A friend of mine went to a small Catholic college in New England on a baseball scholarship. His coach was the kind of friendly, no-nonsense journeyman they don’t seem to make anymore. At the first practice of the year, he told all the players to take a knee. Then in a thick Massachusetts accent, he said to them, “Now fellas, this is important, so listen up. If you’re gonna be on this team, it doesn’t matter what you believe. But we go to Mass on Sundays.”
This happened almost two decades ago, but even at the time, it would have been considered more than a little politically incorrect. Fortunately, though, the young men understood that there was not an ounce of malice in him. He truly didn’t care about the players’ personal religious convictions. All were welcome on the team, regardless of creed. But this was a Catholic school, and they represented that school when they wore its jersey, and with that privilege came certain expectations.
And go to Mass they did. Even on road trips, the team would skip batting practice if necessary in order to make it to a Mass in town. Tiny parishes would see their congregations suddenly swell at early morning Mass as a line of athletic young men would file into a middle pew. And when the collection basket came, they each put something in it, even if it was only a dollar.