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Coach John Harbaugh

Coach John Harbaugh

“Catholic fans! Hey, you know, say a rosary!  Sunday morning for the Ravens!”

That’s the Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh speaking.  A lifelong Catholic, Harbaugh—the older brother to  San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh—was the subject of a 2008 article by George Matysek Jr. inCatholic Review.   In it, Harbaugh professed to liking to ring the bells as a young altar boy attending Mass; and he spoke fondly of the nuns whose kind discipline shaped his character, sometimes requiring that he write a sentence hundreds of times on the blackboard or making him work as a janitor in order to teach him an important lesson.   “They made you be courteous and respectful and not be judgmental of others,” Harbaugh said. “To understand right from wrong was the biggest thing.”

Harbaugh’s Ravens may have won the 2013 Super Bowl, but the victory is not likely to go to his head.  The coach speaks frequently about humility and about the importance of looking out for the other guy.  “When you make yourself small and raise up the other people around you,” he said,“that’s the whole Christian message.”

As a boy, Harbaugh was encouraged in his faith by his parents, Jack and Jackie.  His brother Jim reported that John’s “relationship with God is the thing he leans on whenever he has tough times.”  If he was not selected for a particular job, for example, Harbaugh would shrug it off, saying “God has a different plan for me.”

He attends Mass each Sunday before the games; and after several years during which no Catholic worship was offered for the Ravens, Harbaugh revived the weekly Mass for the Catholic players and coaches.  He prays often, during the games and at other times; but Harbaugh prays not for victory, but for God to draw close to him and guide his steps.

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