Denver priests win first Colorado Priests Softball Game

Mark Haas

When shortstop Fr. Darrick Leier stepped to the plate in the first inning with the bases loaded, the former college athlete knew he had a chance to do something big.

“They were all playing way in, they were trying to feel everyone out to see how they could hit and I knew if I could get a decent one there it would go over their heads… and that’s what happened,” Fr. Leier said.

Fr. Darrick Leier hits a grand slam

Fr. Leier’s first inning grand slam was just the start of a big night for the bats of the Denver priests, as they outslugged the Colorado Springs/Pueblo priests 23-12 on Friday, July 15 in the first Colorado Priests Softball Game.

“You know we prayed hard before we showed up tonight…I bet they did too, so it couldn’t have been that,” said left fielder Fr. Mike Rapp with a laugh. “We were swinging for the fences, taking chances, a lot of hustle out there.”

The Denver team scored five runs in each of the first two innings (the max per inning), and when the Springs/Pueblo team made a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Denver priests answered back with five more runs in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach.

“It was a nice break from the parish life and it was good to be with priests and the people of God,” said pitcher Fr. Nick Thompson. The game was played at the Colorado Sky Sox minor league stadium in Colorado Springs with over 700 fans in attendance at the inaugural event.

“They were doing the wave, cheering loud, and we heard some chants back and forth,” said Fr. Rapp.

Security Service Field (Colorado Springs)

The game was friendly, but also competitive. There was plenty of scoring, some highlight-reel catches in the field and only a couple of pulled hamstrings.

“I hope that everyone enjoyed seeing their priest in a different atmosphere,” said outfielder Fr. Scott Bailey. “So many people only see their priest at Mass and it is a formal setting, so to see us engaging each other – I hope they saw the human side of us that they sometimes might not get to see.”

The game was put on by the Catholic Radio Network to benefit and promote vocations.

“I think it is helpful for everyone to see the humanity of the priests, just like it is important for us to encounter the humanity of Jesus Christ,” said center fielder Fr. Ryan O’Neill, the Director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Denver.

“If Jesus Christ is just this distant deity who is far away but we don’t have a personal relationship with him it is hard to engage your Catholic life,” said Fr. O’Neill. “But if you encounter the humanity of Jesus – he had a family, he wept, he was sad, he was happy, he slept, he ate, he worked – then you realize he is a human you can relate to, and the same thing with priests.”

Fr. O’Neill said that to see a priest playing sports, cheering for a teammate, hitting a home run, striking out and in general just having fun will hopefully make some people look at the priesthood in a new way.

“We don’t just sit around in an office all the time, working on sacramental records,” Fr. O’Neill said. “We like to live life to the fullest and that means having moments of fun and recreation and spending time with each other. So those things are a good opportunity for the world to see our joy, that when we are having fun they may say ‘wow, hey maybe the priesthood isn’t all doldrums.’”

And while the Denver priests walked away the winners this year, they say the event was a success regardless of the final score.

“We do it all for the Glory of God,” said Fr. Leier. “God has given us human bodies and free will and to use it for his glory is awesome!”

Archdiocese of Denver Roster:

Fr. Scott Bailey / Risen Christ
Fr. Darrick Leier / St. Clare of Assisi – Edwards
Fr. Ivan Monteiro / St. Thomas More
Fr. Joe McLagan / Holy Family High School
Fr. Ryan O’Neill / Director of Priestly Vocations
Fr. Mike Rapp / Casa Santa Maria
Fr. Roberto Rodriguez / Ascension
Fr. Ron Sequeira / St. Frances Cabrini
Fr. Nick Thompson / St. Rose of Lima
Fr. Chris Uhl / Holy Ghost
Fr. Brady Wagner / Formation Adviser
Fr. Jason Wunsch / St. Gianna Beretta Molla
Fr. Eric Zegeer / Risen Christ
Fr. Joseph Toledo (coach)/ St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

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COMING UP: Historical clarity and today’s Catholic contentions

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One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church — or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

But that’s not the way things were pre-Vatican II, as I explain at some length and with some engaging stories in my new book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform (Basic Books). And no one knew the truth about pre-Vatican II Catholicism better than the man who was elected pope during the Council and guided Vatican II through its last three sessions, St. Paul VI.

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII, thought to be an elderly placeholder, stunned both the Church and the world by announcing his intention to summon the 21st ecumenical council. That night, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (who would be known as Paul VI four and a half years later), called an old friend. An experienced churchman who had long served Pius XII as chief of staff, Montini saw storm clouds on the horizon: “This holy old boy,” he said of John XXIII, “doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

That shrewd observation turned out to be spot on –– and not simply because of the Council, but because of the bees and hornets that had been buzzing around the ecclesiastical nest for well over 100 years.

Contrary to both traditionalist and progressive misconceptions, Catholicism was not a placid institution, free of controversy and contention, prior to Vatican II. As I show in The Irony of Modern Catholic History, there was considerable intellectual ferment in the Church during the mid-19th century, involving great figures like the recently-canonized John Henry Newman, the German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (grandfather of modern Catholic social thought), and the Italian polymath Antonio Rosmini (praised by John Paul II in the 1999 encyclical, Faith and Reason, and beatified under Benedict XVI). That ferment accelerated during the 25 year pontificate of Leo XIII, who launched what I dub the “Leonine Revolution,” challenging the Church to engage the modern world with distinctively Catholic tools in order to convert the modern world and lay a firmer foundation for its aspirations.

American Catholicism, heavily focused on institution-building, was largely unaware of the sharp-edged controversies (and ecclesiastical elbow-throwing) that followed Leo XIII’s death in 1903. Those controversies, plus the civilization-shattering experience of two world wars in Europe, plus a rapid secularization process in Old Europe that began in the 19th century, set the stage for John XXIII’s epic opening address to Vatican II. There, the Pope explained what he envisioned Vatican II doing: gathering up the energies let loose by the Leonine Revolution and focusing them through the prism of an ecumenical council, which he hoped would be a Pentecostal experience energizing the Church with new evangelical zeal.

John XXIII understood that the Gospel proposal could only be made by speaking to the modern world in a vocabulary the modern world could hear. Finding the appropriate grammar and vocabulary for contemporary evangelization didn’t mean emptying Catholicism of its content or challenge, however. As the Pope insisted, the perennial truths of the faith were to be expressed with the “same meaning” and the “same judgment.” Vatican II, in other words, was to foster the development of doctrine, not the deconstruction of doctrine. And the point of that doctrinal development was to equip the Church for mission and evangelization, for the modern world would be converted by truth, not ambiguity or confusion.

Over the past six and a half years, it’s become abundantly clear that more than a few Catholics, some quite prominently placed, still don’t get this history. Nor do the more vociferous elements in the Catholic blogosphere. Which is why I hope The Irony of Modern Catholic History helps facilitate a more thoughtful debate on the Catholic present and future, through a better understanding of the Catholic past.