BALTIMORE – Army beat Navy Saturday on a Hail Mary. Not the “Hail Mary” pass that football fans know so well, but the real prayer.
In the last ten minutes of the game in Baltimore, Father Matthew Pawlikowski knelt down on the sideline, joining other Army fans in praying the rosary. During that time, the Black Knights scored to take the lead and held out for a 21 to 17 victory over the Midshipmen, giving Army its first win in the annual showdown since 2001.
As a U.S. Army chaplain based at West Point and serving with endorsement and faculties from the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS), Father Pawlikowski provides pastoral care and ministry to all cadets including the football players. Whether at home or on the road, the Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., is a constant sideline presence at Army games. He says prayer is part of the drill.
“I always pray for both teams to have no serious injuries,” Father Pawlikowski said, “and then I DO pray for Army’s victory.”
Father Pawlikowski said Saturday was no different than any other game as far as his prayers were concerned.
“It’s all teamwork, right? I did what I did as part of the team,” he said.
The Hail Mary is the most familiar of all the prayers used by the Catholic Church in honor of our Blessed Lady, the mother of Christ. It is a prayer asking Mary to join us as we pray to God, in the same way we would ask our own mothers or any of the other saints on earth to join their prayers to ours.
The words to the Hail Mary are as follows:
“Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. [Luke 1:28, 42]. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
The rosary is a form of prayer in which the Hail Mary is recited in sets of ten, or “decades,” as counted on a string of rosary beads. At Saturday’s game, Father Pawlikowski said his prayers on a “Combat Rosary,” distinguished by its silver colored beads and Pardon Crucifix first introduced to servicemen in World War I.
Father Pawlikowski brushes aside suggestions that prayer of any sort over a football game is trivial.
“God cares about everything,” he said. “We can ask God for anything. And I tell people this all the time, ‘You can ask God for anything, and there’s nothing He doesn’t care about if we care about it.’ We’re not always going to get what we ask for, just as we wouldn’t with any good father, but we can always ask.”
At this year’s Army-Navy game, Father Pawlikowski asked, and Army received.