By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
When I was growing up in Nigeria, soccer (popularly known as football in the rest of the world) was the ultimate sport. I flipped channels each time I saw American football played on ESPN because I didn’t understand it. After I came to America, it took me some time to understand American football. But once I began to understand it, I found it very interesting.
As a Catholic priest, I was even more drawn to it when I heard about the “Hail Mary pass.” I liked the concept of the Hail Mary pass, as the term is now figuratively used in American football. In fact, I was fascinated by it. Unfortunately, it rarely happens. I wanted to know more about how the concept of the Hail Mary pass was popularized in American football, so I did what many do today — I Googled it. And according to Wikipedia:
“A Hail Mary pass, also known as a Shot Play, is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success. The term became widespread after a December 28, 1975 NFL playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings, when Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach … said about his game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson…, ‘I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.’”
But what was even more interesting about my findings is that the use of the expression “Hail Mary pass” actually goes back to the 1930s and is used to describe “a long, low-probability pass…attempted at the end of a half when a team is too far from the end zone to execute a more conventional play, implying that it would take divine intervention for the play to succeed.”
It’s amazing that one person’s usage of the term “Hail Mary” to publicly show divine intervention in a game has become a concept that’s used today to describe a jaw-dropping and exciting play in American football.
For me, as a Catholic, I liken it to the acknowledgement of our Blessed Mother’s intervention role in the lives of her Son’s followers. Intended or not, the Hail Mary pass shows the value of the Hail Mary prayer because the prayer itself predates the usage of the concept in football.
We can always go through our Blessed Mother for a last second victory — not because she is God, because she is not— but because she will intercede for us to her Son, the Son of God.
In John 19:26-27, when Jesus entrusted his mother to John and John to his mother, a mutual mother-child relationship was created. The gospel tells us that from that moment “John took Mary into his home.” In the Catholic world, October is the Marian month of the Rosary. Like the apostle John, Catholics should make devotion to Mary a daily part of their family and personal lives.
In this month of the rosary – and beyond — we should take devotion to our Blessed Mother into our homes. Twenty-four seconds before the end of a game a 50-yard ball was thrown, a Hail Mary was said, and a near-impossible playoff game was won. When you are seeking God’s intervention in your life and in your family, consider seeking the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Pray the rosary always. And, as St. Pio of Pietrelcina (one of those who understood the greatness of devotion to the Blessed Mother) would say, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.”
Friends, Christ threw a Hail Mary pass in the last seconds of his life by giving his mother to us as our mother. So, catch the Hail Mary pass and take her home for a touchdown of relationship and devotion. It will be a victory like no other.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Wylie.