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

PHOTO GALLERY:

COMING UP: Art: A needed sacrament of faith

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A sacrament is an outward, material sign of an inward, spiritual reality. The seven sacraments are signs instituted by Jesus to communicate his grace to us. In addition, we have sacramentals, signs and practices that draw us more deeply into our faith. We do not have an abstract faith; it is sacramental and incarnational, centered on the coming into the flesh of the Son of God and his continued presence in the Church through the Eucharist.
Art, following this sacramental identity, expresses our faith, draws us into prayer, and mediates divine realities. In a time of relativism, which shuns proposals of truth and goodness, we need to rely more upon the witness of beauty. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this opportunity and need: “I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.”

Does this approach actually work for evangelization? Elizabeth Lev details one example, the crucial role of art at a time of crisis in the Church, in her book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art (Sophia, 2018). As core Catholic doctrines faced opposition from Protestants, the Council of Trent called for the creation of art to assist in renewal. The Council said that art should instruct, help to remember and meditate divine realities, admonish, provide examples, and to inspire the faithful to order their lives in imitation of the saints (4). Lev adds her own synthesis of how art assists the Church, asserting that “art is useful in evangelization…. can bring clarity…. [and] is uplifting” (6). The Catholic Reformation and Baroque periods, particularly in central Italy, were ages “of unprecedented art patronage from the top down, effectively a very expensive PR campaign meant to awaken the hearts and minds of millions of pilgrims who were making their way to the Eternal City” (5).

And it worked. It was not art for art’s sake that led Catholics to stay true to the faith, but art’s ability to express the deep spiritual vision of the Church as articulated by the great Catholic reformers. Lev lists the main protagonists of this cooperative work:  “The spiritual insight of Charles Borromeo, Robert Bellarmine, Federico Borromeo, St. Philip Neri, and Paleotti fused with the creative talents of Caravaggio, Barocci, the Carracci School, Lavinia Fontana, and Guido Reni, making for a heady cocktail designed to entice the faithful into experiencing mystery” (16). Lev provides a masterful overview of the key theological issues at stake and how artists were commissioned to visualize the faith in these areas, including the sacraments, mediation of the saints, purgatory, and practices such as pilgrimage.

Developments in technique enabled art to come alive, actively mediating faith, by using theatrical characteristics that invited the viewer into the drama of the scene. Altar pieces beckoned down to the action of the altar, pointing to the reality occurring there, such as Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ (37), and others drew the viewer into the scene, as with Frederico Barocci’s extended hand of St. Francis bearing the stigmata, inviting an imitation of Christ (145). Other paintings inspired religious sentiments such as contrition, as found in Reni’s St. Peter Penitent, who models how to weep for one’s sins and to beat one’s chest in repentance (45), and Titian’s good thief who reaches out to Christ as one would do in confession (52). The book beautifully presents the artwork, and Lev seamlessly combines art criticism and religious commentary.

The time period of Lev’s book bears some striking similarities to contemporary struggles. Many Catholics continue to question the faith, and we have experienced a return to iconoclasm in the last fifty years, bent on the destruction of the Church’s sacramental vision. We, too, need the inspiration of art, which calls us to renew our faith: “Art no longer allow[s] the viewer to stand at a safe distance, as a passive recipient of grace, but exhort[s] everyone to act” (180). For the success of the New Evangelization, we need a return to beauty. This will require us to invest in a renaissance of the arts, knowing that this investment will support the Church’s efforts to communicate the truth of our faith, for the salvation of souls.