GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -It's championship Sunday in Titletown. And churches know many people attending services to pray and hear the word of God also would be obsessing about the Green Bay Packers.
So the Rev. Jim Baraniak knew exactly how he would open his morning Mass at Old St. Joseph's Catholic Church in nearby De Pere.
``I will begin by saying, 'We begin our pregame festivities in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,''' the priest said. ``That usually gets a little bit of reaction.''
And the Roman Catholic church year makes playing to the Packers loyalty easy for the priest, too. He is required by church custom to wear green and gold vestments for Sunday's Mass.
``Perfect Packers colors,'' he said.
Baraniak, who for 11 years has also served as the Packers' team chaplain, and other religious leaders in Green Bay say it's easy to mention the Packers in their services, especially this Sunday with the team hosting the New York Giants in the NFC title game. The winner moves on to the Super Bowl.
``It is what is on everybody's mind,'' Baraniak said. ``There will be a certain excitement in the air.''
But all the pastors said last week that they stop short of praying for a victory - at least from the pulpit.
``We may have a prayer that the enthusiasm for this weekend's game will spill over into enthusiasm for doing good things for others,'' said the Rev. Dave Pleier, pastor at St. Bernard and St. Philip Catholic churches.
The Rev. Dan Dainsberg of Faith Chapel, a Christian missionary alliance church, knows some of his parishioners will certainly privately pray for a Packers victory. But he won't.
``There are people on the Giants who love God and people on the Packers who love God and to try to pit one against the other, I wouldn't do that,'' the pastor said. ``As big of a game as this is and excited as we are, it is small in comparison to life and death matters.''
Make no mistake, for die-hard Packers fans, mixing religion and the team is easy. There's even a so-called Packers Prayer making the rounds on the Internet, a take on The Lord's Prayer elevating Packers star quarterback Brett Favre to Godlike status.
Baraniak has received plenty of versions of the prayer by e-mail and deleted them all.
But he refuses to call it sacrilegious.
``I have a good sense of humor. It is meant to be funny. Do people see Brett Favre as a god in this community? I certainly hope not. I know Brett well enough that he would be embarrassed by that and probably roll his eyes,'' the priest said.
There are ways this Sunday to take the liturgy and make it relevant to such a big sports day in town without direct mention of the Packers or with prayers seeking a victory, Baraniak said.
His message to his congregation and later at a Mass for players at Lambeau Field before the game would be the same, he said Friday.
``The spirit of God gives us power not just to be ordinary people, but extraordinary people,'' the priest said. ``You give it your all. Don't just try to survive. You thrive.''
The Rev. John Becker of Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church just a few blocks south of Lambeau Field said he has seen the Packers Prayer, too, but never read it.
Certainly, he said, some of his parishioners will be praying for a win Sunday. Children in the church's school offered a special petition last week during a Mass, praying for a Packers victory.
Privately, the priest admitted, he would, too.
``I am very strong supporter of the Packers. I will say, 'God's will be done,' but please may it be that the Packers win,'' he said, laughing.
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