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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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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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