When I was a little boy, I absolutely loved sports. All my heroes–Len Dawson in football, Wes Parker in baseball, Jerry West in basketball, even jockey Jerry Lambert in horseracing–were sports figures. Meeting a pro athlete back then was like having an audience with the Pope today–it just didn’t get any better than that.
I’m still a little boy, and I still love sports. But I’m also a serious Catholic and the father of many children who similarly look up to sports figures, who would give their full attention to anything their favorite athletes might say or do.
That, in a nutshell, is why I’m proud to be a board member of Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC), which exists to serve Catholic athletes and coaches, thereby helping to equip them to share the Gospel of Christ in and through sports.
Through the media we hear so many negative stories, from cheating and poor sportsmanship on the field to dissolute living and criminal activity off the field. The “good news” is that there is a growing network of Catholic athletes, past and present, who are using their built-in clout as public figures to proclaim Jesus Christ and His Church.
I heard the testimony of several such athletes this past weekend at a CAC conference/retreat. Their witness just blew me away, and they inspired me to be a better man of God. Yeah, these guys (and gals) are terrific athletes, but they’re my heroes even more because they put everything on the line for Christ.
A few months ago we featured all-star first baseman Mike Sweeney, who has been instrumental in the launching of CAC, on the pages of Lay Witness magazine. In case you missed it, here’s a link to that issue: http://www.cuf.org/LayWitness/online.asp?lwIssue=%27Mar/Apr%202007%27
I want to encourage CUF members and all readers of this blog to get more involved with CAC. Here are three things you might want to consider:
(1) I strongly encourage parish groups, youth groups, Knights of Columbus councils, and especially CUF chapters to take advantage of CAC’s growing speakers’ bureau. CAC already has dozens of Catholic athletes on board, and we expect to have more than 100 in the very near future. There are probably athletes on the speakers’ bureau who live near you who would welcome the opportunity to speak to your organization! Visit www.catholicathletesforchrist.com for more information.
(2) In case you haven’t done so, get ahold of the “Champions of Faith” video. Watch it with your kids or with your organization. CAC assisted with the production of the film, and most if not all of the profiled athletes are affiliated with CAC. The video is available at www.championsoffaith.com.
(3) I encourage you to join the mission of CAC. It’s a new apostolate with great energy and zeal, but it needs your prayers and your financial support during this intense growth phase. Tax-deductible donations may be sent to CAC, 3703 Cameron Mills Rd., Alexandria, VA 22305. I encourage you to visit CAC’s site periodically, as no doubt there will be many other specific opportunities to plug into the apostolate in the days, weeks, and months ahead–whether you are an athlete, coach, parent, or just a kid who loves sports.
I’ll close with a quote from another one of my heroes, the late great Pope John Paul II: “Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness to His Gospel.”