By Leon Suprenant | November 5, 2007
I just returned from an awesome conference this past weekend sponsored by Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC). In tomorrow’s post, I will tell readers all about the conference and the dynamic mission and work of this new Catholic apostolate.
I mentioned the conference last week on this blog, and one reader asked, “Why ‘for Christ’? Isn’t that redundant?” I discussed this question this past weekend with Ray McKenna, the president and founder of CAC, and thought I would provide a brief answer today.
First, Ray mentioned to me that Fr. Frank Pavone was once asked if the name of his organization, Priests for Life, was redundant. After all, aren’t all priests “for life”? Fr. Frank answered in the affirmative, but noted that sometimes they need reminding.
I guess the same question could be asked of Catholics United for the Faith. Aren’t all Catholics supposed to be “united for the faith”? Of course we are, but sometimes we too need reminding.
In the same way, Catholic athletes are, by definition, “for Christ,” but sometimes they need reminding and encouragement, especially given the unique challenges to the Christian faith posed by today’s sports culture. Catholic athletes should be known for their outstanding performance on the field, but even more for their consistent witness to Christ on and off the field.
Leveling the Playing Field
One of the greatest challenges for Catholic athletes is dealing with chaplains and teammates who don’t think Catholics are Christian. They sincerely believe that the Catholic players need to be “saved,” and they’re often easy targets for proselytism because of their lack of formation in the faith.
Therefore, the name “Catholic Athletes for Christ” not only reminds the Catholics of their vocation in Christ, but it also offers assurance to other Christians that Catholic athletes are serious about their commitment to Jesus Christ. CAC is about promoting Christian unity, not exacerbating divisions. Such a godly approach is especially important in the context of team sports, where a shared love of Christ can help bring teammates together on a deeper level.
That’s not to say CAC isn’t 100% serious about the first word of its name. But to be able to effectively share the riches of our faith with other Christians, it’s crucial to establish at the outset that Christ is at the very center of our Catholic faith.
Competing to Win
“Catholic Athletes for Christ” does have a certain swagger to it. Not that Catholic ballplayers are perfect, or that we have any basis for being arrogant or proud. But the “for Christ” in our name does put out there for everyone to see our non-negotiable commitment to Christ, our willingness to compete for an imperishable prize (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27). Our name unmistakably brings with it the challenge of Christian discipleship.
Raising the bar in terms of what we expect of ourselves as Catholic athletes resonates in a particular way with youth. CAC is not about a “cultural Catholicism” that spends way too much time in the “cafeteria,” but about raising a generation of spiritually lean, “ripped” men and women who, through the world of sports, are out to bring our society back to God.
I for one find this very exciting.
Incidentally, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the U.N. last Wednesday on the values of sports in a talk entitled “The Most Important Thing in Life Is Not the Triumph, but the Struggle.”
Archbishop Migliore mentioned three key words: “Citius, Altius, Fortius. These three Latin words, coined a century ago by Father Henri Martin Dideon to describe his students’ achievements in sports, were adopted as the Olympic motto, because the aspiration to be ‘swifter, higher, stronger’ aptly describes the goals of great athletes all over the world.”
Even more, Catholic Athletes for Christ is about calling men and women to be “swifter, higher, stronger” in their commitment to Jesus Christ and His Church.
To find out more about Catholic Athletes for Christ, visit http://www.catholicathletesforchrist.com.