Players can look to modern saints for help and inspiration
by Pat Macken
Photo Caption: Macken compares Lenten practices to pitchers and catchers preparing for the baseball season. Like having good communication in sports helps a team succeed, prayer helps build our relationship with God. (designpics.com)
The first players to appear at Major League Baseball spring training are the pitchers and catchers. They need a little extra time to work on their communication.
During Lent, we should also be putting in extra time building our relationship with our Lord through prayer.
We are encouraged by Pope Francis, our spiritual directors, and our priests to always pray, every day. Through regular prayers, the sacraments, spiritual reading, and even our daily work, we can try to make our whole life a prayer.
Many athletes pray in relation to their sport before, during, and after competition. Pre-game prayers are for:
•Good health – that nobody gets injured.
•That they perform well, never giving up, using God’s gifts to the fullest.
•That they act as good ambassadors for Christ, always behaving in a sportsmanlike manner.
You too should pray, that you see the results of competition as God’s will and that you can accept the results without excuse.
Praying the Rosary before competing is helpful, as is The Athlete’s Prayer at the end of this column. I also suggest that you ask for the intercession of your Guardian Angel, your patron saint, St. Sebastian (patron saint of athletes), as well as St. Giorgio Frassati and Pope St. John Paul II , both of whom loved sports.
During competition, you may feel that it is difficult to pray amid all the intensity, but when there is any break in the action, try at least using aspirations (short prayers) like “Jesus help me” or “Mother Mary be with me” or “For you Lord Jesus” or “I love you Jesus.”
If you have longer breaks, you could say a Hail Mary or Our Father. In tennis, for example, when changing sides players are allowed 75 seconds, which is enough time for prayer.
In a big Vancouver College provincial high school doubles match a few years ago, I said a Hail Mary with our players as they were getting ready to serve for the match.
After competition, find time to give thanks to God, and not only if you win. You could be thankful for not getting injured or for being given the ability to compete at this level. As we so often do in life, we forget to thank God from whom all good things come.
Baseball, more than most major North American sports, has a great number of players who are devout Catholics, faithful to Church doctrine, and even evangelical in living their lives. Here are a few MLB players who are big on prayer and fearless in showing and living their faith in their everyday actions.
Justin de Fratus is a Philadelphia pitcher who speaks of his faith struggles early in his career in the minor leagues. “Many small towns have no Catholic churches or support,” he said. He rediscovered his love of the faith and now hopes to go to a seminary after his career.
Matt Moore is an outstanding pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who came within an out of a no-hitter last year. He has a tattoo of St. Michael, which he says “is for battle, both on the field and in life.”
Andre Ethier, an outfielder who had years of experience with the Dodgers, was known as a player who was tough and courageous under pressure. He has shown the same fortitude in expressing his Catholic views. “I won’t shy away, because we are supposed to be vanilla, it wouldn’t be me. I am always trying to portray myself as who I am; a man of faith.”
While the Dodgers don’t have a monopoly on Catholic players, they do have a rich history going back to famous Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda. A man who loves the Lord, Lasorda is literally the godfather to numerous MLB players’ children.
All of these players pray. Let’s do the same.
“Strong and faithful God, as we come together for this contest, we ask you to bless these athletes. Keep them safe from injury and harm, instill in them respect for each other, and reward them for their perseverance. Lead us all to the rewards of your Kingdom where you live and reign for ever and ever.”