty You must believe that I am really penitent. Because, to see a team such as mine who might very well - and I am not bragging - play in Division B, a team that, believe me or not, could swallow up and digest a couple of thousand Dynamos in their stride, to see them enough to break one's heart and cries for vengeance to God!'

'Don Camillo!' the Lord admonished him, smiling.

'You couldn't possibly understand me,' sighed Don Camillo. 'Sport is a thing apart. Either one cares or one doesn't. Do I make myself clear?'

'Only too clear my poor Don Camillo. I understand you so well that........Come now, when are you going to have your revenge?'

Don Camillo leaped to his feet, his heart swelling with delight. 'Six to nothing!' he shouted.
'Six to nought that they never even see the ball! Do You see that confessional?'

He flung his hat into the air, caught it with a neat kick as it came down and drove it like a thunderbolt into the little window of the confessional.

'Goal!' said the Lord, smiling."

There is a wealth of moral elements within this short story and I have a sneaking feeling that, despite my prayers, or, maybe because of them, next Tuesday,  the good Lord might just give victory to the clever clogs! Again!


  1. Tebow is the same, whether his team wins or loses. He gives all the credit for any success he has to God, which is refreshing. He drives the atheists and haters nuts but he has many more fans than detractors. I'm a little suspect of people "Tebowing". No harm in striking the pose so long as they're offering a prayer while they're down there.

    Another thing I learned about him is that before every game, he spends time with a child with special needs, paying to have the family flown to the game and put up in a hotel. All of this is done away from the cameras.

    I sincerely doubt Tim is praying that God help him throw a touchdown pass. He is simply giving thanks for the success he has and for the blessing of having the NFL as a platform to glory to God.

    Go Broncos!

  2. What tends to put me off praying for such things these days is the realisation that not only have I been privileged with gifts well beyond my deserving (including once winning £30 in a pub quiz!) but that there are a lot of rather more serious things I need to ask on behalf of those for whom I am responsible. That said I spent much of my youth praying for buses to turn up... and... guess what?

  3. In regards to the dislike for Tim Tebow... the praying thing is a pretense. Plenty of NFL football players (we don't call them "footballers" on this side of the pond) pray before, during and after the game. Many players go down on a knee after scoring or point upwards toward God, etc. Troy Polamalu can be seen making the Sign of the Cross before and after just about every play. So prayer along isn't the issue with Tebow.

    The real issue is that Tebow's mother seriously considered aborting him. It is a fact that both he and his mother are open about, and a fact that drives Tim's commitment to the Pro-Life cause. The fact that he prays only reminds the rabble how he is a walking, talking, and winning example of everything that is good about being Pro-Life.

    That's what really drives them crazy.

  4. Thank you for the bit from a Don Camillo story. Guareschi's stories are terrific, and the world is long overdue for new printings; they are out of print and difficult to find.

    -- Mack in Texas

  5. Thanks Mack, try Amazon, they have them.