Today is Coach Lombardi’s Birthday – Chase Perfection!
I’ve come to believe that the desire to enter the fight – against those forces both internal and external – is a desire to enter into a genuine training in holiness, pursuing the goal of becoming one of God’s champions.
St. Paul put it this way:
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Yes, in this namby-pamby, “everyone-gets-a-trophy” world in which we now live, we’ve lost the “drive to strive.” And yet, this striving cuts to the very core of who we are. The Church Fathers of Vatican II stated, significantly, “All the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive.”
Today would have been Coach Vince Lombardi’s 103rd Birthday. Somebody once said, Lombardi wasn’t the best play caller during a game, but no coach before or after him was better at getting his players ready to play at the very best of their ability.
He’s one of my heroes. I was in grade school when he led the Green Bay Packers to three titles, immortalizing Green Bay as “Title Town.” In my Field Manual, I pointed to Coach Lombardi’s “drive to strive” that was rooted in his Catholic faith. For example, he went to Mass 365 days a year, and would often serve at Mass, while leading the Packers to their championships.
This is one of my favorite quotes from Coach Lombardi:
“And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”
There’s a fancy Latin word that speaks to what Coach Lombardi said, or what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Supererogation (pronounced, super-rare-ogation). It means, “payment beyond what is due or asked”, from super “beyond” and erogare “to pay out, expend” … it is the performance of more than is asked for; the action of doing more than duty requires.
Notice that, in my pronunciation key, there are the words, “Super Rare.” Unfortunately, that’s true. Jesus would talk about a “narrow path” or a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle to speak to how rare is this Supererogation … this “going beyond the minimum.”
Coach Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”
It’s not perfection, but “striving” that gains access to heaven. But, whether it is St. Paul or Coach Lombardi, they all knew that our finest hour — the greatest fulfillment to all we hold dear — is that moment when we have worked our hearts out in a good cause and we lie exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.
This is the way to real meaning and purpose in our lives; the way to “real joy!” This is the way to heaven!
Here’s a concrete way for us to go beyond the minimum and strive to chase perfection …
PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH – GO BEYOND THE MINIMUM
The Precepts of the Catholic Church are a description of the absolute minimum actions required of Catholics regarding the Church.
In his classic spiritual work, The Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales wrote:
In so far as divine love beautifies our souls, and makes us pleasing to His divine Majesty, it is called grace; in so far as it gives us strength to do good, it is called charity; but when it reaches such a degree of perfection, that it makes us not only do the good, but do so carefully, frequently and readily, then it is called devotion.
Always remember: the precepts of the Catholic Church are minimum levels of participation in the life of the Church. Out of love for Christ and a desire to advance in the spiritual life, you will normally try to do far more than they require.
First Precept: “You shall Attend Mass on Sunday and holy days of Obligation and rest from servile labor.”
Strive: Attend Mass at least one more time a week. (Most Church parishes celebrate Mass every day of the year!)
Second Precept: “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”
Strive: Go to confession at least once a month, and immediately after falling to mortal sin. Also, find a regular confessor so he can give you better guidance.
Third Precept: “You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”
Strive: Receive the Sacrament of the Eucharist at every Mass, if you meet the guidelines for reception (are free from mortal sin, etc.).
Fourth Precept: “You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.”
Strive: Make a habit of practicing penitential and charitable acts beyond those required by the precepts of the Catholic Church. Abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year, for example.
Fifth Precept: “You shall provide for the material needs of the Church.”
Strive: Contribute as much as possible to the material needs of the Church. Consider working toward biblical tithing: 10% of your gross income.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, COACH! WE’LL GIVE IT OUR VERY BEST!!
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