Discipline is very valuable in one’s spiritual life and in sports because it cultivates the virtues of dedication, determination, constant practice and repetition, McKenna explained.
One central aim of Catholic Athletes for Christ, he reported, was to tell athletes “be good in your faith, be good in your sport.”
He encouraged athletes to stay bonded with friends of similar faith so that they can share their struggles and can be better disciples.
“Historically, sports was considered to be a ‘virtue-making machine.’ The values that correspond with sports were considered to go hand in glove with those that go into being a person of integrity and faith,” McKenna told CNA.
“Vince Lombardi, the former coach of the Green Bay Packers, was a good example of that. He lived his faith and it was integral to his coaching.”
McKenna thought it was unfortunate that people now associate sports with vice.
He cited a quotation of Pope Pius XII, who said that sports “develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor.”
The virtues of the Olympic model, fraternity, goodwill, and teamwork, are also praiseworthy. McKenna added that sports and athletes’ “heroic efforts” have been the vehicle used to overcome some “real, terrible social problems” such as racial discrimination.
In athletics, “great bonds” which otherwise could not have happened have formed between different races, ethnicities and faiths.
Catholic Athletes for Christ encourages athletes in their spiritual formation, particularly as Catholics, McKenna reiterated. The organization works with the Vatican often to help ensure access to the sacraments and to Mass and Bible studies.
The group also advocates better access to ministers and rabbis so athletes of other beliefs can practice their faith.
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Its website is http://www.catholicathletesforchrist.com.