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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Undefeated

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Manassas High School in North Memphis, TN opened in 1899 and for 110 years never made it to the playoffs, never mind a championship. When the major employer closed, the neighborhood, if you could call it that, fell into further decay. Abandoned decrepit houses dot the landscape.
 
The African-American families that sent their sons and grandsons to Manassas were almost all headed by women. Adult African-American men seem to be few in North Memphis.
 
The current school building is beautiful but without resources for sports, equipment uniforms. To pay for the football program the Manassas Tigers would accept exhibition matches with successful high school programs in distant towns, knowing they would lose in a spectacular manner, but return home with a check that would help the program limp along for another year.
 
Then in 2004 Bill Courtney, a white guy that owned his own company, married and the father of four, volunteered to coach. Raised by a single mother because his dad left the family when he was four years old, Bill shared a common experience with these young men, some filled with anger, some academically challenged, and some just good kids playing football as a way out of North Memphis.
 
When I received the invitation to this film I groaned, “No, not another football movie.” I did not enter the screening room with a good attitude. But within two minutes I was hooked. “Undefeated” is not a movie about football, it’s a beautiful documentary about love, brotherhood, community, education, forgiveness, prayer, respect, humility, character, faith, and yes, beating one another to pulp over some inflated pigskin.
 
The coach tells the story here, especially about three boys: O.C., a 300 lb left tackle, Chavis the unpredictable angry kid who is just returning from 15 months in a youth penitentiary, and Money. He is really too small to play college ball, but he is all heart. He tears something in his knee early on and must sit out the season – almost.
 
The film has a “Blind Side” vibe to it because college scouts get a look at O.C. In one day he received what looked like a dozen offers from colleges. But academically, he was struggling. Another assistant coach asks his grandmother if he can stay with his family 3-4 nights a week and he will pay for a tutor. The coaches get a lot of push back for white guys helping one black kid, but the coach explains: when you see a kid with so much talent and heart, no matter who he is, you just want to help him succeed.
 
I cannot really express how deeply this film touched me. Not only Coach Courtney and his family, but the team, and the larger community.
 
This film is about gifts: the ones we share, the one’s we receive, and the ones we never see coming.
 
Don’t miss this film.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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