The theme for this years conference is “Be Not Afraid..To Be A Saint”! What is a Saint and why do we want to become one? According to the Oxford dictionary 1. A person acknowledged as holy or virtuous and regarded in Christian faith as being in heaven after death. 1.1 A person of exalted virtue who is canonized by the Church after death and who may be the object of veneration and prayers for intercession. The Church has declared over 10,000 to be saints worthy of veneration and models of exalted virtue. That said, I am not sure that the virtue of humility allows us to strive to be a recognized saint within the church. The goal with which we want to challenge the men is getting themselves and those around them to heaven.
This week I have had reason to ponder this challenge to its depths. It started with our daughter asking us to pray for the lady she was looking after as she was not doing well. We were able to pray rosaries and the chaplet of Divine Mercy for this lady before she passed on Monday at the age of 63. Then on Tuesday I found out that a young man was murdered who is the brother of my son’s best man and my other two sons are friends with the youngest brother. This came as a punch in the gut for my boys as they grieved with their friends. Details are still coming but it appears from the family he was coming to the aid of someone else and was shot. Then on Wednesday late in the day I learned that Sam Stambene had died of a heart attack on his way home from school. Sam had coached all 3 of my sons in football and we had worked together as both a volunteer coach and in working with youth at risk over the years. This one seemed to hit like a sledgehammer, as Sam is a few years younger than me and I had known Sam the most out of the 3 people that had passed away within the same week.
With society talking about toxic masculinity I would set Sam as an icon of what we promote at our conferences. He loved his family greatly and he gave of himself for the good of the community. Sam coached over a 1000 young men during his life. What I respected about him was that he promoted authentic manhood. He pushed the young men to work together and sacrifice for a common goal. He taught self control and discipline with the vision of football being the ultimate team game (I would argue with him that it was rugby). I remember working the sticks on the sideline one game and the game was quite heated. The other team was yelling and swearing when one of the Browns players started to swear back from the sideline to the other team. Sam and his cousin Joe confronted the player and had him doing push-ups to remind him that Browns don’t play like that. Another time I was working with a youth at risk who missed the try-outs and after some discussion Sam gave him a second chance and worked with him. That young man had missed 60% of grade nine but because the work Sam did with him, he only missed one day of his first semester of high school due to illness before his family moved away. I was so impressed with the years of his coaching I had witnessed that I nominated him a few years back for the NFL youth coach of the year. I could tell many more stories from the football field but I want to focus on Sam’s smile. He always had one every time you saw him. He always brought joy into a person’s day and he will be truly missed.
Back to being a saint: There are many ways to get there. Ultimately we count on God’s mercy whether it be the suffering which my daughter’s lady endured prior to her death, or the sacrifice of Jordan Moore trying to help another citizen which ended his life (Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends). Then there is Sam, who gave 1000’s of hours for the young men of Calgary. I remember talking to him about God Squad having a BBQ recognizing coaches for what they do. He stated that there was nothing in place for that, and all he had received was a $6 cafeteria chit. It was obvious that he was not doing this for worldly riches or recognition. So I pray that he hears these words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then we will have a patron saint of football!
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God Squad President