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Rugby, Stag Parties and Faith

Author: Mike Goldsmith

Picture: Pixabay

Rugby, Stag Parties and Faith

As the 2018 Six Nations rugby championship begins, Mike Goldsmith explains the role rugby has played in his faith journey.

I have spent many evenings and weekends training and playing rugby. It was my obsession. I have been blessed to play with, and against, many international players. 

When my dad died in May 1992, I started asking what life was about. In October 1993, I took six clients to Twickenham to see the All Blacks, resolving to have a quiet day. However, I staggered home at 2am, once again totally drunk.

My wife, Maureen, who was away, had left me a note and her rosary beads on my pillow. I realised my lifestyle was risking all that was dear to me. I broke down in tears and cried out to God for help, then fell asleep.

When I awoke at 10am the next day, I knew God had come into my life and went to Mass that evening-despite not being a Catholic at the time.

Since then, God has used my passion for rugby in many ways.

Playing Rugby With Jesus

Once, whilst helping run an Alpha course, a gentleman pointed at me and angrily demanded to know why I was there. He said: "When I played rugby against him, he kept standing on me-and punched me when I complained!"

We laughed about it. Would I still do it next season, he asked? I admitted I was not sure. However, I promised I would definitely now apologise afterwards-and even help him up!

I once received a picture in prayer of me playing rugby against Jesus. Jesus was so good that I could not catch him. I became dispirited, so God the Father swapped positons with Jesus. As he was a bit slower, I was able to catch him.

This may sound crass, but I believe our loving Father was communicating that He knows our difficulties-and is even interested in our little struggles.

Watch rugby star Billy Vunipola speak about the role faith plays in his life: 

An Unusual Stag Party

Soon after coming to Christ, my best man, John Fuller, was getting married. He asked me to arrange his stag weekend, playing golf at Le Touquet in France, with approximately 40 men-mostly rugby players. 

Lord, I prayed, whatever I do, they will be getting blind drunk. Please let me, somehow, be a witness to them.

At Saturday breakfast, I read the story of the wedding feast of Cana (John 2:1-12). On the coach, I explained that John, from Catholic parents and a good, obedient boy, was getting married in the Catholic Church. I then read the Gospel story to 40 bleary-eyed stag weekenders.

"What a scandal it would be if you discovered the wine had run out at John's wedding!", I said. I issued a rule: if anyone said the word "host", "toast", or "bread", he would have to "stand up and genuflect." A Catholic man immediately called out: "Surely, to genuflect, one has to get down and kneel!" Great laughter ensued. The ice was broken.

Weeping Together

That night, Julian, a fellow London Irish player and Catholic, shared with me in the bar that both his and his wife's faith was sorely tested when his wife gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. We wept together in a crowded bar; there was little else I could do or say.

Being able to share this really helped Julian, who wanted to read the rest of the chapter in John's Gospel to the coach the following day. I persuaded him it was not the time to risk a riot and to be happy with what happened the previous day.

My life once revolved around rugby. Now it revolves around living like Christ and being a good role model. I thank God for using my passion for rugby in influencing others to live life to the full.

I still love rugby and my old pals. When England play Wales at Twickenham on 10 February 2018, I will meet around 15 university rugby pals to watch the match-another opportunity to share the change in direction my life has taken.

Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3) 

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