Matt Birk flew into the Twin Cities to serve as the keynote speaker Aug. 9 for Men on a Mission, a monthly event sponsored by St. Paul’s Outreach.
Birk, who retired from the NFL after playing for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, spoke to a group of more than 100 men. He also stayed afterward to greet the men and sign autographs.
Birk talked about the importance of defending the Catholic faith, even when it means taking the risk of criticism. He noted that he turned down an invitation to travel to Washington D.C., along with his teammates, to meet President Barack Obama.
“I love the Catholic faith and I strive to be a good Catholic,” he said. “We have to defend the faith because it is under attack. There’s no doubt about it. George Weigel was right when he came here and spoke and said, ‘Our society, our culture does not support the faith anymore. Fifty years ago, yes, but today, no.’ And, it’s easy to see why. Our culture is one based on emotion. It’s not based on discipline, and there’s a lot of confusion out there about Christianity and spirituality as a whole.”
Increasingly, especially within the last year, Birk has been outspoken in defense of Church teaching, especially in regard to traditional marriage. He has spoken at several marriage rallies, and also made his views known among his Ravens teammates.
“On our team, especially last year, we had a lot of strong Christian men, a lot of Catholics, a lot of guys who shared my view,” he said. “In fact, we wrote a petition or a statement, and we had six players sign it, regarding marriage, what we believe that it is, an institution created by God. . . . The support inside the locker room was great.”
He also noted that Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh is Catholic and saw to it that Mass was celebrated every weekend throughout the season so that players could attend. Yet, he has experienced some hostility to his views, and said that those who defend the faith will take some heat, too.
“This game, this battle that we have to fight is not on our home field,” he said. “We have to go and meet people where they are. We have to play an away game in a hostile environment.”
Birk said when he encounters those with opposing viewpoints, he is tempted to respond in anger. But, he knows that a different response is required.
“The goal is to defend the faith, but also welcome people into the faith and
. . . attract them to it,” he said. “I make no excuses, no qualms about being Catholic. I’m proud of it.”
Birk recently moved to Florida with his wife, Adrianna, and their six children.
According to the Associated Press, he recently accepted a role as one of two NFL appeals officers. Players who receive fines for on-field issues argue their cases to the appeals officers. Birk will be replacing Art Shell, and joining current appeals officer Ted Cottrell.
Category: Local News