When Saint John Paul II declared 2000 a Jubliee year, I decided to go on a pilgrimage to Europe to see the “old bones” of Christendom, pray where the saints prayed, and enter the Eternal City for the first time in my life. I was at a crossroads in my life, looking to find God’s will, and I went to Europe looking for inspiration and found it in—of all things—European Soccer!
On the first evening, we dined at a restaurant in the Grand Square of Brussels. It was there that I encountered the fans of the Belgian and Swedish soccer teams, who proceeded to entertain everyone in ear shot with their national folk songs, flag waving and good old fashion revelry. The passion of these fans was infectious. Even as a diehard Syracuse basketball fan, I had never seen such joy and zeal for something. I was moved by their passion. That evening I became an instant fan and began to follow the news of the “Cup” throughout the rest of my trip. In every country I visited, the nightly news would speak of the efforts of notorious British Soccer fans, called ‘Hooligans’, whom the mainland had banned from entering the stadiums during the playoffs. Their relentless efforts to find a way into England’s matches surpassed the efforts of the local governments to keep them out. I had never seen such conviction.
When my travels took me to Florence, the nerd in me insisted that the trip wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t read some of Dante’s Inferno while visiting his home city. The most famous passage in Canto III, the title over the portal to Hell that read “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here,” made me think of the “Hooligans” that hoped to enter into the stadium to see their team play. It also made me think of the “uncommitted” lost souls in Canto III. For the first time in my life, I felt that I understood the passage, “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16) These souls were not the enemies of God, nor were they opposed to His enemies, they were simply indifferent, the neutral. They never stood for anything, fought for anything or worried for anything but themselves. How fitting then that Dante described the uncommitted souls as racing after a blank banner, forever being prodded onward by the stings of wasps and hornets, and because they were not willing to sacrifice in this life, they would bleed for eternity for no cause at all. They were never inspired to act for the good others, suffer for the good of others, or die for the good of others. In seeing the passion of people from different nations waving their “banner” (their nation’s flag) and singing their anthems, I encountered the power of community, the power of individuals coming together as one for a single cause. I realized a life lived for self is no life at all.
We Christians must rediscover our passion and zeal for our “banner.” We are called to unite, to be universal, to be Catholic under the one banner that transcends ethnicity, gender, and nationalism—the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are called to rally under the Catholic sign of Christ crucified. If we are willing to sing the praises of God, and wear our Christian “colors” proudly, we will serve to inspire others. In a world gripped by moral relativism—the unmarked banner—our witness as passionate, joyful, loving people inspired by the good news of the Gospel has never been more relevant. This is the example of the saints and those whose lives are passionately dedicated to Christ.
Mr. Louis Massett and his wife Amber are college sweethearts and graduates of Christendom College. They reside in Auburn N.Y. with their four beautiful children, Lucy, Charles, Emma and Agnes. Mr. Massett serves as the Principal of Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, a Classical Catholic School grades 7-12 in the Diocese of Rochester.