Recently in Sports Category

Since the Super Bowl on February 3, 27 NFL players have been arrested on various charges: soliciting a prostitute, DUI, drugs, murder, assault, and assorted unacceptable activities. Today's arrest of CT native Aaron Hernandez is a temporary capstone of events.

Business Insider gives the list here. This is list really heartbreaking and they deserve our prayer. My hope is that they keep up their act and become real men.

To say these men aren't good role models is an understatement. More than ever, we need good, moral sportsmanship. We need a society that calls the professional players of sport to live and work appropriately for their own good, but for those whom they influence.
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).

Read Trent Beattie's article "St. Louis Rams' Quarterback Is 'Catholic by Blood'." But one section is worth quoting here (emphasis mine).

Did you grow up in a devout family?

Kellen Clemens.jpeg
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 creation.
JPII Foundation for Sport.jpegThe Church is getting more deeply into sport laity with the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, and the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Laity. It is believed that sport as a privileged place for dialogue among church, culture and youth. Sport is healthy recreation and appropriate challenge. Sport is a point of reference of bettering oneself and the development of virtue.

This is a new approach to following Christ.

(Sadly, the John Paul II Foundation for Sport is only a London based organization; let's hope something in the USA and Canada gets working.)

From Vatican Radio:

Representatives from the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Council for the Laity held a press conference at the Vatican on Thursday, during which they presented the new lines of cultural approach to sport. The new approach is aimed at coming to an understanding of sport as a privileged place for dialogue among Church, culture and youth. The conference also provided an opportunity to present the Pontifical Council for Culture's new Department dedicated to Culture and Sport, which will work closely with the Church and Sport Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and the John Paul II Foundation for Sport. One of those who participated in the press briefing was Fr. Kevin Lixey, who is Responsible for the Church and Sport Section at the Council for the Laity. He told Vatican Radio recent, highly publicized scandals in major league sports - including betting scandals in Italy - make the announcement extremely timely. "On the one hand," said Lixey, "we wanted to announce something we've been doing for the past year and a half," adding, "it's a moment for the Church to show that it is concerned." Fr. Lixey went on to say, "[The Church] is actively working and interested in trying to stimulate a little bit more the pastoral work with sport," on all levels, from youth leagues to international and professional compretition. "There is," said Fr. Lixey, "still a lot of good in sport." 

Listen to Chris Altieri's extended interview with Fr. Kevin Lixey of the Pontifical Council for the LaityRealAudioMP3 
clericus cup Italy 2010jpg.jpgThe other day the NY Times had a positive story about happenings in the Catholic Church. Yes, it's possible that a good human interest story dealing with Catholic seminarians!

The annual soccer tournament known as the Clericus Cup is an association of seminaries and houses of formation in Rome who have a friendly competition. This is only the 4th year of competition.

The Church is a longtime fan of sport, especially a fan of soccer because it's not only fun but sport promotes good social interrelations, brotherhood among the international students, skill, healthy mind, body & soul and good sportsmanship. So, it is true that seminarians are more than just students....

The author brings out that a number of popes have had an appreciation for soccer

Read Gaia Pianigiani's story "Shedding the Collar to the Lace Up Cleats."

The Pontifical North American College seminarians pulled together a handy website for the Clericus Cup.
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.
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 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.

"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.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.

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!


olympics_open2.jpg 24374798.jpg 

Thumbnail image for 24375650.jpg Thumbnail image for olympics_opening3.jpg 

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

The Vatican's Council for the Laity is establishing a foundation to encourage good Karol Wojtyla with a canoe.jpgsportsmanship under the patronage of Pope John Paul II. The John Paul II Foundation for Sports will be headquartered on the Via della Conciliazione, directly in front of St. Peter's Square. The Foundation will be operated under the patronage of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The aim is to encourage the values of the Gospel through sports.


My family is somewhat athletic, well, at least my father and sister are engaged with some kind athletic activity. My father rides a motor cycle and hunting and Lauren plays softball. Me, on the other hand, would rather watch from the sideline. Would you believe I was a freshman soccer coach when I was teaching at Fairfield Prep? And would you believe the team was undefeated? You ought to believe me because it is true. Nevertheless, I recall being impressed by the young and vigorous Fr. Karol Woytjla doing outside activity. I had never seen priests doing sports activities before. What a shock! In fact, one of favorite pictures of Fr. Karol is saying Mass on the underside of a canoe with a makeshift cross in the background. The connection between JP skying.jpgnatural beauty and the divine beauty (Mass) is a remarkable encounter. Later we see how Pope John Paul II very much knew the importance the role sports plays in culture as he addressed the topic in some 120 addresses.

Edio Costantini, the foundation's president, explained that one of the main objectives of the foundation is to relaunch parishes' educational venues. He also said "The creation of the foundation and the beginning of its activities coincides, not by coincidence, with the Pauline Year.  In his letters, St. Paul often referred to the Christian life as an athletic race that, in the end, would be awarded with an incorruptible crown."
The Foundation's first undertaking will be a series of marathons to take place between Bethlehem and Rome. The marathons will begin next April 24 and end June 21 in St. Peter's Square.


Why is the Church interested in promoting good sport? Archbishop Stanislaus Rylko writes in the preface of the proceedings, "The World of Sport Today: Field of Christian Mission":


To achieve these lofty objectives sport nevertheless needs to discover its deepest ethos, and comply with the basic principle of the primacy of the human person. He therefore urged people to adopt a healthy approach to sport, Karol at prayer.jpgso that sport is not practised as an end in itself, giving rise to the danger of becoming a vain and harmful idol, but to make it a meaningful instrument for the comprehensive development of the person and the construction of a society made more to the measure of Man. "When understood in this way, sport is not an end, but a means; it can become a vehicle of civility and genuine recreation, encouraging people to put the best of themselves on the field and to avoid what might be dangerous or seriously harmful to themselves or to others." In other words, for John Paul II, the world of sport is an important areopagus of modern times, awaiting apostles who are ready to boldly announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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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