- Thursday, 30 August 2012 18:41
Until I read this story in the National Catholic
Register (NCR) I didn’t know who Kellen Clemens was. Those who know me know
that I am not a follower of football, let alone any other sport for that
matter. I am not anti-sport, I am just not a sports-type-of-person. But, I fact
I fully advocate an integration of faith and morals in the world of sports;
something that many other sports-people could benefit from. What caught my eye
in the NCR were the words “Catholic” and “St Louis Rams.” Interest piqued. I am
glad it did. Until now one would think that Tim Teabow was the only man in
American football that had a faith life. As it turns out, Kellen Clemans also
believes in God, is a Catholic and a family man. Let’s pray that these virtues
remain solid for a very long time. The NCR story is not only a good human
interest piece but it emboldens the rest of us (I hope).
Did you grow up in a devout family?
I’m a cradle
Catholic, with four sisters, and the faith was always an integral part of our
lives. I went to confession, received holy Communion and was confirmed. We were
taught the difference between right and wrong and enjoyed the stability that
brings. We also benefited from being so close to nature on our family’s cattle
ranch. That encourages you to be humble and also to respect and work with God’s
Then I left my small southeastern Oregon town of Burns to attend the University of Oregon in Eugene, which is the second-largest city in the state. That was a big transition period, where I left almost everything I had previously known. There was a void that needed to be filled, and it became very clear that I had a decision to make: I could either drop the faith and pursue other things, or I could lay claim to it and become the man God wants me to be.
It would have been easy to decide in favor of the first choice, because you don’t have your parents telling you when to go to Mass. You’re on your own and have to make your own decisions about what you’ll pursue. That can be a challenge because there are things in college which seem like fun on the surface but aren’t in harmony with the dignity of the human person and don’t provide lasting happiness.
I knew that my relationship with Jesus Christ was more important than anything else in college. I made a conscious effort to deepen that relationship, in part by attending daily Mass. I really started to take the faith as my own, rather than simply relying on others to keep it going. That was a key time in my life, and I look back with gratitude for the grace God gave me to make the right decision. Everything else flows from that decision of how you respond to God’s call.
I knew being Catholic was important, but what I’ve come to realize more deeply since college is that being Catholic means everything to me. It’s what I am in my very essence. Football is something I do, but being Catholic is who I am. I’m Catholic in my bones, in my blood — however you want to say it.
That is a great way to describe it — Catholic by blood — since Jesus gives us his body and blood in every Mass we attend. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is from John 6: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Jesus wants us to be completely united to him forever, and this unity begins here on earth, primarily through the holy Eucharist.
I like to expand my knowledge of the Mass, so one of the most recent books I’ve read is 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. The first chapter is about how the Eucharist is alive. In other words, the Eucharist is not just a symbol, but the very Person of Jesus Christ. When you get to know that better, it really changes how you see Mass and how you receive Jesus in holy Communion.