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Boehner at CUA: 'Smashing heads for the BVM'

The Speaker made his somewhat contested appearance at commencement and delivered a fairly standard buck up speech that offered no insights into how his faith informs his politics. That is disappointing, I think, but not surprising. But among his folksy recollections -- which aimed at showing how Catholicism makes you tough, it seemed -- was this keeper:

I played football in high school. The Moeller High School football team was the Moeller Crusaders. And our coach, Gerry Faust, made sure we earned every bit of that name. For him, there was no distinction between the spiritual life in the Church and the physical grind of the football field. He made no bones about it. He would tell us in no uncertain terms that life is a precious gift from God, and therefore making the most of ones life is a direct form of devotion to the Virgin Mary.Hed have the whole team kneel down and pray the Hail Mary before every meeting, every practice, and every game. Then wed go out and smash heads with the other team for four quartersall in the name of the Blessed Mother. That gives you an idea of the kind of guy Coach Faust was, and still is. And it was the basis for a lesson he taught us, one I've been repeating ever since: Theres nothing in life you cant achieve if youre willing to work hard enough and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.

Yeah, well. That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Except sometimes it kills you. Go figure.

About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.



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Catholics are now encouraged to use the EF Ave Maria pass when the OF Hail Mary pass fails to vanquish Protestants or other heretics.

Some years ago, faculty at my school were subjected to a motivational speech by a former L.A. Laker, whose spiel contained the same weird religious jock logic Mr. Boehner offers here: "devotion to God/the Blessed Mother" = "making the most of one's life" = "smashing heads." Blessed are the victorious head smashers, for they can achieve anything in life.I had to pretend I was taking careful notes because I knew if I looked at one or two folks sitting at my table, we'd burst out laughing.

Shocking news: Commonweal contributors disappointed with Boehner speech; in other news, Gov. Cuomo supports legalized same sex marriage; progressive Catholics speechless.

offered no insights into how his faith informs his politics______________________I know that such is not understood around here, but Catholicism is NOT all about politics. Rather than get a political speech from a politician, what would be more refreshing would be for a magazine/blog that purports to call itself Catholic to set aside politics for a while.

Did he cry?

For him, there was no distinction between the spiritual life in the Church and the physical grind of the football field.

Metaphorically speaking he's right. The longest speech we have of Mary is when she visits her cousin Elizabeth. How she is presented in Scripture, as opposed to later depictions in Marian piety is strong, bold, and connected with political life. Certainly not a diminutive, "nice" European girl."He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."With the content of the magnificat, Luke connects Mary to Hannah, another interesting woman in her own right.

And he connects her to Miriam, whose victory song is the oldest bit of poetry preserved in the Hebrew scriptures.

"Did he cry?"Shocking news: more than once.

David, thanks for posting this and allowing us to close the loop, so to speak, on last week's discussion.For me, it's a reminder that, even in our little corner of the world, we're a big church. We're the church with high school coaches like Gerry Faust or Bob Hurley from St. Anthony's in Jersey City who are the single biggest spiritual and moral influence in the lives of many of their players---even decades after those teenage athletes (like John Boehner) have stopped playing their sport.We're the church with priests and nuns in parishes on the South Side of Chicago (and South Boston, and the West Side of San Antonio, and...and...and...) who incarnate the Church's social teachings for so many of the people they come into contact with (including a young Barack Obama). We're the church where the last two speakers of the US House of Representatives (Boehner and Nancy Pelosi) receive Communion side by side---despite their political differences.We're just a big church. A spiritually wise woman I know once talked about how we're all called to work in the vineyard of the Lord---but it's a really big vineyard. At times we're called from working in one part of the vineyard, to work in another part of the vineyard. The vineyard's so big that there are parts we may never know about...let alone see or work in. There are workers in the vineyard we'll never know...and some of those we know, we won't understand why they're doing the work they're doing. The central question for each of us then is, how is God calling you to work in the vineyard? I still don't know what she was saying. By which I mean, I understand some of the metaphor, but I keep stumbling (and I mean stumbling) on new layers of meaning that it has.

Auuuugh, Boehner threw in my biggest stock-commencement-speech pet peeve: Of course, to whom much is given, much is expected." It's a worthy thought, obviously -- not to mention scriptural -- but I can't understand how this wording has become so standard: aren't people listening to themselves? You have to say "OF THOSE to whom much is given..." Otherwise it doesn't make sense. If you're going to quote Our Lord let's do him the favor of quoting an entire thought.I was at a graduation myself this weekend -- not a Catholic school, but the (not-so-high-profile) speaker did begin his talk with a shout-out to the Catholic elementary school where he got his start. Sr. Agnes was his "Coach Faust," it seems. So that was nice. And while he did quote Robert Frost ("Two roads diverged...") and Gandhi, he left out the "much is expected" quote. I bet he would have gotten it right, though -- Sr. Agnes probably taught him how to diagram a sentence way back when!

As I recall, those Moeller High football teams under Faust were a dynasty. Didn't translate so well to ND. Between a significant alumni contingent unhappy with his record, and, I imagine, a significant faculty contingent unhappy with his praying, he didn't stand a chance. I wonder if it's Providence that the program hasn't really flourished since.

Ancient joke, goes back years and years, and it's about Notre Dame (sorry).Young man on football team, in confessional, talks about roughing up opposing players Father, I tried to break their bones, gouge their eyes out. Very wicked, my son, are you truly sorry? Yes, Father. I piled on when the ref wasn't looking, tried to hurt star player so he'd be pulled out. A great sin, my son, are you truly sorry?Yes, Father.And who were you playing, my son?Southern Methodist, Father.(Pause). Ah well, my son. Boys will be boys. Maybe you should think twice before taking a coach named "Faust" as your spiritual guide.

And the answer to the question is, Yes, he did cry:

Probably too much space given to a rather pap like speech.I note Mr. Faust went on to coach at ND without overwhelming results.Of course, I am bewildered by the analogy here of the BVM and footbal lspecifically and big time sports in general - there's enough hypocrisy in the latter as it is.But not to wory, the President of CU has assured us that the Speaker is a fine Catholic.So are they all, all fine Catholics....

I haven't read the entire speech, but the excerpt reported here suggests a pretty conventional pre-Vatican-II Midwestern Catholic male point of view. Work hard, pray to the Blessed Virgin, and things will work out. There are worse ways to organize one's life.(By "pre-Vatican-II" I mean to refer simply to the era in which his spirituality was formed. I don't know - and frankly am not particularly interested in - his views on the 2nd Vatican Council).

"Work hard, pray to the Blessed Virgin, and things will work out. "While I don't agree there are worse ways to run your life, that's not what Mr. Boehner said. He said "There's nothing in life you can't achieve." Which is patently idiotic. I waited until I was 25 to blossom into a latter-day Marlene Dietrich. I worked hard smoking cigarettes and learning to put on eye-shadow and lipstick just right. It was then that my soon-to-be-ex boyfriend told me I looked like Sally Field. I ditched him came to the realizatio that all things were not possible for all people.

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