Posts Tagged ‘voice’

Director of Laity Council’s Sports Section Speaks on Prayer and Role Models

By Kathleen Naab

ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 ( The director of the “Church and Sport” section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity admits that the “Tim Tebow phenomenon” has heightened his interest in the NFL playoffs.

Legionary of Christ Father Kevin Lixey works in the Roman Curia helping the Church make a contribution to the world of sport, with the aim of promoting a sports culture suitable to the integral development of the individual.

ZENIT spoke with Father Lixey about the Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, after Tebow led his team to an overtime win in last Sunday’s playoff game.

Those familiar with the NFL — and even those who are not — might have heard of Tebow for more than his unique style as a quarterback. His outward expressions of his Christian faith are being talked about by all sorts of commentators, in the world of American football and beyond. Though certainly not the only athlete to publicly express his faith on the field, Tebow is drawing more attention than usual. We asked Father Lixey what he thinks about that.

ZENIT: Do you see Tim Tebow’s public expression of faith as a positive or negative phenomenon? Certainly it is drawing a lot of attention to Christ, in one form or another …

Father Lixey: The hype over Tim Tebow is certainly an interesting phenomenon in an ever more secularized world. I consider it something very positive. Even at the college level, while quarterback for the Florida Gators during the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title contest, Tebow wrote “John 3:16” on his eye black. The Palm Beach Post reported that 92million people Googled the verse following the game … impressive!

But, it is not the mere public expression of faith — as Tebow drops a

knee to give thanks after a touchdown, or prays with other players who include teammates and opponents after the game — that is attracting people; it is his entire person.

I had the chance to speak with the offensive coordinator who coached Tim at the Florida Gators. He said he was a very unique player who was spiritually on another stratosphere with respect to the rest of the team. Yet, Tim was respected by his teammates because he was genuine. And this is the point I would like to touch on. As one reporter noted (Chuck Klosterman, Dec. 6, 2011): “This, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb).”

While Tebow certainly sticks out for these external manifestations of his faith, not to mention his unorthodox playing style as an NFL quarterback, his personal background is also not typical for an NFL quarterback. It is a real “Cinderella” story — although those who have to tackle Tim would not consider him a Cinderella.

First of all, Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines to American parents who were serving as Baptist missionaries, as his father is a pastor. His mother, while pregnant, suffered a life-threatening infection and was advised to have an abortion but she decided not to, and both Tim and his mother survived a difficult pregnancy. Another unique aspect is that Tim, like his four older siblings, was home-schooled. Thanks to legislation that was passed in Florida in 1996, home-schooled students were allowed to compete in local high school sporting events.

ZENIT: OK, but does prayer really have a place in football? Surely God doesn’t care about who wins the Super Bowl — or does he?

Father Lixey: Judging from his public statements, Tebow is one of the few and most prominent religious athletes to recognize that God does not care about the score of football games. Tebow considers his missionary and philanthropic work much more important than football, but at the same time, possible, because of it. We all too often equate prayer with only asking good things from God, where prayer is only used “to obtain something” i.e., victory, health, or a miracle. The Catechism reminds us that prayer is also “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” and that we “we must remember God more often that we draw breath.”

Certainly there are moments and places more conducive to prayer, but there is no reason that all religious manifestations be entirely banned from the public square. These external manifestations of one’s beliefs are impressive precisely because they are public. Just as Christians once fell to their knees at the sound of the Angelus bell to remember the Incarnation, or just as the cab driver makes the point of getting out of his car to bow down toward Mecca in prayer, I see no reason why a professional football player cannot offer a prayer of thanksgiving or point to heaven instead of doing a lewd victory dance in the end zone.

Nonetheless, these external manifestations can make some people feel uneasy and it is not certain how long this will be “allowed” in the NFL. The Danish Football Federation complained to FIFA for permitting members of the Brazilian national to gather together in prayer after their victory of the 2009 Confederations Cup. FIFA’s president responded by warning that any religious manifestation would not be permitted in the 2010 World Cup.

ZENIT: Along those lines, the Tebow “phenomenon” comes at a time when the U.S. bishops are particularly concerned about religious freedom. Is reaction to Tebow’s public expression of faith a sign that their concern is warranted? Or misplaced? Or is religious freedom on the playing field one thing, and in the public square something else?

Father Lixey: Pope Benedict XVI is also particularly concerned about religious freedom and touched upon this point Monday in his address to members of the diplomatic corps, noting: “In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”

Obviously the Holy Father was not speaking about the FIFA decision to sideline religion. But it does raise the question: “What is the public square today?” Is it literally that quaint square in front of a town hall somewhere in New England, where perhaps it is no longer permissible to display a Nativity scene? Or is it the Internet, a person’s desk at work, or the professional football stadium?

I think many are impressed with Tim Tebow’s courage in professing his faith for he certainly is mocked for it. When he received flack for doing a pro-life ad with “Focus on the Family” that ran during the 2010 Superbowl, he said: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe in.” This is all Tim is asking. Whether it is standing up, or taking a knee, for what he believes in, many people do respect this, that he stands up for what he believes. Yet, others become infuriated as they consider Tebow guilty of breaching the line that all are supposed to respect, namely, that which separates the secular from the religious, the holy from the profane, the sacred from the everyday.

ZENIT: As Catholics, what can we learn from this situation — from Tebow himself, perhaps, and from the reactions he’s causing?

Father Lixey: Blessed John Paul II once reminded a group of top professional soccer players: “The eyes of sports fans throughout the world are fixed on you. Be conscious of your responsibility! It is not only the champion in the stadium but also the whole person who should become a model for millions of young people, who need ‘leaders,’ not ‘idols.’ They need men who can convey to them the zest for challenge, a sense of discipline, the courage to be honest and the joy of unselfishness.”

I believe Tim Tebow is trying to live up to these words of John Paul II and his example can prompt other athletes to be “leaders” and not idols, being a model on and off the field, especially of the corporal works of mercy. As Tim shares in his own words: “When I was a student at the University of Florida, I found great joy in taking time to encourage children suffering from cancer in hospitals or visiting a prison or juvenile detention center, or doing mission work with my family at Uncle Dick’s Orphanage in the Philippines. … Football is so popular (that) it enables an athlete like me to establish a platform for doing good deeds … to take this experience to an even greater level of outreach and influence. … After my professional career, I plan on giving my life full time to this outreach.”

That’s not a bad role model for the youth. … It’s not a bad example for us to follow either.


Interview With Founder of Legacy Project

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia, JUNE 13, 2007 ( Benedict XVI sees in Dietrich von Hildebrand a voice of reason in an age that has largely despaired of reason, says the founder of a project to disseminate the philosopher-theologian’s writings.

John Henry Crosby recently spoke with ZENIT about the mission of the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project and the influence the German thinker had on the Catholic Church throughout the 20th century.

Crosby works closely with Alice von Hildebrand, the widow of the philosopher. Dietrich von Hildebrand lived from 1889 to 1977.

The Legacy Project recently released a new edition of “The Heart,” which can be purchased at the project’s Web site.

The project has pledged to donate 10% of all purchases through this link to ZENIT, and orders destined for the continental United States are eligible for free shipping.

Q: You and Alice Von Hildebrand recently met with Benedict XVI. What is the Holy Father’s interest in this project?

Crosby: This is a challenging question because the Holy Father is interested in the Legacy Project or, more precisely, in Dietrich von Hildebrand, at many levels.

Many people will not know that the Holy Father knew von Hildebrand already as a young priest, when as young Father Ratzinger, he was the assistant pastor at von Hildebrand’s parish church in Munich.

From the very start, Father Ratzinger had a deep esteem for Dietrich von Hildebrand, both as a personality and as thinker.

Beyond his personal admiration, however, the Holy Father also sees von Hildebrand as a Catholic figure who left a tremendous mark on the Church — a mark about which many Catholics are regrettably unaware.

One could hardly attribute a greater historical importance to von Hildebrand than Cardinal Ratzinger did when he wrote about von Hildebrand in the year 2000: “I am firmly convinced that, when at some time in the future, the intellectual history of the Catholic Church in the 20th century is written, the name of Dietrich von Hildebrand will be most prominent among the figures of our time.”

These are not idle words, and the Holy Father has gone to great lengths to demonstrate how seriously he meant them.

Soon after the Legacy Project was founded in 2004, he took the rare step of joining as an honorary member, and even after his elevation to the papacy his support has been faithful and concrete.

The Legacy Project just released our first publication in collaboration with St. Augustine’s Press, namely a new edition of von Hildebrand’s book “The Heart.”

The book appeared around the time of our audience with the Holy Father. Alice von Hildebrand and I were able to present the very first copy to him, to which he responded, expressing his gratitude, “Ah, the young people will like this.”

Naturally, all of this collaboration only heightens the question of the Holy Father’s interest in Dietrich von Hildebrand. Among the many different reasons that come to mind, two in particular, or, perhaps, two ways of explaining his support, stand out.

To begin with, one might say that the Holy Father sees Dietrich von Hildebrand as a voice of reason in an age that has largely despaired of reason.

How often have we not heard it said that there is no objective moral law but only what is right for me; that there is no reality except what I choose to make my reality?

This was hardly the way of von Hildebrand, who was always concerned with conforming himself to reality or, as he often expressed himself, to “listening to the voice of being.”

Von Hildebrand has been described as a “knight for truth,” and this marvelously expresses the way he not only sought and understood the faith but the manner in which he defended it and gave witness to it through his life.

Too few people know of the great Christian witness of von Hildebrand which, during the 1920s and 1930s, reached a heroic highpoint in his intellectual anti-Nazi resistance.

I am reminded here of some words which Cardinal Christoph Schönborn recently wrote to me in a letter about von Hildebrand, for they drive home the importance of von Hildebrand for today: “I continue to think, as I have in the past, that the work of Dietrich von Hildebrand stands among the very great Catholic contributions to the thought of the 20th century.”

“Precisely in our time,” Cardinal Schönborn continued, “it is becoming increasingly clear to me how precious it is to have great thinkers formed in the faith through whom we can find orientation and support in the midst of the confusion of the present time.”

A second reason for the Holy Father’s interest in Dietrich von Hildebrand lies in the fact that he sees the “personalism” of von Hildebrand as a kind of instrument for making the Gospel fully intelligible to the contemporary world.

How ironic it is that one of the bloodiest centuries in history, namely the 20th, went hand in hand with a deepening understanding for the dignity of the human person.

We see this in the whole language of “human rights,” which is an expression of precisely this deepening sense for the dignity and inviolability of the person.

The philosophy that has arisen around this deepening sense for the dignity of persons, both as its cause and consequence, often goes by the name of personalism.

One of the greatest practitioners of personalism was the late great Pope John Paul II, who was capable of transforming so many thousands of lives in no small measure because of the personalist approach he always took.

Like John Paul, the thought and witness of von Hildebrand are rooted in his personalism, for von Hildebrand too was deeply interested in the nature and dignity of human persons — indeed, one can say that the personal forms a kind of axis of his thought.

In his personal style as well, von Hildebrand acted out of a deep sense for the mystery of personal existence — always with warmth, with love, with respect, and with a passionate desire to “win over” his interlocutor — and this, I believe, was a crucial reason for his capacity to reach people so profoundly.

If there could ever be any “test” of successful Christian living, it would have to be that of conversions — genuine conversions motivated by Christian witness. Von Hildebrand had over 100 godchildren — a remarkable reflection of the personalism he both taught and lived.

Q: What inspired you to found the von Hildebrand Legacy Project?

Crosby: I am often asked why I founded the Legacy Project. How is it that a young man of 26 — my age at establishing the project in 2004 — should devote himself to the work of appropriating, preserving and disseminating the legacy of von Hildebrand?

The answer begins in the close bond of friendship that connected my family to von Hildebrand many years before I was born. I t is hard to imagine my maternal grandfather and my parents without the profound and formative relation they had to von Hildebrand.

And while I never knew von Hildebrand personally — he died in 1977, the year before I was born — throughout my teenage years I had the privilege of coming to know his widow, Alice von Hildebrand.

My appreciation for von Hildebrand grew especially during my university years. I felt increasingly that his rich and abundant vision of the world was becoming my own, and I began to understand why generations had been nourished by his prolific writings.

Dietrich von Hildebrand was a philosopher I could follow. His heroic struggle against Nazism fired my imagination; his single-minded love and pursuit of truth presented me with a vivid embodiment of the true philosopher; and his passion for music, literature and art taught me that life without beauty is impoverished and inhuman.

The Legacy Project is my response to the gift that von Hildebrand has been in my own life. I do not doubt that I am acting on behalf of the thousands who received this same gift in their own lives.

Q: Von Hildebrand was himself a convert to Catholicism. What led to his conversion?

Crosby: Von Hildebrand’s friend and teacher, Max Scheler, drew his attention early on to the saints. Von Hildebrand discerned in them a supernatural beauty that spoke of God and bore witness to the truth of the Christian faith.

He was struck by the way in which their being was transformed by their love for Christ. The new moral ethos of the Christian saints won his heart and deeply affected him.

But it was in particular the radiant beauty that he experienced in the saints, and most of all in the God-man — it was this beauty that drew him to Christ and led to his conversion.

We can say that his book “Transformation in Christ” is in a way the story of his conversion; for the beauty of “new creature in Christ” that he unfolds so masterfully in that book is the very thing that fired his imagination and made him a Christian.

Q: Why is von Hildebrand considered one of the most influential Catholics of the 20th century?

Crosby: Historians will have to discuss this question in the years to come, for von Hildebrand’s legacy looms large in many different areas. Still, a consideration of this question could hardly ignore his prolific writings on marriage, man and woman, purity and virginity.

Given the influence of these writings on the Church’s teaching on marriage at the Second Vatican Council and in the encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” it is perhaps not an overstatement to say that von Hildebrand’s thought on marriage has affected thousands upon thousands of Catholic marriages.

For centuries Catholic writers had stressed almost exclusively the procreative meaning of the marital act. Von Hildebrand was one of the first to see that over and above the procreative meaning there is also the unitive meaning of the marital act — the enactment of the love of the spouses for each other.

With his writings on man and woman in the 1920s he prepared the ground in the Church for the teaching of Vatican II on the dual meaning of the marital act.

There is another teaching of Vatican II that he also helped to prepare, namely the new emphasis found in “Gaudium et Spes” on the dignity of natural and human values.

He did not think that only a soul in the state of grace really counted and that other values, such as values of culture and human thought, were of no real significance.

He instead contributed to a new Christian humanism in which all human goods and values are redeemed. This humanism can be seen in his rich philosophy of love; for he does not think that only Christian love of neighbor counts as love, but he takes seriously all the kinds of human love, giving particular attention to the love between man and woman.

These human loves are meant to be transformed and redeemed and not to be replaced with Christian love of neighbor.

Q: What do modern Catholics have to learn from the writings of von Hildebrand?

Crosby: Yet again, this is a challenging question, given the wide range of possible answers. I would like to draw attention to one aspect of the writings of von Hildebrand, not only because it is particularly important but also because it is not always properly appreciated.

Von Hildebrand was deeply formed by the tradition of Christian thought, above all by his great love of St. Augustine. On the other hand, he was a student of the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), who was also the teacher of Edith Stein — St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Like Edith Stein, von Hildebrand drew freely on both the tradition of Christian thought and on the many contributions of contemporary thought — including those of his famous teacher, Husserl.

In this respect, von Hildebrand and Edith Stein went against a certain Christian tendency that views contemporary thought with a degree of skepticism and even an unwillingness to acknowledge its insights.

Von Hildebrand, as well as Edith Stein, overcame, or better, superseded this tendency in the best and most effective manner, namely, by making contemporary contributions fruitful in his own work.

Not only does this mean that Christian thinkers may benefit from the rich insights of von Hildebrand; it will also help them to approach contemporary thought with a view to harvesting its true and therefore timeless aspects.

This bodes well for the tradition of Christian thought — which will only become richer and deeper.