Soccer (aka football in the rest of the world) is often called “the beautiful game”. Next year the world will be watching The World Cup with teams from around the world vying for the quadrennial championship. A less well-known championship is the Clericus Cup, a competition between the seminaries in Rome. The Holy Game, from directors Brent Hodge and Chris Kelly, gives us a look at the 2017 tournament as a way to show us a bit about what it means to be called to ministry.
The Clericus Cup arose as a reaction to the hooliganism that often cursed Italian football. They formed a league among the various seminaries in Rome, with students from around the world. In many ways this is essentially much like intramural sport in US universities. Most of the players are students preparing for ordination, although there are some who are already ordained who take part as well.
While the sport and the tournament provide the framework of the film, it is really about what it means to be called to ministry. The film focuses on two U.S. seminarians, one from Portugal, one from Ghana, and a priest who was serving as the rector of one of the seminaries. Even though they are serious about the games, they are in Rome in order to finish their schooling before ordination.
As the various rounds of the tournament progress, the film also looks at a particular aspect of the priesthood. More important than the games to all of these people are things like the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience that they will be taking. They speak a bit of how they came to know they were called to this life. We see one who takes part in a roleplay of doing pastoral care. There is even a sexual scandal that comes up in the film that impacts one of the participants.
The film shows a very basic level of the work seminarians do as they prepare for the priesthood. But it does give us some insight into what it means to have been called to such a life. Personally, I’d have liked to know a bit more about their discernment process. As one of the seminarians tells us, people were surprised he was going to become a priest—not him in particular, but anyone. It would have been lovely to hear his personal response to that attitude.
I celebrate the people who hear God’s call and step forward. The ordained clergy, both Catholic and other, have chosen lives that bring both blessing and trials. The Holy Game gives us a little bit of insight into some young men seeking to serve God and God’s church. And to play a bit of football.
To see our interview with director Brent Hodge, click here.
The Holy Game is available on VOD.
Photos courtesy of Hodgee Films