VATICAN CITY (CNS) — As someone accustomed to the stress of the gridiron, University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh said he was touched by Pope Francis’ peaceful presence.
“The way he talks is peaceful, it’s calm. It felt like this is what it would be like to meet Jesus Christ. That’s what it felt like to me. It was very emotional,” the coach told journalists April 26.
Harbaugh and his wife, Sarah, briefly greeted the pope following his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square earlier that day.
“I said, ‘Buenos dias, Santo Padre’ (‘Good morning, Holy Father’), and then my wife came in and told him that she loved him. He held her hand and prayed and asked that we pray for him,” Harbaugh recalled.
The coach and his wife presented the pope with a Michigan football helmet along with a pair of size-10 Air Jordan sneakers in the football team’s maize and blue colors.
Harbaugh said the pope smiled and graciously accepted the gifts, despite their unusual nature.
“I’m not sure the Holy Father knows a lot about ‘futbol americano,’ but he doesn’t need to. There’s a lot of distress, too, when you look into his eyes; there’s pain there. There’s so much injustice in the world, so much poverty and war and you can tell and feel that he feels that,” he said.
Also present at the audience were several of the 150 players and staff visiting Rome as part of their spring practice program April 22-30.
According to the press release by the university’s athletic department, the program was Harbaugh’s way of giving the team players “a major life experience, traveling to Rome to practice, but also to take part in social projects and offer them a look into a foreign country and culture.”
Speaking to journalists after the audience, Harbaugh said the experience was “more emotional than he anticipated,” and that meeting the pope gave him the chance “to live in a state of grace.”
“I’ve been trying to figure out what this experience means and what am I supposed to do with it. At least he gave me the marching orders to pray for him so I have that part of it down.”
Help keep Catholic media free, support CatholicPhilly.com
You may have noticed “pay walls” greeting you when you visit the websites of newspapers and magazines, both large and small. These mechanisms allow you to read a few articles for free before you’ve got to pay an annual fee if you want to see more.
You won’t find a pay wall on CatholicPhilly.com because we’re more than a news organization. We’re informing, inspiring and forming readers in the Catholic faith every day through the news, features and commentaries that we post on this site and share across social media.
It costs money to provide high-quality coverage of the local Catholic communities we primarily serve, while also distributing national and world news of interest to Catholics, plus the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith.
Help us in this mission by making a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: