From the very start of his high-school career, Chad Cheramie Jr. became known as a football player. The offensive lineman made the varsity team in his freshman year — an uncommon feat — and continued to succeed on the field.
Cheramie’s life off the field, however, was another story. Things got so bleak, in fact, that they almost ended in an early death. The turning point came when Cheramie said a prayer that “gave God another chance” and eventually led the athlete to making mission trips with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Today, Cheramie’s faith journey continues at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana.
Cheramie spoke with the Register about his growing relationship with Christ and other aspects of the Catholic faith in what would have been his junior year of football at Nicholas State University (NSU) in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Of all the sports to play, what drew you to football?
I mostly played baseball and basketball growing up. I wasn’t that big of a kid until junior-high school, which is also when football came into the picture. In eighth grade I was 6 feet tall and was an offensive lineman. At that point, it was kind of easy to overpower opponents simply because of a size advantage. In high school there were bigger and stronger opponents, so I learned how to use technique to gain the advantage. Even though I did grow to 6 feet, 4 inches, and 280 pounds, hand placement, leverage, foot movement and things like that really played a huge role in getting better.
Were you able to connect faith and football growing up?
I grew up Catholic, but around age 10 to 12 I stopped going to church. Eventually football became my way of life, or religion. I made it on varsity as a freshman in high school and was known by everyone as a football guy. That was my whole identity, the one thing I thought of myself as being and the one thing most people saw me as.
I lived the stereotypical jock life of partying, which seems fun on a superficial level, but it left me miserable. I was looking for ultimate happiness in places it could not be found. I became very disappointed in myself and in others. I was angry at God and even came very close to taking my life.
It was at that lowest point in my senior year of high school, where I almost lost everything. At that critical moment I decided to stop and pray. I “gave God another chance,” as far as showing that he is real and does have a purpose for me beyond football.
Even though full knowledge and deliberate consent need to be present for a gravely immoral act to be a mortal sin, that reminds me of the saying of St. Alphonsus Liguori that has been placed in the section of the Catechism on prayer: “Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned” (2744).
Prayer is the key to everything, really. If you don’t pray, you can’t know or do God’s will, which is a sure way to despair; but if you do pray, you can know and do God’s will, which is the only route to abiding happiness.
Even though God answered my prayer and I was able to see that there just might be happiness out there, things did not immediately become all pleasant. In fact, the very next day at school, things got worse. On the inside, I was starting the slow process back to happiness, but on the outside, it was like Satan was using other people in an attempt to push me back toward despair.
A classmate noticed that something was troubling me, so she suggested that I join Fraternus, an organization that aims to help Catholic boys become Catholic men through mentorship. Her dad was actually the local chapter head, so she was able to connect me with them. I started going to confession and Mass again and started praying more frequently. I read the Bible and basically learned more about being Catholic — and being happy.
It’s paradoxical, but the less you think of yourself, the more content you’ll be. That’s what happened when I began to help others, show respect when none was shown to me, and do other things that might be tough sometimes but that really result in happiness.
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