March 11March 11 Editorial: NFL player’s countercultural message at graduation speaks to heart of our vocations (May 24, 2024)

May 24, 2024

Editorial

NFL player’s countercultural message at graduation speaks to heart of our vocations

While many have been critical of the commencement address that Kansas City Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker delivered on May 11 at Benedictine College, a private Catholic school in Atchison, Kan., as people of faith we would do well to read it in its entirety or watch the 20-minute speech.

His address—as Butker admitted—was countercultural to the worldview so many in society have gotten used to hearing and, in many cases, supporting. While not all readers will agree with everything he shared, his message is worth reflecting upon in thought and prayer because he addresses several important, and we believe, timely topics.

A devout Catholic, the football player was vocal about the issue of gender identity in society. He also shared his strong pro-life values, among other things.

“Bad policies and poor leadership have negatively impacted major life issues. Things like abortion, IVF [in vitro fertilization], surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values in media, all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder,” Butker said.

His criticism didn’t end there.

He called out President Joe Biden, a Catholic, for his support of abortion rights, saying, “He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure to many people it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice.”

Butker also criticized Church leaders, saying some bishops and priests seek personal comfort and security instead of unequivocally teaching the truths of our faith.

Still, it was the kicker’s words to the females in the graduating class that caused most of the firestorm on social media and via other outlets—because he said a woman’s vocation as a wife and mother will be their most important role in life.

Many were critical of his words, including USA Today, which said his message was “ … telling women to get back in the kitchen.” Reading his words paints a much different picture.

“How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career?” Butker asked the women. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.

“I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother,” he noted.

Fighting back tears, Butker continued, “I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation. I’m beyond blessed with the many talents God has given me, but it cannot be overstated that all of my success is made possible because a girl I met in band class back in middle school would convert to the faith, become my wife and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.”

But the NFL player said his wife is much more than that.

“She is a primary educator to our children. She is the one who ensures I never let football or my business become a distraction from that of a husband and father,” Butker said. “She is the person that knows me best at my core, and it is through our marriage that, Lord willing, we will both attain salvation.”

Butler also had a message for the men of Benedictine’s graduating class. Encouraging them to embrace their faith and their vocations as husbands and fathers, he told them, “… part of what plagues our society is this lie that’s been told to you that men are not necessary in the home or in our communities.

“Be unapologetic in your masculinity. Fight against the cultural emasculation of men. Do hard things. Never settle for what is easy,” Butker said.

The kicker’s message is indeed countercultural to many who have heard it, but we pray it leads all of us to reflect where we are on our pilgrimage of faith.

Our primary vocations are to get those we love—whether they be a spouse, children or our extended family—into heaven and to strive to be saints.

Those challenges are as great as ever. “Make no mistake: You are entering into mission territory in a post-God world, but you were made for this,” Butker said. “And with God by your side and a constant striving for virtue within your vocation, you too can be a saint.”

—Mike Krokos

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