August 10, 2009

Choosing to give our all

By Jon Leonetti *

The British Open, one of professional golf's four yearly major championships, saw something that stunned golfing fans around the world a couple weeks ago.  Tiger Woods, the world's number one golfer, did not make the cut to compete.  Big deal, right?  Well, to Sports Nation, this was huge.


You may not be a golf fan, but you have certainly heard of Tiger.  Even my grandma knows       who he is, and he has never even been on "The Price is Right."  Everyone knows Tiger Woods.  And how can we not?  We hear his name constantly.  If he is not on ESPN playing golf, he is on another channel endorsing Gillette razors.  He is beloved by millions around the globe and will probably go down as one of the greatest athletes ever.


Because he is number one, it is almost inconceivable for him not to be competing in the

British Open.  If it's not that inconceivable for you, I will put it into perspective.  Take, for instance, Michael Jordan.  Everyone--sports fans and non-sports fans alike—knows this guy.  Would it even seem plausible to think that Jordan would be told, in his prime, that he was being benched for Game 1 of the NBA Finals?  No!  That would just not happen.


Or what if Albert Pujols, the best baseball player in the world, was told he didn't make the cut to play in Game 2 of the World Series.  Not going to happen.  But this past week, we have seen arguably the greatest athlete in the world, Tiger Woods, watching at home, as 59-year-old Tom Watson makes a run for the British Open.  Unthinkable.


Was it a fluke?  Maybe.  Will it happen again?  Probably not, at least not while Tiger is in his prime.  Is there a lesson to be learned?  Definitely.


First off, allow me to say that in no way am I putting athletics anywhere near the same level as our Catholic faith.  Our faith is the foundation of who we are, at our core, and no sport, music, or profession can ever overshadow our basic identity as God's beloved.


But the correlation here between Tiger missing the cut at the British Open and our faith as young Catholics can be seen as a lesson for us within this foundation.


When one is the best at something, whether that be a sport, music, or mathematics, we would expect that person to give it their all.  Whether that be giving their all in each quarter, with each note, or with each problem that needs to be solved, the person is generally putting forth their best effort.  Go back to Tiger.  It would have been a waste of time for Tiger to even try for this championship if he were not going to give it his all.  I mean, I do not know how he thinks, but I would guess that he does not have the attitude of "I'm going to fail" when he goes into a round.  This time, however, he came up short (well, I guess he didn't even come up at all, seeing as how he missed the cut, but you get my point).  But did he go out there with a winning attitude and try?  Absolutely.


We too, as young Catholics have to take that same confidence and attitude into our homes, schools and workplaces when it comes to living out our Catholic faith.  And with that attitude of love for our God, we have to realize that we will fall.  However, we cannot stay down.  Our faith is too rich to simply "give up."  We have to "get-up."  Our weaknesses, our sinfulness, is not our end.  It is yet another opportunity for us to give ourselves over to our God.  And in giving ourselves over we know that this is not just a "one-and-done" deal.  Any athlete, musician, or mathematician has to go into each performance with the mind-frame of wanting to be perfect that day.  Yes, we will hit a wrong note.  We will strikeout.  We may even make someone decaf when they ask for regular.


But we cannot use that as an excuse not to go in each day with our game face on.  Our

Catholic faith is too important for us to simply give only a portion of ourselves.  Our

God created us for more.  He created us with the ability to say "yes" to living in the way we were created to live.  And that "yes" has to be given each day, otherwise, it is just a waste of time.


Too often today many young people are settling for mediocrity, instead of striving for the greatness we were all created for.  Look, none of us are Tiger Woods.  We just simply are not that good at golf.  But we as Catholics have all been given the ability to attain heroic virtue.  We have been given the grace to be Saints.  Why would we waste this?  Just because we fall at times, do we think that we should throw in the towel?


I cannot tell you how many people I have met that turn away from the faith when it becomes too difficult to live.  The lifestyle they were once living takes on a different form because the road seems "easier."  What so many are not getting is that it is precisely within these difficult times that we are called to renew this gift of faith we have been given at Baptism!  If Tiger wants to be the best, then he has to take this failure and learn from it.


I do not think anyone would argue that being cut from this major championship will have a lasting effect on Tiger's career.  He, however, has a choice of what that lasting effect will be.   With him already hearing comments from professional analysts that he is on the decline, he has the opportunity to play into that mind frame, or not.  The performance of Tom Watson should inspire Tiger as he makes his choice: the choice to let this major-fall continue, or the choice to pick himself up and move on.  Tom showed Tiger, and us, that we are never too old, never too frail to give up on something that we love.  And for us as Catholics, that something becomes a someone - the One who breathed life into us, asking us to go out into the world proclaiming the Good News of salvation to all. 


We as Catholics have that same choice: the choice to either walk along the road of mediocrity, or the choice to give our "yes," persevering daily in our faith.


Jon Leonetti is the author of two books entitled - Mission of the Family and Your God Is Too Boring. He currently travels the country giving keynote presentations and parish missions. Learn more by visiting

The Live Greater Foundation exists to encourage ordinary people to live in extraordinary ways. Learn more about their work at

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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