Answered prayers? Our Lady of Lourdes’ Vikings Facebook post goes viral

| January 19, 2018 | 0 Comments

Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis posted this meme to Facebook following the Minnesota Vikings’ incredible final play Jan. 14 in an NFC playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. The post went viral, drawing the attention of national sports media including Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Courtesy Our Lady of Lourdes

When Julie Craven witnessed what’s been dubbed the Minnesota Vikings’ “Minneapolis Miracle,” the director of communications and strategic initiatives for Our Lady of Lourdes thought “there’s a Facebook post in there someplace.”

A Vikings season ticket holder, she was in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis when the New Orleans Saints scored with 23 seconds left in the playoff game against the Vikings Jan. 14, putting the Vikings one point behind.

“People were devastated,” she said. “People literally had their hands folded in prayer. There were grown men around us crying, and then a lot of, ‘They [the Vikings] always choke. This is always what happens in the playoffs.’ Just dejected. And people started grabbing their coats.”

Then Case Keenum threw that 61-yard pass to Stefon Diggs, who caught it and stayed inbounds and ran it to the end zone just as the game clock ran out. During the play, Craven said, “66,000 people went silent,”  but when the referees threw their arms up to indicate a touchdown, the stadium erupted into pandemonium. Strangers grabbed each other with hugs, high fives and “I love yous.”

“No one left the stadium for a half-hour after the game,” she said, noting that she attended the game with her husband, Doug, and two priest friends ­— Father Paul Treacy, pastor of Assumption in St. Paul, and Father Dan Haugan, pastor of Holy Spirit in St. Paul. “You had to high-five every person leaving the stadium,” she said.

A former vice president and director of communications at Hormel in Austin, Craven, 60, drew on her marketing experience to capitalize on the game’s incredible final seconds. On a purple background with the Vikings’ logo, she typed: “If you made any promises during the last ten seconds, Sunday Masses are at 8:30 a.m., 11 am., 7 p.m., Our Lady of Lourdes, downtown Minneapolis.” She posted it to the parish’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

“I thought, this is kind of fun. It’s a nice way to mix up the other content we have there [on Facebook],” Craven said. “I bet this one might even get 1,000 ‘likes.’ Wouldn’t that be cool?”

It quickly surpassed that aspiration. Within five days, it had 10,000 shares, 1,500 comments and a 1.3 million person reach, just from Our Lady of Lourdes’ Facebook page. It’s been featured by Sports Illustrated, ESPN and Reddit, and several other local and national media outlets. Noted Sports Illustrated in its online piece: “It seems fair to ask people who prayed for a divine intervention to decide the outcome of a football game to show up to service the next week. Especially considering the game-winning play was named ‘Seven Heaven.’”

Comments range from compliments on the clever idea (“well played”) and emojis indicating laughter to direct invitations to attend Mass. Commenter Eric Langness noted, “You might need to schedule more than 3 Masses this Sunday.”

Comments have been impressively positive, Craven said, noting that it’s easy on social media to attract people who express negativity when something is tied to the Church. But not in this case.

“It was heartening that it was treated in a respectful tongue-in-cheek way,” she said.

An Our Lady of Lourdes parishioner since 2012, Craven still doesn’t know exactly what to make of the post going viral, but she thinks and hopes it could have an evangelistic impact. “There’s an intersection … between digital [media] and evangelization and humor, and it’s just a little bit more accessible,” she said. “People want reasons to bring faith into the conversation.”

She added: “I love, love, love the fact that we can bring the Church into that tradition of fun and joy. … I love the idea of bringing our faith into the conversation.”

Father Daniel Griffith, the parish’s pastor, called the post “divinely inspired,” Craven said, and she agrees. “I think there was an opportunity here that the Spirit jumped in and said, ‘I think I could have some fun with this one.’”

As a Wisconsin native, Father Griffith is a Green Bay Packer fan, but ahead of the Jan. 14 game, he joked with his congregation at the end of Mass that since friendship is willing the good of another, and it would be good for them if the Vikings won, that he wished the team well. As for the meme, “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s totally out of the blue. It’s very exciting,” he said.

“Our community at Lourdes, we take the faith seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we like to have a good time,” he said.

He noted that extraordinariness of the final play and the national hype around the Vikings’ potential to be the first NFL team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium created “a perfect mix of elements” for the post to go viral.

Father Griffith said he hopes the post inspires Catholics who have been away from the Church to check out Our Lady of Lourdes or another Catholic church.

“Maybe it’s a door that’s cracked open,” he said.

The Catholic Cemeteries also created its own Vikings-related quip Jan. 18. “The only Eagles we want to see soar on Sunday are flying over the chapel mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery,” with a photo of just that: an American Bald Eagle flying over Resurrection’s mausoleum. The Catholic Cemeteries oversees five Catholic cemeteries in the Twin Cities. The Vikings square off against the Philadelphia Eagles Jan. 21 in Philadelphia for the NFC championship.

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