God and the World Cup
Today may see the end of the road for England's brave and overpaid footballers. I'll stay up for the 10pm (local time) kick off and risk oversleeping tomorrow and all because of this:
I wonder how many of those supporters seen onscreen know that they are draped in the emblem of England's patron saint, St. George
, who supposedly slayed a dragon. But he didn't and he never visited England either and his name may well have been Michael.But so what?
I hear you cry.
As the famed Liverpool manager Bill Shankly didn't exactly say
, "Football isn't a matter of life or death, it's much more important than that
Which, of course, is the fear of those who see their perceived and self-appointed duty as safeguarding our souls for the hereafter. Rather than lose their congregations ~ and note that churches and football terraces are among the few places where adults sing communally ~ they use football to extol Christian virtues and offer us their prayers.This one
is from the Church of England.God of work and play, Lord of all the nations, guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.
May all who watch or engage find in this competition a source of celebration and a recognition of what it means to be made in the image of the One who played the cosmos into being.
Then there's Father David
, in Nottingham, UK, who has set up a World Cup Chapel which coincides with a recent poster recruitment campaign for the priesthood by the Catholic Church which uses footballing imagery
.Father David joked, "I am not sure that there is an official patron saint of football, but perhaps Saint Mirren should be considered for the job."
(St. Mirren are a Scottish football club based in the town of Paisley, Renfrewshire. The team is named after the Irish monk Saint Mirin*
~ died c.620. St.Mirren's Day is September 15th)In Germany
, churches have seized on the world's biggest sporting event as a chance to reach those indifferent to religion.Thousands of congregations have received broadcast rights to games. Some are showing them on large screens in churches ~ others in impromptu places of worship. Preachers have worked soccer themes into their sermons.Church officials looking for a message that resonates point to similarities between soccer and religion: both have rituals, offer a sense of community, a chance to leave the ordinary behind. Vast stadiums, which hold tens of thousands of frenzied fans waving banners and singing in time, are modern-day temples.
The problem I see is that the Church dignitaries will have themselves been caught up in World Cup Fervour
. The Final, is on Sunday 9th July which coincides with the summer meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England and they actually think that England will be in that final. This is of course because of the biblical precedent of the symbolic value of 40 years, the period the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness and, incidentally, the length of time since England most recently won the cup
(in 1966).From Rome
, home of the Catholic pope, comes a perspective on the educational, social and religious factors of the soccer world.
In a short interview, Legionary Father Kevin Lixey, who oversees the "Church and Sports" section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity,
said that, "Indeed, soccer is one of the phenomena that awakens the most passions in the world, but at the same time it helps "to establish fraternal relations among men of all classes, nations and races," as Number 61 of 'Gaudium et Spes' states."
Quite, and the football authorities agree
.The Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) President, Sepp Blatter, acknowledges "the prominent role of sport, and especially football, as a vehicle for delivering clear and firm messages to eradicate the huge blights undermining society around the world."
So, isn't it a shame that massive commercial considerations, as well as the usual factors of plagues and pestilence
, have prevented so many of the 'blighted' from actually having the opportunity to watch the tournament, and not just here in Indonesia
or because they have poor eyesight
Anyway, do you think England will win today?
Have faith, brethren, have faith.(* More than you probably want to know about saints can be found here