I’m not much of a sports fan—Just ask my disappointed husband! There are a few sporting events which stand out in memory, though; and going with my dad and my uncle to watch the Detroit Red Wings at Olympia Stadium is one of those golden memories. The players wore no helmets in those days, so it was easy to pick out the superstars: Gordy Howe, Ted Lindsay, Terry Sawchuk….
I was drawn back to those childhood memories when I read Alyssa Bormes’ well-crafted new book, The Catechism of Hockey. For Alyssa, a metaphor waits in every corner of the ice: In the players, the coach, the commissioner, the penalty box, the tickets, Alyssa sees a reflection of the greater game of life. She uses the familiar elements of the game of hockey to draw you in. Then just when you realize that she’s got you with her impeccable logic, she shows you how the same logic can help to explain the Catholic Church’s rich teachings and traditions.
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Let me give you an example. The STANLEY CUP, she explains, is the ultimate reward in hockey. But who can win it? Not women. Not men with Down’s syndrome. Not men who are out of shape physically, or who lack the discipline to practice for years, honing their skills on the ice. But what of it? We don’t begrudge those winners, the brightest and best, the elite group of men who, with their exceptional physical prowess, backed as it is by exceptional discipline, skate toward an award that is available to only a few.
And then she’s caught you: The priesthood, Alyssa explains, is like the Stanley Cup. It is not available to women, nor to men with intellectual challenges, nor to the undisciplined. With few exceptions, it is not available to married men. The young men who prepare for years, who study with a single-minded determination and approach the altar with reverence, are an elite group indeed. But should we begrudge them their vocation, demanding that women be admitted to their elite group in the interest of social justice?
She does clarify, though, that the priesthood is not the “ultimate reward” in Catholicism. Heaven is the ultimate reward, and it is available to all.
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I am pleased to offer an enthusiastic endorsement of The Catechism of Hockey. For athletes and wanna-be athletes, the book can lead to larger questions about faith and life and truth. For spiritual seekers, it offers a toolkit of analogies and a lighthearted approach to evangelization.
But don’t take my word for it. The book comes with endorsements from Archbishop John Nienstedt, archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki, bishop of Springfield in Illinois, as well as from the widow of the late Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 USA Men’s Olympic Hockey Team. The foreword is by Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society.
The Catechism of Hockey is a great read, and I know it would make someone smile, tucked under your Christmas tree this year.
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And just for fun, check out my earlier post, “Baptized in the Stanley Cup.”