Beliefnet
Idol Chatter

Can the Virgin Mary help you lose weight? The answer is yes, according to writer/collage artist Janice Taylor–although you might be forgiven for thinking that Mary has better things to do, such as listen to all those rosaries. Taylor is the author of “Our Lady of Weight Loss: Miraculous and Motivational Musings from the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal,” in which she credits Mary’s help for keeping off the 50 pounds she’d lost for a full five years. That’s a miracle, for as most chronic dieters can tell you, most fat goes right back on.

“Our Lady of Weight Loss” is most notable for its colorful illustrations (by Taylor herself) that mostly consist of Byzantine Madonnas wearing huge, pasted-on eyeglasses—sort of a cross between Mary and the Wonkette logo. This would seem vaguely blasphemous were it not so evident that Taylor’s sole lifetime exposure to the Virgin has consisted of riding along as a child with deliveries from her family’s pharmacy to a convent of nuns called Our Lady of Snow. The nuns never commented on Taylor’s chubbiness—a feat of politeness that the nuns at my own convent school would have praised as “very Mary-like.”

Taylor’s contribution to the vast array of lose-it-and-keep-it-off literature is her theory that art projects will keep your hands busy and hence out of the fridge. Instead of eating the contents of a Kraft macaroni-and-cheese box, make necklaces out of them. There is other unexceptionable dieting advice: Reach for a piece of fruit instead of a chocolate-chip cookie. Do not get up in the middle of the night and munch down half a loaf of bread.

The book also contains numerous low-cal recipes heavy on Splenda and cooking spray that I hope will not be the fare up in heaven. “‘Our Lady of Weight Loss’ wants o share her philosophy and her ‘weigh’ with you,” Taylor writes. And if making a cloth sculpture of a piece of fudge cake worked for Taylor, it may work for you, too.

So the sports world was all over this story since Sunday night: What did Marco Materazzi, a defender on Italy’s 2006 World Cup championship team, say to France’s captain Zinedine Zidane that caused Zidane to viciously head-butt Materazzi in the final match, in overtime–getting him booted out of the game?

Here’s the latest. In my last blog posting, I mentioned the rumor that Materazzi insulted Zidane’s mother. It got worse last night. The new rumor is that Materazzi called Zidane a “dirty terrorist.” Zidane is the son of Algerian immigrants with a Muslim background. And European soccer, I am discovering, still has a reputation of racial slurs and bigotry among fans and players.

Materazzi defended himself, saying he never called Zidane a terrorist or mentioned his mother. “It was the kind of insult you hear dozens of times and just slips out of the ground,” he told Italian newspaper La Grazetta dello Sport.

Ok. So we’ve got a he said/no comment thing going on here. (Zidane has yet to say what exactly happened, what Materazzi said, and why he so ignobly lost his cool at such a crucial moment.)

But it gets more interesting. BBC Live Radio Five got a deaf lip reader to analyze Materazzi’s mouth when the provocative insult was let loose. She interpreted Materazzi as saying “you’re the son of a terrorist whore.”

Whoa.

That’s a double whammy–your motha, and you’re a terrorist. Then BBC’s Ten O’Clock News called in experts as well, and these guys determined that the insult was something to the effect of “an ugly death to you and your family.” (Zidane’s mother had been admitted to the hospital that day.)

Well, whatever this insult was, FIFA will investigate the red card. But I have to wonder–what will come of it? Say the insult was a racial slur. Do you reverse the outcome of a championship game for that? Don’t get me wrong. Racial slurs and dirty insults are horrible, classless, and deserve no place on the soccer field, in the stands, and for that matter, anywhere in the world.

But what about Zidane’s reaction? This head-butt was ugly. Is physical violence ever the right course of action? Zidane does have a penchant for hotheadedness in play, getting red and yellow cards for brutish acts in a number of past matches.

I don’t have the answers. But I think Fox Sports commentator Michael Rosenberg said it well: “[Zidane] had many years to get back at Materazzi–to send compromising photos to Materazzi’s wife, put bananas in the tailpipe of his Ferrari, walk up behind him and give him a wedgie, whatever else he wanted to do. But first he had to play 10 minutes of soccer. And he couldn’t wait.”

It’s high time you see “Superman Returns” if you haven’t already, especially if your pastor is telling you so. Don’t be super surprised if at church one Sunday in the near future, the sermon revolves around a Superman theme–I already heard one last week that explored how the superhero movie of the moment helps us to understand the idea of becoming born again through Jesus, starting over a new life in Christ.

To get ready for next week’s Sunday reflections, writer David Buckna has developed a quiz, “Superman As Super Savior,” designed especially to “Test your knowledge of some of the incredible parallels between Superman and Jesus,” and includes questions such as:

“In ‘Superman: The Movie’ (1978), Jor-El (Marlon Brando) tells his infant son: ‘All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything I feel, all this and more I bequeath you, my son. You’ll carry me inside you all the days of your life. You’ll make my strength your own. See my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father and the father, the son.’ In what gospel does Jesus say: ‘I and my Father are one’–Mark, Luke or John?”

And:

“Superman has heat vision. What New Testament book mentions that the eyes of the returning Christ ‘are like blazing fire’–Acts, Hebrews, or Revelation?”

Give it a go. But be prepared–it’s not an easy quiz. Luckily, Buckna provides thorough answers to all 30 questions.

If you pay the slightest bit attention to the world of sports, then you know that the 2006 World Cup has come to a glorious end, with Italy taking the prize from France in an exciting match that went into overtime and ultimately was decided by penalty kicks.

I’ve enjoyed blogging on this great event, exploring the intersection of faith, prayer, and sports fanaticism. Passion and holy beseeching are hardly more potent than in a stadium where so many fans and players try to push their team to victory through prayer. Emotions run high on the field, and I’ve seen plenty of players call on a higher power to give them strength, patience, and the ability to turn the other cheek and stay the course of the game during fierce match-ups.

So why, then, did the king of the 2006 World Cup–France’s team captain Zinedine Zidane–disgrace himself at the very end of the final match, in the last match of his soccer career, by head-butting Italy’s Marco Materazzi when there was about five minutes left in overtime? It was a move that got him a red card and kicked out of the game.

Let me paint the scene. Zinedine Zidane, the man who led France to World Cup victory in 1998, came out of retirement for one last chance at World Cup glory. And when France stumbled in the opening rounds, nearly getting knocked out, Zidane rallied his team, coaxing better play and leading his team right to the finals. He was the heart of France’s team, and came to eclipse all other players in the Cup, including Brazil’s brilliant Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.

I wanted Germany (let’s face it, U.S. didn’t have a chance!), but when Germany lost to Italy, my loyalties (along with millions of other fans, I suspect) switched to France–and to Zinedine Zidane. He had the passion, class, leadership, and the faith to carry France through. So why, oh why, did Zidane disgrace himself by head-butting Materazzi?

It wasn’t that they clashed on the field during play and Zidane took it too far. Play had stopped and Zidane and Materazzi were walking away, exchanging words when the incident occurred. Zidane’s agent, Alain Migliaccio, said that Zidane told him Materazzi said something “very serious” to Zidane to provoke the violent reaction.

Rumor has it in France that Materazzi insulted Zidane’s mother. Materazzi wouldn’t comment after the game was over, prompting others to say he was guilty of some serious insult. But Materazzi’s father said his son shouldn’t be made the black sheep when it was Zidane who crossed the line. So what does it take to make a player lose his cool, and possibly, faith?

Whatever happened–and I sure would like to know real story–it sure is sad to see such a great player go out in such a bad, bad way. Kicked out, lost the World Cup championship, never going to play soccer again. That’s an awfully big price to pay for not turning the other cheek.