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Tap the Rock

We watched the fireworks outside from our balcony last night. They lit up the night sky in bursts of neon colors. We sat in comfortable silence, and as we looked on, I imagined what it was like to be there in person, hearing the crack of the flame sound off against the darkness.

Chicago finally seemed to come alive again after the fog lifted and the storm clouds dispersed, leaving nothing but a clear view of the city line of skyscrapers in front of us. The buildings seemed to twinkle extra brightly, with music and laughter from the bars below filling the air in a refreshing calm. A Saturday night in Chicago, and the city was pulsing. But there was something looming in the air, and I couldn’t tell if it was the crisp breeze rolling in off the lake, leaving a slight chill down my spine or if the storm didn’t have the last of us yet.

Wrigley Field, in all its glory, stood to the right of our balcony. Those ballpark lights bringing life and shelter to those game-goers and lifelong Cubs fans were dark, the only light surfacing from the Chicago Cubs logo standing tall out the back of center field. They lost the game earlier, and some were disappointed. With one day left in July and trade deadlines quickly on the horizon, it was safe to assume many baseball players were tense, including my husband. But as I turned to my right and glanced over at him falling back in the lawn chair with his right leg bouncing steadily, he assured me he was indeed okay.

“Just have to keep tapping the rock,” he said.

And it took me back.

It took me back to when I first asked what tap the rock was. I saw the saying printed on a few of the million Villanova shirts Matt wore daily, figuring it was a football team saying. And it was. But that wasn’t the only significance.

It took me back to March of spring training, when Matt was sidelined four weeks with an oblique injury. He missed a good chunk of time, and we weren’t sure what the future held. We were stressed, a little upset, but somehow still hopeful. Then Matt remembered he had something special he brought with him when we left for the season. It would help him—us—over the course of the season and through tough times. As I sat impatiently waiting for him to pull the mystery surprise out of his backpack, my mind drifted to what it could possibly be renewing his faith, because the reality was, he was in a dark place.

He pulled out a rock. It was no different than an ordinary rock. It fit in the small of his hand. It wasn’t too tiny, but it also wasn’t too giant either. Gray in color. A little rugged, but soft to the touch. He placed it in my hand, and I sat in silence waiting for what I knew had to be some kind of explanation following. And there was. And the explanation was summed up with the mention of one man’s name—Reverend Rob Hagan, Villanova University’s Associate Athletic’s Director, the celebrant of our wedding, a good friend, and as Matt puts it, “A living legend and best guy ever.”

Father Rob held chapel for the football players before every Villanova game—one chapel, in particular, leaving a lasting impression on Matt that has followed him on his journey thus far and has been incorporated into our daily lives.

A simple metaphor, based off the parable of the stone cutter is Tap the Rock, and the story, according to Father Rob, goes as follows:

Back thousands of years ago, when there weren’t power tools and drills, the stone cutter had to go out and break the rock. All he had was a little hammer, and all he did was go out with his little hammer, and he just tapped the stone, tapped the stone, tapped the stone…tapped the rock, tapped the rock, tapped the rock.

But the rock wouldn’t break. And day, after day, after day, the stone cutter would wake up and go outside and tap the rock, tap the rock, tap the rock. And he would have to continue and continue to tap it. Until one day, it breaks.

But it wasn’t the last tap on the stone that caused the rock to break. It was the thousands of taps before.

“Don’t give up,” Matt echoed Father Rob’s words to me as we sat in our tiny one-bedroom apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Keep persevering. Things might not happen for you the first time or the second time, but stay with it.”

The story had so much impact on Villanova’s football team that Father Rob found a rock from the foundation of the first church that was built on the Villanova campus. Before and after every practice and game the team would walk by and tap the rock on their way to and from the locker room, serving as a constant reminder of why they should keep persevering.

Before spring training this year, Matt’s uncle surprised him with his own rock from the foundation of their family restaurant that no longer exists. Even though the restaurant is closed, the Szczur family still owns the land, and the memories of the restaurant and their family are just as prominent as they were when the restaurant was standing. Matt’s own rock is a constant reminder of the foundation from which he came, to be proud of it, and to keep working hard and constantly build upon it.

My husband is a grinder. He was never handed anything, working and sacrificing hard for everything he has ever accomplished, elevating him to the position he is in now.  His team—the Chicago Cubs—is one of grinders.

So while we looked out last night at the fireworks rising and falling in the distance behind the great city of Chicago, at the majestic glow that was Wrigley Field, I finally knew what it was looming in the air—anxiousness, surprise, excitement. The time is coming. And the Cubs, they are slowly tapping away. And that rock will one day break.

To watch Father Rob explain the full metaphor behind Tap the Rock, please click here.

7 thoughts on “Tap the Rock”

  1. That’s is a wonderful post, and helps an old fan (since I was a kid in 1965) get a little closer to a member of the team he loves…. You write beautifully. I’ve been writing since the mid 1980s… Now I write, and I publish others. I know published authors by the hundreds (probably thousands) who could not have put that post together that well.

  2. Great story,even Matt does not know me I have followed his career from LCMRHS in to Villanova and now to the Cubs. He is the best athelte that ever graduated from LCMRHS. Terry Shields keeps me posted on Matt and his career with the Cubs thru the minors. Best of luck to you. You are credit to your family, and a Cape May legend.

  3. Wonderful piece. I had a similar experience. Was drafted out of law school in 1969 and sent to Viet Nam as as infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division. Some time during the first week in country, a chaplain addressed the new arrivals. Started by playing a recording (yes, it was a record) of “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”. Have always remembered. Helped get me through that year in Nam and many years since. KEEP TAPPING THE ROCK!!!

  4. Great post.
    I’ve been a fan of your husband’s since he was drafted by the Cubs, because of his bone marrow donation story from college. What a courageous and selfless thing to do! When he was assigned to Peoria in 2010 & 2011 I couldn’t have been happier to cheer on an athlete in my hometown who “gets it”. I was bummed when Matt was left off the playoff roster last year, but he has kept tapping away and he has been solid contributor this year.
    Father Rob seems like quite a wise man! Such a great message.

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