VATICAN CITY - Soccer-fan Pope Francis urged professional athletes to always be sportsmanlike on and off the field because so many people, especially kids, look up to them.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - In an effort to flex its moral muscle in the professional sports arena, the Vatican has invited top-tier Christian athletes Tim Tebow and Jeremy Lin to help bring ethical values back to a scandal-ridden world of sports.

Published in International

It’s a never-ending cycle of games

This is not a rant against organized sports. My kids have been involved in sports for many years, mostly because of my husband. Basketball, ringette, hockey, baseball, volleyball — you name it, they’ve played it. 

We’ve travelled far and often to take our kids to games and tournaments. We’ve met hundreds of players, parents and coaches and shared with them the satisfaction of playing hard and the thrill of victory. There have been many good times.

But it’s often been a struggle to balance sports and family life. We’ve just barely finished baseball season and now hockey is upon us. Thank goodness my husband and I agree that, as a family, we should never miss our holy obligation of Sunday Mass in the name of a game. Even on tournament weekends, we always find a church and never miss Sunday Mass.

Still, as someone who didn’t grow up with sports, I have been known to lose my cool when sports trumps family life. I even spoke to a priest about it, not that I got much sympathy. He warned me to be careful about succumbing to the spirit of division and suggested I embrace sports as a family event instead of bickering over it.  He must have grown up with organized sports!

So over the years I have heeded that advice and supported my family’s obsession with sports. I’ll never be an expert but I like to think I’m a keen observer. I know that most athletes and coaches are uninterested in the observations of a Catholic woman whose formative years revolved around the church and not an arena or baseball diamond. But I’m going to share some observations anyway.

It seems to me that many Catholic parents don’t make sure their children attend Mass as religiously as they get their children to games. And why do some boys wear their Sunday best to an arena and not to church? I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen boys wearing white shirts and ties to minor hockey games, but not to church on Easter or Christmas. It makes no sense to me.

I also wonder why Catholic athletes and coaches obey the rules and regulations governing sports but balk at the rules and regulations of the Catholic Church. Also, I’m appalled by the spending on superfluous extras by many sports teams. Do kids really need two jerseys, track suits, customized hockey bags, leather winter jackets, spring jackets, pants, hats, hoodies, drinking canisters and various other team paraphernalia that display the team logo? I wish team organizers would consider how many more kids could benefit from team sports if fees were reduced by eliminating these extras.

Then there’s the schedules. There were years when one of our kids had a game on Thanksgiving, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, a family birthday and during the Christmas week. Of course, Sunday is always fair game for the schedule makers. These games often interfered with our holy obligations and relations with our extended family. On the secular celebration of Halloween, however, one league cancelled all the games so the kids could go trick or treating.

Another concern is that a generation of kids has grown up winning participation trophies. What does that teach them? Shouldn’t a trophy be something you earn? If we’re going to spend so much time at sports, we should be teaching kids that, in addition to fair play, they need to learn about winning and losing because life is like that.

If I had my way, there’d also be classroom sessions for Catholic parents and players to learn how sports can enrich family life and be used to grow in virtue. Yes, it would be a tough sell, but I’d love to see sessions on what various popes and Catholic thinkers have said about the value of sports and about its place in culture.

I’d open with what St. Ignatius of Antioch said in the first century: “Exercise self discipline, for you are God’s athlete; the prize is immortality and eternal life.” Much better for young athletes to be pondering that than to be discussing Don Cherry’s latest rant from Coach’s Corner.

Finally, as another hockey season begins, I’ve heard the lament of many wives about being neglected after the first puck is dropped. So say a prayer for us and, dads, it doesn’t hurt now and again to surprise us with a dozen roses or take us dancing or out to the theatre.

Published in Guest Columns

VATICAN CITY - Team sports such as soccer can educate participants and spectators in important values, including self-sacrifice and respect for one's adversaries, Pope Benedict XVI said in a message to participants in the European Championships soccer tournament.

Group sporting events, he said, are "an important school for educating one in the meaning of respect for others -- including the opposing team -- the spirit of personal sacrifice for the good of the whole group," and in the importance of recognizing the talents and skills of each person on a team.

Published in International

They say you can learn more about a person on the golf course than you can in a business meeting or a social setting. And I believe it.

Love it or hate it, golf has this magical quality of exposing fabrics of your personality very quickly to strangers. Sometimes these traits can be pleasant, or quirky, or annoying, or worse.

If you’re a golfer and have been paired with a stranger on the first tee, you know what I am talking about. From that first tee ball to the first green, before the first putt falls into the hole, often you can tell if it will be a long day or not. (Believe it or not, I have played golf with priests — an occupation not altogether unfamiliar with the game — who made for a long day and I knew it quickly! Most priests, however, are a delight to play with.)

Published in Robert Brehl

TORONTO - Two Toronto Catholic District School Board students and teammates with the Senator O’Connor Blues have made their debuts with Canada’s under-17 national rugby team.

“I’m honoured to be selected. It’s a real accomplishment for me,” said Lucas Rumball, 16, who scored his first international try against Belgium while touring the United Kingdom recently with Team Canada. “It was exhilarating. I pounded it in.”

Rumball shared his international glory during the first two weeks of April with Michael Douros, 17. The students now plan to apply their international experience to the Blues for the team’s season.

Published in Education

ROME - More than 350 seminarians and priests from 71 countries will take to the field in early March for the kickoff of the sixth edition of Rome's Clericus Cup soccer tournament.

The spring 2012 tourney will feature 16 teams from pontifical universities, seminaries and religious orders vying for a trophy of a cleat-wearing soccer ball sporting a wide-brimmed clerical hat known as a saturno.

The Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, placed fourth in 2011; team captain Daniel Gallagher, a seminarian from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, said March 2 the North American Martyrs plan to make some noise in the 2012 season.

Published in Vatican

TORONTO - Everything Jim Gregory has in life is a result of his association with Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School, he said.

Serving the NHL today as senior vice president of hockey operations, Gregory is one of six alumni being inducted into the Order of St. Michael this year, the highest honour St. Michael’s College School can bestow on a member of its community.

“I look up to the people who they have in the Order of St. Michael and never dreamt I’d be considered for it,” said Gregory, 76. “So when I was called, it was an unbelievable surprise.”

Published in Features

TORONTO - The Catholic Civil Rights League is standing by the human rights appeal of Damian Goddard, a sports anchor fired for his Catholic views on traditional marriage.

Goddard, a former host of Connected on Rogers Sportsnet, plans to file a human rights complaint against his former employer, Rogers Communication Inc.

“Mr. Goddard’s case typifies a theme we hear all too often in other, lower-profile cases of workplace discrimination against people who do not support same-sex marriage on religious grounds,” said Joanne McGarry, league executive director. “We hope Damian’s case will establish that freedom of religion and conscience, protected by the Civil Marriage Act of 2005, were meant to be given a robust interpretation.”

Goddard posted comments in early May on his Twitter account supporting Burlington, Ont., hockey agent Todd Reynolds for criticizing the New York Rangers' Sean Avery who appeared in a TV ad for Human Right's Campaign's "New Yorkers for Marriage Equality Campaign" in support of same-sex marriage. (New York legalized same-sex marriage on June 24.)

Published in Canada
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