Back to Work on Broad Street

This week's reflection is written by
Mr. Joseph McDaniel, OSFS, seminarian.

It has now been a week since Philadelphia's emotive celebration of Super Bowl parade. Broad Street, then lined with revelers clad in jerseys and ringing with shouts of "E-A-G-L-E-S!" from the rooftops, is now flanked once more with parked cars and reverberates with the hum of rubber on concrete and honking of horns.

Having been present amidst the festivities last week, I asked myself the question of why a curious game in which a leather ball is tossed, kicked, and fumbled about by 22 men on a field for 60 minutes could send a city of millions into such an ecstatic frenzy of a party with few parallels in its history.

The reason, I believe, is that it's ultimately not just about the game. It's about what the game represents. For most of us, our everyday lives are reminiscent of the play of an average sports team. We win some and we lose some, every great play is followed by an embarrassing miscue, proudly won victories are soon succeeded by unseemly defeats. Very seldom do we feel that there's such thing as real, definitive victory.

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So, when we see a victory such as that won by the Eagles, it gives us hope. What we see on the field are not just a collection of tackles, passing routes, and play calls, we see our own lives: our own struggles, our own hard work, our own circus catches and missed field goals before us. And when these are culminated on the field in attainment of the highest possible goal, we feel that such is possible for us too.

This is particularly so for a city of people who work just as hard, show just as much character, have the same foibles and triumphs as everyone else, but which does not as routinely enjoy the attention of a New York or a Los Angeles. A city into which the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales jumped feet first, ministering at institutions such as North Catholic and Father Judge, not with the goal of winning accolades, but changing one life at a time.

But therein lies the paradox: it is precisely such a quiet, everyday work ethic and tenacity that made the recent victory so sweet, and therefore, to keep the meaning of the victory alive, it is to that everyday grind to which the city must return.

This is a very Salesian way of looking at it. In the perspective of Francis de Sales and Fr. Brisson, the spiritual life is not ultimately defined by intense mystical experiences, such as that encountered by the city of Philadelphia last week. It is rather the willingness to do, every day, what is asked of us by God and by others, even if it means jumping into the street and getting our clothes dirty.

It is perhaps fitting that the city must return to its routine as we embark upon the journey of Lent, which Francis de Sales believed should be marked more by little acts of humility and charity rather than grandiose penances. Just as it is everyday tenacity that makes great sports victories, when they do occur, so savory, so too do these ordinary actions of holiness better prepare us to commemorate the greatest victory of all, the one we celebrate some 40 days from now at Easter.