Category Archives: Sports

Clericus Cup 2010: learning to work with athletes, seminarians take to the field

Today begins the 2010 Clericus Cup (soccer tournament) for Catholic seminarians and young priests studying in Rome teaching values of good sportsmanship. 16 international seminaries or religious houses participate in the Cup. The Pontifical North American College Martyrs represent the USA. 

NA Martyrs team 2010.jpg

The games are co-sponsored by the Vatican’s Council for the Laity and various other organizations. The Vatican has backed the games for the last 4 years. President of the Clericus Cup said: ” The Church is close to those in the sports world, those who work hard, and train, making sacrifices to show that through sports, common rules are shared and new friendships are made.”

Friendship among the seminarians –future priests– is the point of this tournament.

This year there are 373 players representing 65 nationalities. The Mexican seminarians are a favored team over the Italian. May 22 is the final game.
The story can be viewed here.
The Zenit article can be read here.
The CNS article can be read here.

Exchanging a baseball cap for a biretta: becoming a priest

Grant Desme.jpgMaking the rounds is the story that a top baseball player is following his true love, Jesus Christ by becoming a Catholic priest. Grant Desme, 23, is leaving the Oakland A’s for Saint Michael’s Abbey, a Norbertine community of priests and brothers in southern California. The community of Saint Michael’s is young, dynamic and they think with the Church…no surprise they’re getting vocations. Famous for their white habit and white biretta, the Canons Regular of Premontre were founded by Saint Norbert c. 1121.

Desme isn’t the only high profile athlete to enter the seminary in recent times, soccer player Chase Hilgenbrinck, left his sport to be a secular priest. He’s studying at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary.

Catholic sports: can we reclaim sport?

“Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous

610x.jpgloser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.”  (
Pope Pius XII, “Sport at the Service of the Spirit,” July 29, 1945)


I am not a sportsman and I barely watch sports on TV. I will make it a point to follow, at some point during the season, college football scores. I am particularly interested in how my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame is doing in football. (The short answer is badly in recent years!) And believe it or not I was an undefeated freshman soccer coach when I taught high school. The amazing –or foolish– thing is that I never played the game.


As a younger man I did go deer hunting with my grandfather and father, tried swimming, and tried baseball. I even tried endurance motorcycling but ended that brief career when I broke my ankle. The point I want to make is that I attempted but did not succeed because I didn’t have the necessary genes. It seems that my mother doesn’t do sports either but she’ll make it a point to attend my sister’s softball game and watch NASCAR with my father. My father and sister are quite intense with sports. Thank God some gives a good face to this aspect of family life. I stick with garden. No competition there.


One of the grand turn-offs to me in the world of sport is the perceived lack of good moral behavior. The use of drugs, betting, ruthless competition, the misuse of money, the extravagant salaries and compensation packages, the high price of tickets, and the flagrant behavior of the players, coaches and staff is unbecoming. In short, the commercialization of the sports world is wrong and it lacks principle. As Christians there is got to be another way to engage in the virtue, honor and dignity of sport.


Writing for The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, Jay Schalin’s February article “A Call to Arms against College Sports’ Dark Side” calls our attention to a corrective for the ugliness of sport by pointing to an initiative of a former sportsman,
President Thierfelder.jpgbusiness and now college president. He writes: “
William Thierfelder wants to reverse this trend toward athletic competition without honor or restraint. He is the president of Belmont Abbey College, a tiny Catholic school in North Carolina that is best known for its affiliation with a Benedictine monastery. It might seem to be an obscure starting point for a personal crusade intended to alter what seems to now be an ingrained feature of the American character.”


Schalin further points to “Thierfelder’s vision of sports is far different from one where 10-year-olds try to crush and humiliate their opponents at the urging of adults. He wants to reintroduce the concept of virtue into athletic competition, and he wants athletic training to be considered an integral part of educating a complete individual. He calls his infant
Pope Pius XII.jpgmovement ‘Sports Properly Directed.’ The name comes from an address given by Pope Pius XII called Sport at the Service of the Spirit, which begins, ‘Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor. It refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration and steels the will to endurance.'”


I want to see more work done in the area of athletics which pays critical attention to the intellectual cultural and spiritual lives we lead. Saint Benedict’s famous Rule for monks is a 6th century document and therefore does not address the issue of good sportsmanship. Nor does it deal with the contemporary vices we encounter in sport. It does however give a way of proceeding that is balanced as it considers mutuality, authority, balance, respect, fidelity, honor, fraternity, etc. But who is doing this type of heavy lifting of the intellect and faith? My hope is that Dr. Thierfelder and his friends will build a Catholic sportsmanship program at Belmont Abbey College. He’s started but has a long way to go before a total change in attitude about playing a game is effected.


Groups of note are the Sports Faith InternationalCatholic Athletes for Christ, The National Center for Catholic Youth Sports (NCCYS) and Play Like a Champion off to a good start.


Dr. Thierfelder’s own work with Reclaim the Game needs to be talked up. It is impressive to know that there’s even the “Pope Pius XII Sport at the Service of the Spirit Award” sponsored by Belmont Abbey College which gives $24,000 over 4 years.


Thinking of the work of the Holy See one does not think of church and sport in one sentence. Well, there is a section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL)dedicated to faith and athleticism. Pope Benedict initiated the “Church and Sport” section the (PCL). Read the press release


If you read Spanish, this article by Father Kevin Lixey “El Deporte y el Magisterio de la Iglesia” is good.


Cricket, anyone? Seminarians exercise for a cause

Cricket.jpgRome Reports reports that the seminarians from the Pontifical International College Maria Mater Ecclesiae and players from the Fellowship Team from Holland played cricket to collect funds for 240 children in an Indian orphanage. The story is here.

Do you know what cricket is? I don’t. But I did have a cricket in my room the other night making so much noise that I was kept awake for hours. Just in case you don’t know what cricket is –like me– have a read of this wiki article on cricket.

AND now we look forward to the Clericus Cup in 2009.

610x2.jpgTeam USA from the Pontifical North American College lost the spring 2008 game 4-0. The Clericus cup is Vatican-sponsored and is an international soccer tournament for priests and seminarians studying in Rome. The games are played at the Oratorio San Pietro, a center with a field maintained by the Knights of Columbus since the 1920s.

Rome Reports is religious-based group of journalists reporting on the Catholic Church.  Based in Rome, Rome Reports is proximate to the source happenings in the universal Church. While many of their stories are centered in the Eternal City they do report on global matters. The TV version of Rome Reports is carried on EWTN on Sundays at 10 a.m EST.

Olympics 2008: genuine freedom or mere slogans?

IOC.jpgAfter the Angelus on August 3, 2008, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said:


Dear Friends,


Next Friday, 8 August, the 29th Olympic Games will begin in Beijing. I am pleased to
B16.jpgaddress to the host Country, to the organizers and to the participants, and first of all to the athletes, my cordial greeting and the hope that each one may give of his or her best in the genuine Olympic spirit. I am following with deep interest this great sports event – the most important and anticipated in the world – and I warmly hope that it will offer the international community an effective example of coexistence among people of the most different provenances, with respect for their common dignity. May sports once again be a pledge of brotherhood and peace among peoples!



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But not all is what it seems to be. One has to wonder how sincere the Chinese government is when there is still evidence of human rights violations and an abuse of power when dealing with religion. Not only are the Tibetans troubled by Chinese control but also Catholics and other Christian groups. The Games’ slogan “One World, One Dream” is laughable in front of reality. Whose dream is the Chinese government proposing to realize?


Then there is the matter of freedom of information, that is, lack of adequate and free exchange of ideas. It is a fact many Catholic websites are unable to be accessed in China today. Some of them are the websites of Vatican Radio, the diocese of Hong Kong, the Korean Church and AsiaNews.


And the puzzling thing is seeing a Catholic bishop carrying an Olympic torch on July 31st.
Bishop Peter Fang Jianping.jpgThe UCA News reported that Coadjutor Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan (Vatican approved) has become the first Catholic bishop to carry the Olympic torch on its way to Beijing. This gesture follows after a Catholic priest did the same in June. While the political issues are always complex the fact remains, Catholics are not free to worship or organize in China and some bishops and priests remain under arrest. It seems to me that Bishop Peter was hoodwinked.






Prayer for Olympics


Everlasting God, giver of joy and source of abundant life,

we pray for all who are involved in the Beijing Olympic Games,

and especially those who represent the United Startes of America:

for their safe-keeping and well-being;

and as we celebrate the skill and resolve of those who compete

we pray that, throughout the Games, there would be

   a striving for excellence,

   a spirit of humility and fair play,

   and a respect for others,

and that all who wait on you may find their strength renewed

in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Prayer courtesy of Rev’d Peter Moger, The Church of England but edited

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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