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GREEN BAY, Wis. - It's championship Sunday in Titletown. And churches know many people attending services to pray and hear sermons will be obsessing about the Packers as well.
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 today's Mass.
"Perfect Packers colors," he said.
Baraniak, who for 11 years has served as the Packers' team chaplain as well, and other religious leaders in Green Bay say it's easy to mention the Packers in their services, especially with the team hosting the Giants in today's NFC title game.
"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 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 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 Packers Prayer making the rounds on the Internet, a take on The Lord's Prayer elevating Packers star quarterback Brett Favre to God-like status.
(There are several versions dating back to Green Bay's Super Bowl title in January 1997. A newer one is at apckrfan.blogspot.com/2007/11/packers-prayer-heh.html.)
Baraniak has received plenty of versions 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."
BARBER'S TAKE: Tiki Barber has kept a low public profile during the Giants' playoff run, commenting primarily on his Sirius Satellite Radio show.
But he sat down with PBS' Charlie Rose for an interview that debuted Friday night.
Barber said he has no regrets about retiring despite the Giants' chance to reach the Super Bowl and added, "I'm proud of them. They've done a lot and accomplished a lot."
When Rose asked whether Barber is concerned the current group of backs could make people forget him, he said, "I hope they do. That's what it's all about."
[Last modified January 19, 2008, 22:46:41]