St Peter's RC Church
Shoreham-by-Sea West Sussex Inglaterra February 24 1989'
Dear Friends in Latin America, I thought of you all at a football match last Saturday. I was on my way to speak at Cardiff University Catholic Chaplaincy, and was persuaded by old friends to spend some time in nearby Hereford, a cathedral city with a famous "mappa mundi," an unpopular Dean, and a fourth-division football team.
Hereford United were playing at home against Lincoln City and I sat with about 2,000 supporters of the home team; two coachloads of the opposition were carefully caged off from the possibility of the sort of hooliganism that has made English football infamous in recent years.
Kick-off was as punctual as Big Ben. Both teams were fairly evenly matched, but the home
team had the edge on the visitors from the start. We didn't exactly roar, as in first-division matches, but there was plenty of shouting and a constant buzz of approval turning into growls of discontent when the visitors took the initiative. We were rooting for a home win.
Everybody disliked the referee. "Must he a Welshman!" and "Bet you he's SAS!" were two sinister comments meant to put him in his place. Now and again the caged-in opposition had its moment, but at half-time Hereford were winning 2-1.
When a third goal was scored by our team the entire stadium (except for the cage) rose to its feet and cheered. The final ten minutes were a tense, euphoric ecstasy of 2,000 football fans fused into a single person.
Perhaps we should model our lives on a football match. For Shakespeare "all the world's a stage" but it may prove more helpful nowadays to see it as a football stadium in full action.
In the first place, a tremendous two-sided struggle is going on. Christians call this the struggle between Good and Evil. Marxists speak of the class struggle. At least we are both agreed that an all-important conflict, struggle or battle is going on. We are also agreed that neutrality and fence-sitting are impossible, that you have to root for one or the other.
Yes, we're human; we are capable of changing sides at half-time, but take sides we must. This is why we don't like referees, because they are "playing God." Rather, they are out-godding God, since God has taken sides ever since the
Exodus of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery. God roots for the poor, the under-privileged, the oppressed.
The struggle is titanic in its dimensions. Poor Nicaragua has achieved an inflation rate of 36,000 per cent, equalled only once in world history — by post-World War 1 Germany. In El Salvador they've named the killer of Archbishop Oscar Romero — but the assassin remains in comfortable retirement, near Miami. In Peru, a good number of the bishops are risking their own lives to save their country from anarchy. In Paraguay they hope for a better deal, after 34 years of General Alfredo Stroessner.
Surely the chief message of Lent is that God roots, and we should root, for the underdog. The rooting will end in victory, once the agony of Good Friday is over and the ecstasy of Easter has arrived.
Affectionately John Medcalf