I've been to more football games at my children's high school than I ever attended at my own. That's because -- who knew? – turns out their school is a so-called football school.
This football school has a 100 year legacy of excellence, including coaches and players at the collegiate and professional levels. How such a legacy develops is to practice all the time, forgoing vacations and holidays, including practicing on Thanksgiving Day.
The coaches drill into the players this fact: you are part of a long blue line, meaning you are a link in a long history and tradition of winning football. The long blue (their school color) line implies an obligation to do right by your legacy of which you are a part. It serves to motivate and encourage; the players can't deny they are part of something much bigger than themselves and their time as football players.
I can’t help but compare this school's long blue line to the even longer and more significant Catholic legacy of which we are a part. A protestant convert to Catholicism, Alan Hunt, opines that discovering Catholicism is like finding a treasure of ancestral photos -- family you never knew you had. These ancestors are the saints who are in Christ's bloodline of faith and onto which family we are grafted by the blood of our savior.
This discovery of our legacy serves to remind: we are a link in something much greater and bigger than ourselves. This long line of saints that precedes us dates back to Jesus’ time and we are connections in this lineage.
Former football players from the high school come to Thanksgiving Day practice. Their presence serves to encourage, to cheer, and to motivate the players before playoffs of which they inevitably qualify year after year.
Similarly, saints encourage, intercede, model, and draw us closer to Christ on the well-worn Christian road to faith. Knowing the legacy of where we came from lets us know where we are headed.
There are patron saints of special causes from lost things to music to hopeless cases. There's someone for everyone from every walk of life and every corner of the world. Because the saints have been perfected in love, they know how to love us like our blood kin sometimes fail to do. Having both an interest and stake in our progress along the road to holiness, they cheer us on toward the kind of the life they lived, and hopefully toward sainthood too.
They know from experience the road to holiness requires stamina, endurance, and courage, requiring more than we’ve got many times. Like those football players work up a sweat practicing to become better players, we too, push ourselves in prayer and conditioning of our faith and trust in Christ.
Saint Paul said to run as if to win the race. Let's join the long line of saints of which we are a part, and make our earthly exile a legacy that we and they can be proud of by living the commandments and practicing holiness. With the intercession of the ‘Long Saint Line’, we'll make the Christian disciple playoffs. The saints root us on as we press on toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).
All you holy saints, pray for us!