By Father Ed Dougherty, M.M.
A few days before this year’s Super Bowl, Los Angeles Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein spoke with Trent Beattie for the National Catholic Register. Their conversation covered football, the Rams’ preparation for their match-up with the Patriots, and the huge field goals Zuerlein hit to help his team make it to the big game. But with the Register’s faith-based mission, Beattie also wanted to talk with Zuerlein about God.
You see, Zuerlein is into apologetics, the act of explaining to people what we believe as Catholics and why we believe it. He talked about the books he’s currently reading and how he doesn’t shy away from intellectual discourse on the tenets of the Catholic faith, also noting that apologetics can transcend religious boundaries by venturing into topics of universal ethics, such as abortion.
“That’s what is good about apologetics,” Zuerlein said. “You can talk with people of all faiths, not referring to things that only Catholics would care about, like encyclicals, but to facts of history, biology and other topics. Those are accessible to human reason, regardless of whether someone is currently Catholic or not.”
How refreshing it is to see someone so willing to discuss his beliefs with others. I think a lot of people shy away from this type of interaction because they fear being perceived as too forward or maybe even bullying. But apologetics exercised well is a generous approach to discourse. It infers respect for others by appealing to their intellect in a free exchange of ideas. It requires intuition about people and when, where, and how to engage them; but, at its heart, apologetics involves deep love for others and placing care for their souls above all else.
Zuerlein and his wife welcomed their fourth child into the world last year. He credits his kids with keeping him grounded and even with preparing him for big game situations, saying, “Little children prepare you, even better than specific practice situations, for anything that might happen. There’s always something going on with the children, so my mind is occupied with their concerns rather than work worries. Plus, my children don’t care at all what I do at work. They are completely oblivious to that and are just happy to see me when I come home.”
For anyone who didn’t see the Super Bowl, Zuerlein hit a long field goal to tie the game late in the third quarter and it remained tied until the very end of the game, when the Patriots scored a touchdown. Then, in the waning seconds of the game, Zuerlein was called upon to try another very long field goal, and he missed this last kick of the season. Even if he had made it, two more miracles were needed – an onside kick and a Hail Mary touchdown – to send the game into overtime. Nevertheless, I’m sure he wasn’t happy about that miss. But something tells me he’s going to bounce right back next year. Because no matter how high pressure his job is, this guy has perspective.
Talking about his role as a husband and father, Zuerlein says, “The most important goal of a single Catholic man is to get his soul to heaven, but the most important goal of a married Catholic man expands to getting not only his own soul to heaven, but also those of his wife and children. It’s almost as if, as a result of the love that you share, you have one soul as a family.”
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Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., is a member of the board of directors for The Christophers.