Tag Archives: sports

The Super Bowl of Life

2 Feb

super-bowlIt’s kickoff time! When you hear that, you’re probably thinking of the Super Bowl, which is one of the most “sacred” events of our secular culture. However, in addition to crowning a football champion this weekend, it’s also time to kick off National Marriage Week.

While National Marriage Week doesn’t have the pomp and circumstance that the football game has, perhaps it should. While Super Bowl Sunday is a great opportunity to come together with friends and watch incredible athletes achieve the heights of athletic performance, it also challenges us to strive for excellence in our own marriage.

What if we approached our marriage in the same way that these incredible athletes approached this game? What if we prioritized and sacrificed to achieve the heights of marital joy with the same intentionality these athletes have sacrificed to be crowned as champions?  For your joyful marriage training protocol, go to www.JoyfulMarriageProject.com.

The foregoing is this week’s installment of the “Marriage Minute,” produced by the Marriage and Family Life Office of the Archdiocese, which attempts to view the Sunday readings through the lens of the Sacrament of Marriage.

Pope’s Intentions for July 2014

1 Jul

Following are the Intentions of our Holy Father Pope Francisprecious blood for the month of July, courtesy of the Apostleship of Prayer:

  • Sports. That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
  • Lay Missionaries. That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.

July is also the month traditionally dedicated to the Precious Blood of Our Lord. Father Faber describes why we honor the Blood of Christ in Precious Blood: The Price of Our Salvation.

The Precious Blood of Jesus deserves special honor because of its close relation to Our Lord’s Passion. From the beginning the Apostles praised its redeeming power. Some biblical examples:

  • Romans 5:9 “we are justified by His blood”
  • Hebrews 13:12 “and so Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people by His blood, suffered outside the gate”
  • 1 John 1:7 “and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin”

Jumping Through Hoops

14 May

Jason CollinsLast week journeyman NBA player Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play on a major men’s U.S. sports team. His “coming out” became the lead story on ESPN and other sports media, and it was generally celebrated as a historic event for the advancement of our culture, much like Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier in baseball over a half-century ago.

One expects diverse, uninformed opinions on talk radio and in the blogosphere. Still, it seems that even much of the more dignified commentary is off the mark. For that reason, I thought I would offer a “top ten” list of my initial reactions to Collins’ announcement, realizing that all these points barely scratch the surface of this momentous societal issue.

(1) Play Ball Let’s start by saying that nobody, including the Catholic Church, is claiming that Jason Collins or other publicly “gay” athletes should not be allowed to compete on professional sports teams. Public acceptance of homosexual liaisons does have negative repercussions, but surely those with same-sex attractions must be treated with love and compassion. It would be unjust discrimination to bar them from pursuing their livelihood (cf. Catechism, no. 2358).

So let’s be clear—Collins’ announcement has nothing to do with his ability to earn his living, but everything to do with the advancement of a social agenda that is at loggerheads with Christianity.

(2) Is He a Hero? There are well over 60 million Catholics in this country whose professed faith–rooted both in Scripture and the natural law (cf. Catechism, nos. 1954-60, 2036, 2357)—teaches that homosexual acts are serious sins. This view of homosexuality is shared by tens of millions of other Christians, as well as many who have arrived at their conclusion based on their perception of reality (cf. Rom. 1:18-32).

One can appreciate a certain level of honesty and even courage in Collins’ announcement, but Christians justifiably recoil at the suggestion that Collins is now some sort of hero or pioneer in a positive sense.  The true heroes are those who quietly struggle perhaps a lifetime to control their disordered passions.

(3) National Conversation? Many news outlets talk a good game about the “national conversation” that Jason Collins’ announcement has produced, as if now we can finally have a free exchange of ideas and viewpoints on this subject. So, in the midst of such a discussion on ESPN, pro basketball commentator Chris Broussard said, “I’m a Christian. I don’t agree with homosexuality. I think it’s a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”

A Catholic would do well to express his or her position so succinctly and articulately. Yet Broussard’s comments were unwanted (Google “Chris Broussard Jason Collins” for a sampling of the reaction). ESPN offered its regrets that his personal viewpoint was a “distraction,” and reiterated that “ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins’ announcement.”

In other words, ESPN is fully on board with the gay agenda, and does not welcome other points of view. Beyond the chilling effect of ESPN’s reaction to one of its own, we see the network’s duplicity in purporting to be open to an exchange of ideas on the subject.

(4) Is It Right? The larger problem here is that our culture has relegated the moral law to the level of private opinion. (And especially in the area of sexuality, please keep your opinions to yourself.)

Therefore, anything that isn’t a crime in the government’s eyes must be tolerated in the name of “diversity” or a distorted understanding of “liberty.”  And in the name of tolerance the media will not tolerate any discussion as to whether it’s “good” to act upon one’s same-sex attraction, whether it’s “good” to identify oneself by one’s sexual preference, and whether it’s “good” to seek (and give!) public approval to behavior that the vast majority of peoples and cultures throughout human history has considered unacceptable.

(5) We’re Compromised The Collins announcement is just one more case-in-point that our sex-obsessed culture is compromised when it comes to sexual morality. If we as a people are willing to turn a blind eye to our nation’s pornography addiction, not to mention our society’s acceptance of the widest range of “heterosexual sins,” then it’s not surprising that many people do not feel as though they can do anything but go along with the gay agenda.

After all, if we were to acknowledge moral standards, we’d be obliged to do our best with God’s grace to live by them. I suspect many people are not ready to do that.

(6) What About Tebow? Ironically perhaps, about the same time Jason Collins made his announcement the New York Jets cut quarterback Tim Tebow. Neither Collins nor Tebow are elite players in their sport (though Tebow was elite during his collegiate career), but both find themselves immersed in media attention. Yet the coverage of Tebow, by all accounts a virtuous, openly Christian man, is mostly negative—and not just in terms of his deficiencies as an NFL quarterback. There is frequent mention of teams not wanting him because of the “media circus” caused in large part by his commitment to Jesus Christ.  Players and teams are free in their comments about not wanting someone like him in the locker room.

When it comes to Collins, however, the focus is simply on his being a good teammate. Players are not allowed to express any discomfort with having Collins on their team. We saw the same phenomenon at work before the Super Bowl, when 49er Chris Culliver was raked over the coals for saying that he would rather not have a “gay” teammate.

(7)  Private Lives We frequently hear that the Church and the State should stay out of the bedroom and not meddle in the “private lives” of consenting adults. Yet, Collins’ “private” sexual preference was all we heard about on the news last week. Those of us who like to watch sports with our children should be able to enjoy scores and highlights without the R-rated social commentary.

And yet, with due regard for the innocence of our children, marriage and sexuality indeed is a public matter, as marriages create families, which are the building blocks of a healthy society. That is why marriages are a matter of public and ecclesial record, with witnesses and lavish celebrations. And that is why the State and especially the Church exercise appropriate authority in this area.

(8) Not Born That Way The popular assumption, not corroborated by science or the leaders of the gay rights movement itself, is that homosexual men and women are irremediably “born that way.”

Same-sex attractions, like all disordered sexual attractions, can be strong and deep-seated. However, like all strong sexual desires, there’s an element of choice when it comes to working against or even healing this inclination versus embracing the “gay lifestyle.”

It’s interesting that when it comes to homosexuality at least, the secularists do not uphold the ability to “choose.” Yet following one’s sexual feelings no matter where they lead is a recipe for personal misery. Conversely, there are many Christians who have overcome same-sex attractions and have gone on to live joyful, chaste lives.

Further, as Archbishop Naumann masterfully described in a recent column in The Leaven, many young people in their formative years experience some confusion regarding their sexual identity and orientation. The public support and approval of homosexuality witnessed in Collins’ announcement could surely encourage young people at a pivotal time in their lives to enter a homosexual lifestyle that would threaten their physical, spiritual, and moral health.

(9) Uncivil Rights The Collins story vividly demonstrates that the media will portray those of us who stand up for sexual morality and the good of families and children in a negative light. We simply are on the wrong side of a civil rights issue. By (erroneously) presenting sexual preference as something that is genetically established at birth and unchangeable, gay activists have effectively duped much of the public into thinking that full acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle is an “equality” issue.

Deep down we know, as a matter of faith but also of reason and common sense, that God created us as “male and female,” not “gay and straight” (leaving aside, for a moment, the bisexual and transsexual communities). The biological complementarity of man and woman is unmistakably stamped on our bodies, but we’ve been guzzling the Kool-Aid for so long that we’re simply blinded to this reality.

(10) Absence of Moral Leadership Rather than offer any sort of moral leadership, our President and First Lady were among the first to applaud Jason Collins’ announcement and tell him “We’ve got your back.”

Now we see that Jason Collins and Michelle Obama will headline a May 29 Democratic fundraiser at the party’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Leadership Council gala event. Sadly, our government leaders are part of the problem, not part of the solution here.

Much more can and should be said about this, but those are some of the thoughts I’ve had recently. What was your reaction to Jason Collins’ announcement?

The Time Is Now

11 Feb

High Definition SportsCenter Graphic - 2004While getting some exercise I often get my “sports fix” by watching ESPN’s Sports Center. As I do, sometimes I wonder about how “unreal” it is.

I’m not talking here about sports’ inflated significance in our culture. After all, in the shopping mall of life, sports is the toy store, or maybe Aunt Annie’s Pretzels–surely not the end-all we make it out to be.

Rather, what I’m getting at is that while I’m watching Sports Center, there is no sporting event going on at all. Rather, we keep moving back and forth from the past (statistics, rankings, scores of previous games, etc.) to the future (upcoming games, fantasy drafts, predictions, etc.). Sure, those things have a place, but it′s interesting how caught up we can get in the past (What was their record last year?) and future (Will the Chiefs draft a quarterback in the first round?), almost to the exclusion of the present.

The same is true in all areas of life. How often do we dwell on past glory or setbacks, or on future worries that may never materialize? All the while, life happens in real time. And what is real time? It’s the present moment. And because it’s the only time that’s completely real, it’s where we encounter God, where we receive actual grace, and where we respond in Christ-like fashion to others.

A little story from my young adult years will illustrate this point: Continue reading

Playing to Win

28 Aug

Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” This quote, attributed to the late coaching legend Vince Lombardi, illustrates our society’s obsession with winning. The Raiders’ Al Davis is known for the line, “Just win, baby,” while ESPN analyst and former Chiefs’ coach Herm Edwards is famous for the mantra, “You play to win the game.”

And of course, being a huge Chiefs’ fan myself, I always appreciated the fact that Herm Edwards put so much effort into winning–and especially into beating the Raiders!

Whenever we have a goal that is really important to us, we strive for it with our whole being. Yet while it does matter–at least to me–that the Chiefs win, how the game is played also matters greatly. My daughter’s soccer coach once told the team that “winners encourage each other and don’t give up.” I thought that was a wonderful lesson for the team.

My point today is simply that if we’re going to invest so much in winning a game or sports competition, how much more should we invest ourselves in winning the imperishable crown of heaven. Have we made Christ the center of our lives? Are we playing to win? “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force” (Mt. 11:12). The victory is there for the taking, but are we committed to giving our lives over to Christ? Or are we wimps who don’t really want to lose, but are unwilling to do what it takes to win?

Athletics provides many vivid analogies for teaching and living the Christian faith. This wasn’t lost on St. Paul, who frequently used athletic imagery to teach spiritual truths. Here’s a passage that I’ve taught to my sports-playing children:

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Let’s be winners in the spiritual life, running toward the imperishable crown, not giving up, and encouraging others–our spiritual teammates–on the journey. Let’s start anew today. Just do it!

Memories That Come Alive

1 Feb

I’m a diehard sports fan, so I will be in my glory this coming “Super Bowl weekend,” even though my beloved Chiefs aren’t playing for the 42nd consecutive time–but who’s counting. I’ve never been to a Super Bowl, which would be awesome, but I’ve been to plenty of major sporting events in my life. If I had to single out one sporting event above all the others, hands down it would be the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles. More specifically, it was being present to witness the USA’s Edwin Moses’ gold medal performance in the 400 meter hurdles.

The race didn’t begin until dusk. As the runners got situated in the starting blocks, the 100,000 spectators in the Los Angeles Coliseum became deafeningly quiet. As the race began, all eyes were on the runners. The stadium was aglow with lighters, lit matches, and the flashing of cameras. The silence at the start of the race quickly gave way to a rumble that crescendoed into a roar as Moses triumphantly thundered down the stretch on his way to Olympic glory. Everyone knew that we had just witnessed something very special.

As exciting as Edwin Moses’s gold medal performance was, it was just a sporting event. Yet this experience illustrates that we’re very capable of focusing our attention when we think something is truly important, despite the many distractions in our lives. Our hearts can be found close to what we treasure (cf. Mt. 6:19-21). Where does our treasure–our “gold medal”–truly lie?

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the memorial of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, the most significant event in the history of the world, occurring in the “fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4). This event not only has left its indelible mark on world history, but even defines who we are today. This event preeminently merits our attention.

Given the fundamental importance of the Mass, we must ask why more people do not fervently enter into the sacred mysteries. Even among the evangelized–those who believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead–there are those who don’t consider the Mass all that important, and perhaps don’t even believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist. While this is a complex issue, I think much of the problem comes down to a misunderstanding of what a “memorial” is. Continue reading

Beautiful Game

23 Sep

In his spiritual classic Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales writes, “The most important thing of all . . . is that you cling firmly to the resolutions you have taken in meditation, so as to practice them carefully.”

This insight really hit home this morning, as I look forward to my son Samuel’s soccer tournament, which begins this evening. Sam’s a fine young player, and the games are so much fun to watch. No wonder it’s called the “beautiful game.”

At the beginning of the season, Sam’s enthusiastic coach gave all the players a CD containing inspirational music, including Wavin’ Flag, the theme song for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that song in the car as I shuttle kids to and from soccer practices and games.

It’s now come to the point that I can be sitting at my desk or on the sofa, and the song will pop into my consciousness. For a moment I think of the beautiful game, and then I redirect my attention to whatever I happen to be doing.

It seems to me that God’s Word, as well as our own “resolutions” or applications drawn from the slow repetition of lectio divina, should also be so deeply rooted in us that it comes back to us from time to time during the day, drawing us to a renewed love and zeal. Sure, we need reminders, such as crucifixes and godly friends, but as people of prayer–as people who, after the example of Our Lady, hear the Word and keep it (see Luke 2:19, 51; 11:27-28)–it seems to me that the best means of calling to mind our resolutions is to have God’s Word so deeply ingrained in us that it’s never too far from our minds and hearts.

I know that I often rush through my prayer, and when I do, what I prayed about doesn’t come back to me very often during the day. But when I chew on a passage of Scripture over and over again, it does come back to me during the day, often at times when I most need a reminder.

I really don’t mind having the soccer song pop into my mind every so often, but even more, I desire to remember resolutions made in my prayer, lest the Word of God be without effect in my life (see 1 Sam. 3:19).

This day, let us take our cue from today’s beloved saint, Padre Pio of Pietrelcina who, despite the great things God did in and through him, simply wanted to be known as “a poor Franciscan who prays.”