by Father Mark Goldasich
The burning question last week was: “Father, are we still having 10:30 Mass on Sunday?”
The reason for the question was the World Cup final at 10 a.m. last Sunday. My parishioners thought I might be a tad bit interested in watching the game, since I played soccer in high school and enjoy Sporting KC.
Oh, yeah, there was one other “little” reason: The land of my grandparents — Croatia — was playing for the championship.
I told folks not to worry because I’d still be able to follow the game from St. John’s Catholic Club at my home parish in Kansas City, Kansas. In response to their puzzled looks, I showed them a picture on my phone of a shirt worn by a friend’s father that said: “I’m not yelling, I’m Croatian.”
Let’s just say that the Creator endowed Croatians with a volume switch that starts on LOUD and goes up from there.
Since Tonganoxie is only 28 miles from KCK, I’d easily be able to hear the cheers.
Seriously, in case you’re wondering, we had Mass as usual. I felt that God, knowing how nervous I get watching sports, wanted me in the best place possible: praying at church.
Did I pray for Croatia? You bet. Did I pray that they’d win? No.
I figure God has much more important issues to be concerned about, like war, hunger and injustice. My prayer was simply that the Croatians would play the best that they could.
So, yes, I was disappointed that Croatia lost 4-2. But I remain proud of what they accomplished. After all, being second best in the world isn’t too shabby.
There were a lot of wins as the World Cup unfolded, but many of them weren’t on the playing field:
- The World Cup gave people a chance to come together, face to face. Since so much of our interaction seems to happen virtually anymore, it was refreshing to see hundreds of people gathered on the grounds of my home parish simply enjoying one another’s company.
- In our world that’s so often troubled and worrisome, what a delicious release to experience a temporary diversion through the Cup. Seeing people cheering, laughing and singing restored hope into our days.
- The World Cup gave me an excuse to learn more about my roots. For example, one prominent feature of the Croatian flag — as well as the attire of its fans — is its checkerboard pattern. What’s up with that?
According to the Croatia Times, legend has it that Croatian king Drzislav waged war over Dalmatia with a Venetian doge, Peter II Orseolo. Drzislav was captured and thrown into a dungeon. Eventually, the doge learned that the king, like him, shared a passion for chess. This led to a tempting offer: If Drzislav could beat Orseolo at chess three times in a row, he would regain his freedom.
Well, the Croatian king did it and to commemorate that victory added the chessboard to the Croatian insignia.
True? Who knows? Intriguing? Yeah.
- Lastly, the Cup gave people a glimpse into the world I grew up in. In place of last names like Smith and Jones, we had Modrcin, Delich, Sandelich, Sutulovich, Yadrich, Kucenic, Mikesic, Yarnevich, Cavlovic, Vrbanic and Tomasic, to name a few.
So, it was a treat for me to hear the game’s announcers pronouncing Rakitic, Subasic, Peresic, Strinic and Modric.
And when they got to Vrsaljko and Mandzukic, I pictured them asking, “Uh, could I please buy a vowel?”
Even though Croatia’s loss wasn’t the fairy tale ending I’d hoped for, I relished the entire exciting ride and simply say to God, “Hvala lijepa!” (“Thank you very much!”)