Sunday, February 1, 2009

What's in a name?

I read a lot about division in the Eastern and Western church. I live in an area with a very large Greek population who are a very prominent presence in the community including having the sitting mayor as part of the group.

I'm the type of person who would rather focus on our similarities vs our differences. But not everyone does this.

I recently encountered an acquaintance I had not seen since we were in college. This woman is Greek and very active in her community. She had moved from the area but recently returned to help care for her father. When I saw her, she seemed a bit frazzled so I inquired was there anything I could do to help.

"Yes," she replied, "please tell other Catholics to not tell people that Troy Polamalu is Catholic. He's Orthodox."

Excuse me? Did I hear her right? I know Polamalu is a member of the Eastern Church not the Roman, but could this really be something that could make her life easier. I mean, Troy gave an interview to Faith and Family magazine, so I'm assuming he doesn't care a whole lot if people think one way or another. He also doesn't pontificate about his beliefs. If Troy were truly defensive about religion (I mean, as defensive as he is on the field) then I'm sure he would set the record straight himself.

After getting more information, it turns out her father, who is ill with a heart condition, became very agitated and upset when he began googling the Steeler's defensemen and found many Roman Catholic blogs claiming Polamalu as their own. Moreover, on some of these sites, there were very negative postings about the Eastern church. I haven't bothered to google this because, well, frankly, I don't have the time or patience right now.

But I do think I understand where my friends father is coming from. He is from the old country and loves his religion. He is proud when a member of his church is elected to congress or wins a Super Bowl ring. And he probably would look the other way if a few Catholics decided to also claim one of these people, but when the same Catholics claiming them also denounced the church he loved, it would cause his blood to boil.

I go through the same thing when someone says they love Catholic actor, writer, sports star X and claim that person has a character flaw in being Catholic.

So, for the record, Troy Polamalu is a member of the Eastern not Roman church and that does not detract from him as a football player or human being.