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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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Josephine Bakhita: For many years, Josephine Bakhita was a slave but her spirit was always free and eventually that spirit prevailed. 
<p>Born in Olgossa in the Darfur region of southern Sudan, Josephine was kidnapped at the age of seven, sold into slavery and given the name Bakhita, which means <i>fortunate</i>. She was re-sold several times, finally in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. </p><p>Two years later he took Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice's Institute of the Catechumens, run by the Canossian Sisters. While Mimmina was being instructed, Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church. She was baptized and confirmed in 1890, taking the name Josephine. </p><p>When the Michielis returned from Africa and wanted to take Mimmina and Josephine back with them, the future saint refused to go. During the ensuing court case, the Canossian sisters and the patriarch of Venice intervened on Josephine's behalf. The judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885. </p><p>Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893 and made her profession three years later. In 1902, she was transferred to the city of Schio (northeast of Verona), where she assisted her religious community through cooking, sewing, embroidery and welcoming visitors at the door. She soon became well loved by the children attending the sisters' school and the local citizens. She once said, "Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!" </p><p>The first steps toward her beatification began in 1959. She was beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.</p> American Catholic Blog St. Paul talks about the Christian life as a race, and encourages us to run so as to win. So it’s not just OK, it’s commanded to be competitive, to strive to excel. But true greatness consists in sharing in the sacrificial love of Christ, who comes to serve rather than to be served. That means that this race St. Paul is talking about is a race to the bottom.

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