In his First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul says,
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).
St. Paul is comparing the spiritual life to athletic competition. Just as one prepares the body and practices for a sport; one must also practice their faith and prepare their soul in the spiritual life. Practice takes discipline! When playing a sport, we must fight against the selfishness of the body and discipline ourselves to practice with zeal and good virtue. Reaching Heaven is more important than any other prize we could obtain in a sport, since Heaven is the ultimate prize for the spiritual life.
On November 11-12, 2005, the Pontifical Council on the Laity held an international seminar in Rome titled, The World of Sport Today: A Field of Christian Mission. The primary purpose of the seminar was to gather national and international organizations focused on sports to discuss how evangelization and sports coincide.
In the section titled, Sport as viewed from the Church’s Magisterium, Bishop Carlo Mazza, the chaplain of the Italian Olympic team (since 1988 to the time this document was written) said,
“One of the continual themes throughout the teaching of the Church regarding sport is the expression of utmost concern in safeguarding the integrity of the human person…in light of the inalienable value of the dignity and integrity of the person as a unity of body and soul, the Church asks sport not only to respect the identity of the person, but also to allow the individual to develop his or her full potential with regard to God’s plan for his or her life.”
As you can see, the Catholic Church finds value in sport, as long it does not violate the integrity of the human person, who is both body and soul. Through sport, a person has the ability to find God’s will for his or her life.
As a man growing up in American society, sports were always an element of my life. Although I have never played competitive sports in high school or college, I did play plenty of pick-up games and intramural football. As a child, I played baseball and soccer. As long as I can remember, watching sports on television with my Dad was always part of my life. Even though must of my years have been spent in Arizona, we stayed loyal to the New York Yankees, New York Giants, New York Rangers, and New York Knicks. Cheering on these teams was one way my Dad and I bonded, and still do to this day.
Throughout my life, I have encountered some friends and former students who have made it to the professional level. The one thing they all say is how difficult it is to live a Christian life as a professional sports athlete. That’s why it’s so amazing to see that in today’s media and financial crazed sports world, there are three Catholic men living out their faith. I know there are others, but these are the three I want to focus your attention on today.
1. Tyler Flowers – Chicago White Sox, Catcher. He grew up Catholic, but it’s only been in the last five years that his faith has flourished and grown. His wife plays a major role in his spiritual life as does the Blessed Mother and St. Augustine.
My favorite quote from the article: “I love to pray Rosaries, which are very Christ-centered. In fact, Jesus’ name is literally at the center of the Hail Mary. It’s been said that praying the Rosary is learning about Jesus at the school of Mary.”
2. David Phelps – New York Yankees, Pitcher. One of my friends posted this on my Facebook page just yesterday and knowing that I am a Yankees fan; my friend knew this would interest me. Being that this year as been a rather difficult year for the Bronx Bombers, through his faith, David has a good understanding of things.
My favorite quote from the article: “The Church is amazing, and I love everything about it. When I’m on the road, I search for a parish near our hotel. When I walk inside, I can feel the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Regardless of which city we’re in, Jesus remains the same, and his Church does as well.”
3. Prince Amukamara – New York Giants, Cornerback. [Update – see comments below, more info could be helpful] What’s amazing about this article is that it’s not on a Catholic website, but was first reported through an interview with Amukamara on Muscle and Fitness, and then today, the New York Post wrote an article as well. I have a friend who knew Prince when he was in high school. Please read the blog post – Sex, Prince, and St. Josemaria Escriva.
My favorite quote from the article: “I grew up Catholic, so it just started out as one of those things. I’d think, “If I do this, maybe I can get to heaven,” so I said no drinks, no sex, all the big things. As I grew up, I realized that’s not what it’s about. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus.” He is still a virgin at 24 years old.
If you have the Social Media sites of Facebook and Twitter, please support these good Catholic men. Prince is on both of those sites. Tyler Flower has Twitter but it’s not used much and there is a fan page on Facebook. I didn’t find anything for David Phelps.
For more information on Catholic Athletes, check out the website, Catholic Athletes for Christ.
Know of other Catholic Athletes? Let me know in the comment box.