Ritual in the news this week: Red socks, Soccer, and Latin Mass?

What is in the word “ritual”?

Lately, the word “ritual” has broadened to include what I would call magick.  The World Cup has some doozies. Here is an entertaining advertisement based on pre-sports rituals of soccer players. Note the appearance of a range of rituals in this Beats World Cup Ad– from the mundane like wearing red socks to the more elaborate, like Afro-Caribbean altars and the opening pep talk by presumably the player’s father.

And, in case you didn’t notice, it’s all really an ad for headphones.

So-called  “weird” pre-game sports rituals are nothing new, and have been reported on for probably as long as their have been sports reporters.  Here is my personal favorite, a player who liked to watch the original Willy Wonka before every game. 

Will it may seem easier to call these “rituals”, I like to think of them more as singular actions implying magical intent. One of the things I learned from my esteemed professors Janet Walton and Troy Messenger in graduate school was to define my perception of what ritual is. In the case above, we are speaking of an audience of usually two, (unless the Malvin Kamara invites his team to watch Willa Wonka with him) the participant and the intended audience. I am going to hazard a guess and say the intended audience might be the “powers that be” that produce good results in soccer matches. However, as a full-blown ritual, they kind of miss the mark. The red socks the player wears in the video above seem more like talismans to me. Now, if he did a sun-salutation, series of prayer and offerings, or a blessing of the socks BEFORE wearing them, that would entail a ritual.

Also, this week in liturgy, another story I find fascinating and sad– the apparent struggle between Holy Innocents Church here in New York City and the local Roman Catholic Diocese, which is apparently (again) trying to close and consolidate churches. This time, however, they have chosen the one church in New York that offers a full Latin Mass of the type performed before Vatican II.  You can read more about the controversy in a June 28th issue of the NYTimes:

 the Holy Innocents, Home of the City’s Only Daily Latin Mass, Might Close – NYTimes.com

I am not in agreement with some of the positions of the Roman Catholic church on several issues, but I find it fascinating that Father Wylie is in danger of censure because he speaking for (or with) those parishioners who choose to worship in an old way that appeals to them, that brings them closer to God. Aren’t these ways of worship valuable for keeping the flock together, at the very least?

Pope Francis is heralded by those on the left  as the necessary correction, a long-awaited answer to those who felt that the Vatican  was out of touch with the laity, more concerned with articulating sin and regulated sexuality than helping the poor.

But here is an issue in which Latin most decidedly is not a dead language especially when a priest and a parish are on the line. Is it wrong to let old ways die a slow death?

I welcome your comments.

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About Valerie Freseman

Valerie Freseman is a Unitarian Universalist minister and a 2014 graduate of Union Theological Seminary. She completed a chaplain residency at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, CT, and served as the first year-long Killam Ministerial intern at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland. She is passionate about spinning the inter-dependent web, creating a more just world, and applying the arts to faith.  She is also becoming increasingly well-known for her sock collection.
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