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Collection explores 'playing ball' from Catholic viewpoints Print E-mail
Written by Allan F. Wright Catholic News Service   
Wednesday, 20 April 2016 14:11

"Youth Sport and Spirituality: Catholic Perspectives," edited by Patrick Kelly, SJ. University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2015). 308 pp., $37.

In an age when an increasing number of Americans find themselves on ball fields on Sunday mornings either watching or participating in the ritual of sports, rather than in the pews, Jesuit Father Patrick Kelly offers a much-needed perspective to place sport in its proper context.

"Youth Sport and Spirituality" examines sports from various lens and perspectives dating back to Homer's "Iliad" when the categories of play, sport and war were used to describe different levels of this human endeavor called athletics that is now a multibillion-dollar enterprise.

In addition to the historical perspective, the reader will find commentary from scholars in several disciplines including theology, philosophy and psychology that are helpful to coach and parent alike. These scholars put forth their observations and commentary on how sports can foster and impact the personal growth of young people in both positive and negative ways. At times their scholarly commentaries are at odds with one another so readers have to do some reflection themselves and grapple with the questions raised, especially regarding the training and upbringing of young people.

The second part of Father Kelly's book includes essays written by athletic directors, coaches and experts in the field who work specifically with coaches in youth athletics. An aspect of this book that is valuable for the Catholic and the religious believer is the integration of the transcendent within the context of sports.

Youth are fully engaged by successful coaches who inspire young people and increase the athletes' desire to give 100 percent for the coach and the team. How do the disciplines involved in sports translate into the spiritual life and is there mutual ground for sports and spirituality to co-exist so they can truly feed off each other rather than compete against one other in our often sports-crazed society?

In chapter five, Clark Power examines the coach-minister model of moral and spiritual development through the "Play Like a Champion Today" educational program in which "the child-centered approach to coaching differs in important ways from the traditional character-education approach espoused by most coach education programs today." He emphasizes that children are not "mini-adults" and need the care of coaches to "establish a nurturing environment that meets the children's needs."

Without this environment in sports, coaches are too often driven by their own ego and end up doing more harm than good in developing the morality and spirituality of the child entrusted to them by God.

Opportunities abound for Catholic schools, institutions and individuals to "seek that which is above" through participation in athletics and Father Kelly's thoughtful analysis and perspective makes coaches, athletes and parents alike co-creators in the development of youth through the participation of sports.

In addition to Power and Father Kelly, contributors to this book include Daniel A. Dombrowski, Nicole M. LaVoi, Mike McNamee, David Light Shields, Brenda Light Bredemeier, Richard R. Gaillardetz, Kristin Komyatte Sheehan, Dobie Moser, Jim Yerkovich, Sherri Retif, James Charles Naggi and Edward Hastings.

Wright teaches a course on spirituality and sports at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.

Author gives strong, clear portrait of U.S. priest killed in Guatemala Print E-mail
Written by Kathleen Finley, Catholic News Service   
Wednesday, 23 March 2016 13:54

"The Shepherd Who Didn't Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma" by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Indiana, 2015). 255 pp., $19.95.

Few people will encounter an actual martyr in their lives, someone who dies for his or her faith. If we were to go looking for a martyr in our times, perhaps one of the least likely places we might think to look would be on a farm in Oklahoma.


Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda tells the inspiring story of Father Stanley Rother, from his days of growing up in rural Oklahoma to his being drawn to the priesthood and to serve the people of Guatemala, even to giving his life for them.


Scaperlanda gives a strong and clear portrait of a boy and young man who absorbed his family's deep Catholic faith and love of the land but whose academic abilities often fell far behind his practical skills and interests. Having failed the seminary curriculum the first time - much of it in Latin then - he was only able to go to another seminary with special permission and tutoring help to achieve ordination, much like St. John Vianney, the cure of Ars, more than a hundred years earlier.


After his ordination and a few years in pastoral ministry in Oklahoma, Father Rother was drawn to the diocesan mission team that had been sent to Guatemala years earlier as a result of St. John XXIII inviting the churches of North America to help those in Latin America. So in 1968, he joined the team working in Santiago Atitlan, a peaceful village near breathtaking Lake Atitlan in the southwest part of Guatemala.


He connected well with the simple people of the earth there, the Tz'utujil Indians, openhearted people with a deep faith. "Padre Francisco" - easier for them to say than Stanley - became deeply loved by them, even dressing like them and eating in their homes. He made it a point to learn their language, a difficult one to master, although languages had never come easy.


When he dined at the rectory in later years after a number of the other members of the team had left for various reasons, he always welcomed an older peasant man to dine with him, one whom many in the community could not be around for long because of his odor and his mannerisms.


As the 1970s went by, there were more and more signs of violence that were coming nearer to the remote area where he was ministering, and many foreigners and natives of the area went into hiding from the brutal civil war that was raging. Father Rother often ended up hiding those fleeing the daily disappearances, killings and danger that were the life of his people.


In early 1981, he learned that his name also was on a death list; he returned to Oklahoma to see his family and was urged to stay for his safety, but he knew he needed to return to be with his people.


Scaperlanda takes us into the beautiful country of Guatemala in a way that those of us who have had an opportunity to travel there will really appreciate. She also helps us see how Father Rother's gifts, including his open simplicity, his practical skills and steadfastness were just the ones needed in the mission to which he was called.


The only shortcoming of the book for this reviewer was its title because many dedicated pastors and shepherds in that part of the world felt that they had to leave at times to be there for their people in the long run. But Father Rother didn't leave his flock, and the church in Guatemala, the United States and the world is richer for his steadfast, caring love for his people.

Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including "The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace" and "Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses," and has taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University for many years.



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