Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

Troy Polamalu On Faith, Family (and Football)

August 11, 2009


Without a question, my greatest wish would be for [my son] to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian.

Amen Troy. 

It’s a human weakness to feel a vicarious pride in the accomplishments of our children.  From Day One we’re always looking for signs of excellence and, more often than not, the measure of our children’s progress is made against other children and their parents.  It’s selfish and self-centered, and some would say it’s just a result of Darwinian natural selection.  But how many of us parents, Orthodox or of any Christian faith, measure our children’s success in terms of their relationship with Christ and their faithfulness to his Holy Church?  And when our children graduate from high school and go out into the world, will we also measure our success as parents by their careers and income or by their devotion to prayer and an active church life?

I so feel Troy Polomalu’s desire for his son to be a pious Orthodox Christian.  It is the only burning desire I have for my own two sons.  When I first became a parent I agonized over raising children with a spouse that was and remains completely closed off to the Orthodox faith.   For so many years I’ve felt like a windbreak in a howling gale, protecting the tiny flame of faith I’ve tried to catch in my children.   As long as I’m nurturing that flame I have hope, but the scary part is when you realize that you’ll have to stand up and move away.  Whether or not that flame continues to burn is dependent to some degree on the fuel you fed the flame with, but I think the harder part of letting go is accepting your children’s own free will and openess to the Holy Spirit.   Sadly, some may want to light new fires of their own or even let their flame die out.   I worry that despite all my efforts, my kids may do just that, and then what?  Will I accept their choices or rage against their free will?   Parenting is surely a cross in its own way.

Do not miss reading the rest of Troy Polomalu’s interview with Pittsburgh Magazine.  Every Orthodox parent in America needs to read this interview and take to heart a commitment to the spiritual lives of our children.   There is an eternity of consequence at stake here.  Football may be a game but the salvation of our children (and ourselves) is not. 

Troy Polamalu Rules!

February 2, 2009

God bless Troy Polamalu and his witness for Orthodoxy.   I’m amazed that companies spend millions on 30-second Super Bowl ads knowing full well that most people who watch them aren’t going to run out and buy their products.  Instead I watched Troy Polamalu bow his head in prayer or cross himself at least a dozen times during yesterday’s Super Bowl. That’s the kind of “advertising” that’s beyond price; that says faith is something of value; that men of true character aren’t ashamed to be labeled as Christians.   The combined advertising/outreach budgets of the Orthodox Church in America, the Antiochian Archdiocese and the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America couldn’t have produced even one Super Bowl ad spot as powerful as Troy commanded with a simple sign of the cross.


I know making the sign of the cross is a personal act, that it’s done out of personal piety and for unselfish reasons, but it can’t be anything less than a publicly visible symbol.  With the simple swipe of his right hand, folded into a living expression of the mystery of the Trinity and the nature of Christ,  Troy witnesses for the theology and fullness of the Orthodox faith.  It’s there for everyone to see, but as effortlessly and unselfconsciously as he does it the act never comes across as cheesy, forced or phony.   Just as it is meant to be.   It is a sign of someone who has submitted himself to the mercy of Christ and his Cross during every waking moment of his life.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechesis (Lecture 13) cannot have made it any more clear when he insisted that

Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified [Christ].  By the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest.

Making the sign of the cross should be as basic to everyday living as breathing and I am so happy to see a godly man who isn’t afraid to make this most visible expression of faith.   And for one day Troy Polamalu wasn’t a convert or cradle-born, Greek or Russian or Syrian Orthodox, but an Orthodox Christian representing American  Orthodoxy in which all of us were united by the common sign of our faith.

For more on Troy Polamalu’s faith, read today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story

Thank You Troy Polamalu!

January 20, 2009


Thank you for making Orthodoxy cool.   For showing my sports-crazy 9 year old son that a professional football player can be a devout Orthodox Christian who isn’t afraid to talk about his faith  and to make the sign of the Cross in public.  Thank you for your example of good sportsmanship and hard work; your devotion to family and a clear-mindedness about the value of eternal things  over material possessions.

I’ll admit it, but football isn’t one of my favorite sports.  Maybe having spent my entire life in the state of Texas makes one either love football or not.   It’s not for lack of exposure though.   Back in the day, my high school (Judson HS)  won the state championship several times.   As a geek,  I was of course president of the “spirit club”.  Yeah, that meant myself and other fellow geeks and nerds worked the concession stand every Friday night and made the big, decorated paper goalpost banners.  Then I sealed this ambivalent footballness with my induction into the maroon and white cult of  Texas A & M; a university that could not be more historically and intricately linked with football.  However, it was at A & M that I most clearly understood and appreciated  the Pavlovian reward for fan devotion and team spirit.  Football games that by tradition require men to kiss their dates after every Aggie touchdown are ok in my book.   

So, what am I going to do now that my 9 year old thinks football is the greatest sport since the gladiatorial games?  If he’s got someone like Troy Polamalu as a role model, I’m gonna say…. GO STEELERS!

(And Mr. Polamalu – if you ever feel the need to get out of the cold Yankee north country, I know a very nice Orthodox parish in San Antonio that would love to have you come for a visit!)

For a very personal interview with Troy Polamalu, discussing his faith and family life, click here.