Houston, Texas, Jul 20, 2013 (CNA) - Houston Astros first baseman Carlos Peña has a passion for the game of baseball. The Dominican American Major League Baseball star said the game was a big part of his life growing up.
“When I was growing up in the Dominic Republic, baseball was considered the main sport,” Peña said. “My father introduced me to the sport and then I grew up to love it. With the support of my father and my mother, I continued to have the love for the game and continued to soar.”
However, he said his love for his Catholic faith and God is number one in his life and has helped him become the man he is today.
“I went to Catholic schools growing up and when I moved to the United States, we pretty much lived in the rough area of town but there was a church close by our house,” he said.
Peña said his parents and school teachers taught him to put God first.
“I was taught that you maintain your relationship with God is number one,” he said. “When you put God first, then everything else falls into place. And whenever the priorities get messed up, where God all of a sudden falls from number one to even number two, then you start to suffer. It’s something I think is trial and error that all of us can attest to.”
In his 14th season in the major leagues, Peña said his faith has definitely played a huge role in his playing career.
“Our life as baseball players is very difficult,” said the former first round draft pick. “I couldn’t imagine not having God to lean on. The fact that I’m even playing is a miracle of God. The main reason why I even have a uniform is because God wants me to have one.”
Peña believes it is a miracle being able to play a game that many don’t get a chance to.
“Throughout my career, God has definitely had a hand on it,” he said. “It’s very humbling and it is almost like, yes, I get to live this dream. But, since I get to live this dream, I make sure to serve Him.”
Peña said serving God is a priority of his.
“If it works for the kingdom, then it’s good,” Peña said. “Whenever you deviate from making sure you have religion in your life, then everything becomes more difficult when you try to do your own thing.”
Putting one’s faith first is all about discipline, according to Peña.
“Your priorities are right when you are walking the right path,” he said. “When you are focused and disciplined, then everything works for the good.”
The veteran said MLB accommodates players who want to put their faith first by having access to chapels and churches on Sunday.
“We have a cool system here in baseball,” he said. “On Sundays, they come to us and provide us with a chapel to worship and also provide a church because since we play on Sundays, sometimes it is very difficult to get to church. When we are playing at home, I make sure I go to church, especially during all of the off-season.”
The 35-year old said he does more to get involved in his faith.
“That is all good and great but as you become more disciplined, then there is more of a need for God and all of a sudden, you take on a more proactive approach,” he said. “I’m in it Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Whenever I can hear the word of God, I’m there. It’s important to really seek God whichever position you are in.”
The Gold Glove winner (2008) and 2009 All-Star Game participant (both as a Tampa Bay Ray) travels all over the country as a baseball player and says he always has his Bible with him.
“I make sure I have time to read the word of God and also have time for prayer,” he said. “I lead my dreams and requests to God and pray on a daily basis. Ever since I was a kid, I told God and prayed to him that if it is your will, let me be a baseball player. It was shown to me that I had to work hard and put forth a lot of effort to get here but I never forgot the number one priority was making sure that God allowed it.
“Every time I go out there on the field, I pray to my Savior that I can perform and do well."
Peña said critics who say that God doesn’t care about sports don’t get the nature of God.
“God is omnipresent and He is everywhere all at once,” Peña said.
“We shouldn’t put God in a box and say he is only there for Sundays. You need to bring Him with you everywhere you go. Whether you are a baseball player or working in an office, you need to bring Him with you. We are trying to be an expression of Him. I want to be the vehicle he uses to express myself to really build the kingdom. We are working for God at the end of the day. In my vocation as a baseball player, it is really cool to hit a home run because it feels like divine intervention, that God had a hand in it.”
Peña said God loves everyone.
“So I think it is wrong to think that God only cares about big things,” he said. “Of course he cares about big things but He also cares about trivial things. I also think it is silly to think that God only listens to certain prayers that are more important than others. I think it is silly to think that way. It goes against what God is.”
Having reached the World Series (with Tampa Bay) in 2008, Peña believes that God uses professional players like him to serve the youth.
“We have a platform here, where it’s cool to be a professional athlete,” he said. “This makes us have a power of influence over a lot of young people to bring people to church. There are a lot of distractions the youth have to deal with such as drugs, crimes, and peer pressure. But, when they see an athlete on television that’s hitting home runs and praising God at the same time, it sends a powerful message to them. So I think that’s how God uses me as a vehicle and I never take that for granted. It’s a gift from God. I make sure I use that platform for God.”
Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.
Dallas, Texas, Jul 20, 2013 (CNA) -
Major updates to a popular Catholic prayer application for smart phones have been completed just in time for World Youth Day, at the Vatican’s request.
“Basically, it’s a completely new initiative with a new platform,” Andres Ruzo, developer of the “Ignio” prayer app, told CNA July 16.
Ignio, an app that serves as a kind of Catholic prayer network, has undergone some major changes since the Vatican requested that it be ready to go before World Youth Day, being held in Rio de Janeiro July 23 – 28.
Updates to the app include availability in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, availability on Android devices as well as iPhones, and daily summaries of Pope Francis’ homilies or audiences.
“We’re trying to bring light to the secular world that is bombarded by darkness on the social platform,” Ruzo explained.
Although Ignio’s development group, WeDoBelieve, was already planning a major update to the original version, a recent meeting with Vatican officials prompted the quick change.
Both Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Archbishop Octavio Ruiz Arenas, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, requested that the updates be ready in time for next week's event in Brazil.
“(Archbishop Ruiz) said he’d love to put it in a packet for World Youth Day,” Ruzo said. “Well, in 60 days we put this all together, so we’re ready to go!”
The original version already has 17,000 downloads and a four-star rating from users, but Ruzo hopes that the 2.0 version will gain even more popularity because of its quality and larger platform.
“The narrow path,” he said, “is something that has to be driven by change.”
Taking a cue from social media, Ignio designers intended to create a different “spiritual community” that allows real time connection through prayer signified by a candle that either grows or diminishes depending on the user’s activity.
To light the candle and activate the app, the user must physically bump phones with someone else who has the program.
After activation, users join small prayer circles no larger than 12 people. They can “check in” each time they participate in religious activities, notifying those in their circle about their actions. Each action grows the digital candle’s flame by a preset amount.
Users can also share prayer intentions on a prayer wall and read a private report about their past actions.
The Android version will be available Aug. 1, but new languages and summaries of Pope Francis’ addresses and homilies have been available since July 18.
The app’s website is http://www.ign.io.
Vatican City, Jul 20, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) -
A member of the Vatican department in charge of canonization says that John XXIII and John Paul II, both expected to be proclaimed saints later this year, were very similar in character and mission.
“There is a great affinity between the two Popes,” said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, member of the Congregation of the Causes of the Saints.
“John XXIII felt the need to re-translate the Gospel in an accessible language for the people of our times,” he told CNA July 17.
The cardinal noted “he wanted the language of the Gospel to be more simple so that people could understand it, appreciate it and love it.”
“He was the Pope who brought the Gospel to all the corners of the world where John XXIII could not go because he was elected Pope at an old age,” he stated. “John Paul II was the first missionary Pope.”
Pope Francis recently announced that the two former Popes will be made saints later this year. But the decision was made despite Bl. John XXIII having only had one miracle attributed to him, instead of two, which was up to now the norm to be made saint.
The miracle of Bl. John XXIII involves his apparition to a nun while on her death-bed, in which he told her “you are now cured, I have come to cure you.”
“This miracle was enough because the Pope is always a well known world figure; beatification simply recognizes local worship,” Cardinal Comastri explained.
“But for a Pope, there is no such thing as a local worship, he immediately has a universal dimension,” he remarked. “Pope Francis sustained that one miracle was enough to recognize this universal worship, which was already there.”
The Cardinal told that, on the other hand, Bl. John Paul II had another miracle approved “by the grace of God.”
“In his devotion, there have been so many miracles, wonders and healings,” said the Cardinal.
He stressed that the exact canonization date still cannot be predicted, but that Pope Francis will announce it during a consistory expected to take place late September since this decision, according to the cardinal, is his “exclusive competence.”
Cardinal Comastri reflected on the life of John XXIII, noting that the late pontiff wanted the Second Vatican Council during the early 1960s “to make the Church closer to the world and to the people and to make the world familiar with the Gospel.”
“This was his deep wish because he was a missionary man and wanted to lead people to the path of God,” he said.
According to the cardinal, Bl. John XXIII believed the council would last a short time. “But it lasted a lot longer and after the first session, he died and it was Paul VI that continued it.”
The cardinal finds it “particular” that the council began on Oct. 11, 1962, “and by Oct. 22 it seemed as if the world was on the brink of a world war.”
He told that Soviet ships were heading towards Cuba and former U.S. president John F. Kennedy announced that he would never allow those ships to come close to the United States.
“We were at risk of a war that would've probably been atomic,” the cardinal said.
“John XXIII, disarmed like David in front of Goliath, intervened and was able to make (the leader of Russia's communist party) Kruschev and Kennedy speak with each other and make them sign a non-aggression pact,” he added.
Cardinal Comastri said that this “miracle” took place on the night of Oct. 22 and that the result of it was peace.
“John XXIII said 'I hope that the one who said blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God, will tell me the same one day on the threshold of paradise,'” he remarked.
“I personally met John XXIII but from afar, during an audience, and I didn't have the familiarity that I instead had with John Paul II,” said Cardinal Comastri.
“But I had the grace of knowing well the secretary of John XXIII, Archbishop Loris F. Capovilla,” he stated.
The archbishop told him that during the night of his papal election, he could not see the people because of the bright lights and television cameras when he greeted them on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica.
According to the archbishop, after John XXIII greeted the people and gave his blessing, he went back inside.
“He told his secretary 'I couldn’t see anyone. I heard the people clapping, but this is a sign for me: if I want to see the faces of the brothers, I have to turn off the lights of pride,'” the Cardinal said.
“Only if I’m humble, I'll be able to see their eyes and take them the light of God,” the pontiff said.
The cardinal also recalled how Archbishop Capovilla told John XXIII that the Italian media were saying he would be a transitory Pope shortly after his election because of his old age.
“He smiled and replied 'And do you not believe that the others are not in transition? We all are passing rapidly, what is important is to believe behind is a sign of goodness.'”