Broncos’ prayers are answered

Julie Filby
Jesuit Father Philip Steele, left, at the AFC Championship game Jan. 19, with Alan Carruthers, principal of Regis Jesuit's Boys Division.

“For a Broncos’ victory, let us pray to the Lord.”

This, according to Jesuit Father Philip Steele, was among the prayers of the faithful at a private team Mass for the Denver Broncos on the eve of the Jan. 19 AFC championship game when he requested special intentions.

“I’m always kind of delicate when it comes to what we pray for during the prayers of the faithful,” he clarified. Generally intentions include that each player play to the best of his ability, be protected from injury, and that existing injuries heal.

But particularly that night, victory was on the minds and hearts of 15 players, coaches and family members gathered for a 7:30 p.m. liturgy at the team hotel. And victory was the outcome the next day when they defeated the New England Patriots 26-16 to advance to Super Bowl XLVIII Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J., where they will take on the Seattle Seahawks.

“I honestly believe God didn’t care if the Broncos or the Patriots won,” said Father Steele, who’s served as a chaplain for the Broncos for eight years. “But he cares that we do.”

Father Steele is the president of Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School, whose Jesuit community has ministered to the Broncos since the school moved their campus to Aurora in 1990, just 3 miles from the team’s Dove Valley headquarters in Centennial.

“It’s a fun way to minister, I enjoy it,” said the Denver native and longtime Broncos’ fan. “Particularly this year under Jack’s leadership. They really want to be there (at Mass). They’re serious about commending their efforts to God.”

“Jack” is Jack Del Rio, second-year defensive coordinator, and a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul in Denver.

Another area priest, Father Terry Kissell, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel in Aurora, also had an opportunity to minister within the NFL last weekend, celebrating Mass for the visiting Patriots.

“I like the Patriots, I have for years,” said Father Kissell, who regularly visits family near Boston. “It sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

He learned of it through an email blast from the archdiocese’s Office of Priest Personnel, who received the Mass request from the Patriots’ representative at the Westin Denver Downtown Hotel. Father Kissell was first to respond to the request.

Arriving at the Westin at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 18, he was escorted to a conference room under tight security to celebrate a half-hour Mass—additional team meetings were scheduled for 6 p.m.

In a short homily, the “most abbreviated I’ve given in years,” he said, he referenced the day’s Scripture, as well as Boston Strong, reminding the five men gathered that Boston Nation is everywhere—even on “foreign turf.”

“I couldn’t identify if they were players,” Father Kissel said of the five men attending, though he did recognize team owner Robert Kraft when he was leaving the hotel.

“I thanked them for being at the Mass,” he said. “It shows how much they value it.”

COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila: Join me by fasting in solidarity with France

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is inviting the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver to join French Catholics in a day of fasting and prayer initiated by the bishops there as a response to the brutal attack on a Church in the Archdiocese of Rouen.

Father Jacques Hamel, 84, was murdered as he celebrated Mass Tuesday morning. The group currently branding itself as “Islamic State” has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The French bishops have designated Friday, July 29, as a day of fasting and prayer.

“I would like to invite all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver to join our brothers and sisters in France for a day of prayer and fasting this Friday,” Archbishop Aquila wrote in a message sent from Kraków. “Let us remember that we are one body, and as they mourn, so also do we mourn.” (Read Archbishop Aquila’s full statement here.)

He added a special invitation to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver: “Specifically, please join me in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m. for the Lord to have mercy on this fallen and increasingly violent world. And let us all pray as St. Faustina taught us: Jesus, I trust in you!”

The practice of fasting goes back to the Old Testament. Christians understand fasting, or limiting intake of food and drink for a religious purpose, to be a way of participating in Christ’s suffering. Christians will fast in response to great evil or times of deep spiritual need, as it is a means of reigning in the passions and demonstrating commitment and devotion to God.

Jesus himself admonished that this is not to be done for attention (Matt. 6:16-18). Bishops may call for Christians to fast in response to an event, but it should be done with goodwill.

Added prayer typically accompanies fasting. For example, when Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, he fasted and prayed (Matt. 4:1-11). Some of the early Christian monks set themselves apart from society by fasting and praying in solitude (see the lives of Anthony of the Desert, St. Jerome, St. Benedict and the Stylites for more on this).

Archbishop Aquila asked that the faithful adopt the added prayers of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The chaplet comes from a Polish nun, St. Faustina Kowalska, whose diary contains over 600 pages of reflections on God’s mercy.

According to EWTN, the message of mercy is that God loves all of us, despite our sins, and wants us to know we can turn to him no matter what we have done. He wants us to call on him and receive his mercy. Having received this mercy, we can pass it on to others.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is prayed using a traditional rosary. On each of the traditional “Our Father” beads, one instead prays, “Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved son, our lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” On each of the “Hail Mary” beads, one prays “For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.” The chaplet concludes by praying three times, “Holy God, holy mighty one, holy immortal one, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Learn more about fasting and abstinence

Learn more about the Divine Mercy Chaplet

Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images