Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evenings in Egypt

Last week, I attended the first of what Fr. Rick is calling "Evenings in Egypt." Fr. Rick is the pastor of the Minster cluster - St. Augustine in Minster and St. Joseph in Egypt. St. Augustine is a much larger parish, and demands most of Fr. Rick's time. These evenings are his attempt to get out to St. Joseph a little more often.

Last week's program featured Jessie Magoto, the Minster girls cross country coach, and was titled Running the Race, Keeping the Faith. Jessie has been coaching for ten years, and in that time has brought home six state titles (with two second and two third place finishes) in cross country and one state title in track. Over the years, Minster has won 22 state titles, with 19 of them coming in girls track and cross country, so Jessie continues a tradition of excellence in the community.

The presentation wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was expecting a development of the analogy between running and living the spiritual life, based on the letters of St. Paul. The presentation was a little more literal, with Fr. Rick noting that exercise helps us to recover balance in our lives and Jessie speaking about daring to set goals and surrendering results to God. I've thought about the analogy myself a bit, and I'll share my reflections in a future post.

It takes a lot of guts to set a high goal. When you make that goal public, you set yourself up for a disappointing fall. Jessie noted that one year, she was horrified to see a sports columnist write that, barring a catastrophe, the Minster girls would win state. Sure enough, the catastrophe came to pass, and the Minster girls did not win state that year. She also noted how one year, the girls on the team were confident that they could win state. She told her girls that, on paper, at least two other teams were better than them, but the girls never gave up and, despite a disappointing finish in the Regional meet, ended up taking home the state trophy. That season did not end with the State meet. That season did not end until the girls presented their state trophy to God with the gifts at a Sunday mass the following weekend.

She shared the need to rely upon God and to turn things over to Him. You can't allow yourself to worry about what will happen if you fail to make your goals. You just need to do the best you can with faith in yourself, your coach, your teammates, your support system, and most of all, God. You cannot get through it alone.

As a coach, you use the gifts that you're given. You do what you can, and you turn the rest over to God. But you cannot confuse turning the results over to God with giving anything other than your best effort. You run the race to win. We don't know His plan, but we give our best effort. We never pray to win, we pray that we might have the courage to go after great things. Whatever happens, you deal with it afterwards.

Success breeds success, and Jessie will be the first to tell you that her success as a coach in Minster is due to the efforts of those who came before her and the tradition that they left.

It was an enjoyable evening, and it was well attended. The little parking lot at St. Joseph was packed, even though it seemed like I was parked on a sheet of ice. I look forward to attending more Evenings in Egypt.

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