Rugby and the Vatican

Apr 9th, 2010 | By | Category: Ministry

There were around 20,000 spectators at the RDS to watch Leinster play French side Clermont-Auvergne in the quarter final of the European rugby cup.  It was a great occasion; the lead changing a number of times and the result not settled until the very last kick of the match.  There was a great spirit amongst the supporters.  As the final whistle blew and Leinster won 29-28, a Leinster supporter further along the row leant forward and with an outstretched hand offered his sympathy to a group of Frenchmen sat in front.  They smiled and shook hands with him.

Had Leinster lost, would the mood have been so buoyant? Of course not, but there would still have been a sense of being present at an occasion.  There would still have been laughter amongst those leaving the ground.  There would still have been conversation over a pint as the match was relived play by play.

Begging the indulgence of being picked up at the station, instead of walking home, going to check on the email, I caught sight of the Woopra page that tracks traffic to this blog.  There are never very many visitors: 100 or so on a good day, barely 50 people on a bad day.

Today it is a barely 50 day; at 2310 the number of visitors stands at a grand total of 44.  It was the low total that meant one particular visitor was spotted.  at 10.36 pm a visitor arrived with the search term, ‘homily on easter sunday 2010’. Using the Italian version of Google, the person was searching for sermons in English preached last Sunday.  Their browser was Internet Explorer 6 running on Windows XP, they were obviously not into cutting edge technology.  It was the location that was surprising – the Vatican City.

Why on earth would anyone sit at 11.36 pm local time on a Friday night checking what had been said in sermons the previous Sunday?  More particularly, why would anyone in the Vatican want to sit late at night checking Protestant sermons?

It seemed bizarre.   Perhaps it was some minor official who had nothing better to do with the evening, though Rome must have more attractive options.  Perhaps it was some elderly ecclesiastic keeping an eye on the heretics?

It seemed somehow sad that someone would go through site after site, for that is what must have happened to reach somewhere as obscure as here.  Instead of looking at what other churches are doing and saying, especially ones that have a similar dearth of younger people, and that are experiencing a similar decline, why not go out and look at what works?  Look at the sports stadia that are filled; look at the rock concerts that are packed; look at the pubs and the clubs that are buzzing.  There must surely something to be learned.

It was a great night out and in the handshake of that single Leinster fan, there was a greater sense of fellowship than would be found in many churches.  Signor, forget about Googling sermons and look where the people are; that’s where Jesus would be.

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  1. Very sinister. Maybe the Cardinals want to convert you and put you up for election at the next opportunity. A blogging Anglican married Pope. That would be a first – a blogging pope!

    Or maybe they want to use your sermon this week in Rome – not many present will have attended Ballybrack last Sunday.

  2. I imagine someone like a character out of a JB Keane story searching through homilies to find something out of line and then writing anonymous letters signed, ‘One Who Tries To Be a Good Catholic’!

  3. I have discovered something utterly bizarre. If you go to and type in ‘sermon for Easter Day 2010’ or ‘sermon for 4th April 2010’ (as the same visitor has done this morning), this blog comes at the top of the list. Checking, the result is similar (ahead of the Archbishop of Canterbury!). Topping the Google list didn’t actually bring any extra visitors, Google Analytics gave me the princely total of 38 visitors last Sunday (though there had been over a hundred each day during the week); it seems odd that such a small amount of traffic would merit being top of the list.

  4. It was probably some Da Vinci Code-type albino monk on a mission to eliminate you. So not to worry.
    Re rugby handshakes. Is there anything more irritating than sitting beside a scrupulously fair-minded supporter of the other team? I was watching a Lions game in Durban on the last tour and the big Springbok fan beside never missed a moment when the referee unfairly penalised the Lions or overlooked a South African infringement. He was welcoming, hospitable and open-minded. How annoying to have to put up with such gracious neighbourliness when you’re getting beaten. We were left with not a single shred of badly-done-by-ness behind which to hide.

  5. BW,

    I have always found South Africans to be hugely polite and gracious!

  6. Being the nosey kind of person I am, I had a sniff through the files.

    The address used belongs to [and I quote] – “Holy See – Vatican City State”, or or to be more specific, “Internet Office of the Holy See”.

    I think the answer is fairly obvious? The Big Man himself was having a sniff around to see what people are saying about him. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that….

  7. I’m not sure it was the Big Man himself, but you might be right that someone was researching reactions

  8. Ian, As well, they should . . . be researching reactions, that is. They probably have Google Alerts with any number of frighteningly relevant topics. And if you’re offered the job to convert and become the next Pedophile Protecting Pontiff – I pray you turn it down. I’d miss your literary quotes. Hope you’ve had a lovely Easter.

  9. Hi Gram,

    I find the concept of ‘the Vatican’ strange – a last vestige of the Middle Ages. When one tries to connect the events in 1st Century Jerusalem with television pictures from Rome, there seem to be a lot of missing links. How did we get from one to the other?

  10. Ian, With a lot of secrecy and corruption, I’m afraid. Has your new assignment begun?

  11. The new post begins on 18th May – the blog will probably change noticeably!

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