Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Movie review: Champions of Faith: Baseball edition

When I received a copy of this DVD recently, all ll I knew about the film was that major league baseball players and managers who were Catholics talked about their faith . I wasn't quite sure what to expect.

Watching this film was a spiritually powerful experience. It has appeal for Catholics of all ages, as well as those seeking to become closer to God in their faith. I highly recommend it.

The film opens up with an overview of how the sport of baseball can teach youngsters many things about life. This was well done and concrete, understandable not just to adults but to youngsters. And then, like a rollercoaster, the film changed gears and began to show profiles of players and managers in MLB. I found the film to be interesting and it kept my attention throughout.

Each segment showed how these men dealt with personal and professional challenges in their lives as practicing Catholics. It was an honest portrayal of how professional sports figures facing demanding schedules dealt with the temptation not to practice their faith by attending Mass and making time to pray. Some strayed for periods of time until facing a problem when they turned again to the Church for solace and support.

This was not the usual glorification of athletes that our society indulges in. Rather these men were shown as human beings who appreciate what they have in life, work hard to remain professional athletes and hold themselves accountable via their faith for the image they convey.

One athlete, Mike Sweeney, spoke of how his own father gave up a baseball career to be a better father to him and his siblings, then spoke of his own struggles with succeeding in baseball. He turned his career over to God, picturing himself on the back of a tandem bike with God in the front seat and made a deal: I'll pedal and do the footwork, Lord, and turn the rest over to You. Once he was freed spiritually, his talent surfaced and his career took off.

In other segments, players talked about how the examples of players and managers living out their faith had a positive effect on their team and encouraged somem of them to go back to church. Those who thought they were too busy and were caught up in the limelight of professional sports found a renewed interest in their faith, led by the example of those around them.

The positive messages of liviing in faith through each and every day, no matter what our circumstances, came through in this film. It would be a wonderful tool for youth groups, but I found it reaffirming as a Catholic adult to hear about many of the same spiritual themes I've dealt with in my own life.

One of the most important messages in this film for all of us dealt with humility. It stressed that a winner knows a path to success is paved with failure and that being human is necessary for us to grow. More importantly, it taught that God is always there to turn to. This very strong message is a theme throughout the film and is strikingly powerful juxtaposed with the images of the crowds roaring for those very human superstars we usually see.

The DVD is nicely packaged and is accompanied by a booklet containing a brief description of each segment of the film. Quotes, scripture passages, and other items for individual or group discussion are included. Click above to visit the website.

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