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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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