A light, airy, effervescent, blog of grave consequence. (NOT!) Dedicated to those of us who must respond to negative stimuli by Chernobyling (entombing in concrete) our innermost thoughts.

Location: Slaughter, Louisiana, United States

A semi-gruntled corporate reliability engineer trying to make ends meet while keeping my wife happy, and myself out of the asylum.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Saints and Us

In Catholic theology, the saints receive their reward in Heaven rather than on earth. And for 43 years, the fans of the team from New Orleans have lived the asceticism of worldly football struggles. There have been glimpses of paradise: the first kickoff runback by John Gilliam for a touchdown in 1967, Tom Dempsey's game-winning 63-yard field goal in 1970, Steve Gleason's blocked punt in the first home game in the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. But just like a saint who experiences brief glimpses of the glory of God during his earthly life, it always seemed that the Saints were destined to be martyrs, as Archbishop Philip Hannan famously remarked in 1966 when consulted about the choice for a name for the newest NFL franchise.

It's hard to imagine an American city that has gone through the ups and downs of New Orleans. Founded by the French, ceded to the Spanish, sold to the Americans, populated by the Haitians, challenged by the British, and blessed and cursed by its location and the abundance of natural resources, New Orleans was the wealthiest and third most populous city in America in 1840. But the location and natural resources of the city eventually took their toll. The city had a hard time expanding, and an overreliance on waterborne trade and oil caused the local economy to suffer. And then there's those hurricanes and floods.

But throughout it all, New Orleanians have never lost our unique joie de vivre. We have our own deep faith, customs, language, music, and food. Text message a New Orleanian that you're watching the Saints game with a priest and eating red beans, andouille, king cake, and Abita at a bar at the uptown lakeside corner of Tchoupitoulas and Lyons, and he knows you're talking about F&M's. And he's not surprised. And he can pronounce all the words in that sentence. 

Although the city has experienced disaster before, Hurricane Katrina was exceptional in its destruction, not only to the infrastructure, but to neighborhoods, local communities, the Church, and morale.

And since the storm, we have needed a symbol for our renaissance. It could have come from the outpouring of charity we received. It could have come from the revamping of city government. It could have come from the commitments of outside businessmen, artists, musicians, actors, and celebrities who have taken an interest in our home and are trumpeting our story. But it is fitting that the symbol of our renaissance is one of our own. It's the team that was never supposed to win. It's the team that lost its home to the storm. It's the team that traveled like refugees for a year, like so many of our residents. It's a team of misfits and cast-offs and players left for football dead. And they showed us that they could do it. They did it for us, and they did it with us, especially our prayers and our noisy help. And they did it in that dome, scarred by Katrina and marked by the suffering of so many. The Louisiana Superdome is now the Home of the Super Bowl Champions. As the front-page headline of the New Orleans Times-Picayune read on Monday morning: "Amen!" 

 -- Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty is a native New Orleanian.  He is the pastor of Good Shepherd Parish on Napoleon Avenue in Uptown New Orleans.


Anonymous Sweet Pea said...

Too cool! I had so much fun rooting for the Saints! Little grandson and big brother were rooting for the Colts but I won!! Fantastique! I understand that everyone at Richoni's was rooting for the Saints. How cool is that? Excellent!

6:07 PM  

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