Conversion can happen at any place, at any time, and generally happens when we reach an intersection in our lives. For me, it happened at the corner of Faith and Football.
Growing up, watching football was a large part of male bonding in my family. It still is.
At family get-togethers, the men sit around talking about the big wins, disappointing losses, and hopes for the future of our beloved team. We’ve even taught the women in our family more about it, and now they join in too. Football, in my family, is more than just something to watch; it has become an important part of our family dynamic.
As an avid football fan, I would rarely turn down the chance to see a game live. Whether it is college or pro, if you’ve got tickets, count me in! My brother-in-law once came to me with an extra ticket for a Notre Dame game, and I gladly accepted.
Little did I know that game was about to change my life.
For years, I had heard my brother-in-law go on and on about Notre Dame. Born Catholic, he told me that it was the Catholic football team to watch (his opinion, of course). His love of Notre Dame, in his eyes, was an extension of his Catholic faith. As a non-denominational Christian, I respected that – even if I didn’t share the same views.
When I was asked to go to the game in South Bend, Indiana, I cared less about Notre Dame being a Catholic institution and more about seeing a team with a long history of football greatness. I was excited. There was a rich tradition in that little town, and I couldn’t wait to experience it.
Going to the game couldn’t have happened at a better time. I had gone through a few difficult years, but my life was beginning to look brighter. Slowly, I had pieced my life back together. I was settled in at home. My career was moving forward. I had met a girl. Things were looking better.
The one thing missing in my life at that point was community. I had been searching for a new church to call home. My search took me from the smallest churches to one of the largest mega-churches in the country. Nothing seemed to fit. Faith was an important part of my life, and finding a new church was the final piece I needed to get my life back on track again. That’s when something unexpected happened.
On October 3, 2009, I traveled to South Bend, Indiana with my brother-in-law to watch Notre Dame play Washington. We left early to tour campus a bit before the game, but honestly, I was just ready for some football.
Arriving a couple of hours early, we started touring campus. We stopped by the Grotto to light a candle, watched the team as they went to Mass, and looked at the beautiful artwork around campus. I was amazed at how integrated their Catholic faith was with a football game.
When the game finally began, the crowd started chanting, “Notre Dame, Our Mother!” Then they would respond with, “Pray for us!”
Their battle cry was a prayer? I was amazed.
Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by people whose faith was integrated into every part of their lives – even football. It was at that moment that something sparked inside of me. Was this the community I was looking for?
Obviously, since you’re reading this blog post, you can figure out how the rest of the story.
I left that morning excited to see a football game, but I experienced so much more. That day changed my life, and my brother-in-law still likes to gloat how Notre Dame made the difference.
God works in mysterious ways; He knows how to meet you exactly where you are. The Holy Spirit knew that football held a special place in my heart, and He used it to bring faith and football together.
My conversion to Catholicism did not happen all in one day – it was a gradual process over the next year – but it definitely began at that stadium in South Bend. God knew where to find me: at the intersection of Faith and Football.
Copyright © 2012, Chad R. Torgerson