On a recent hot summer evening, a group of lacrosse players gathered around a fellow athlete on a high school field in the US before the start of their game. The 35-year-old man with perspiration beading on his forehead was more than just another player leading them in a prayer. He was a priest, reports the Catholic News Service.
When Father Mark Ivany finished the blessing and lifted his right hand in the air in the sign of the cross, he shouted out to the other players to give it their all. They ran to their assigned positions on the field to await the coach's whistle, signalling the game's beginning.
Father Ivany isn't officially the team's chaplain. In fact, this is not an official team, but a group of students, alumni and friends who gather throughout the summer for recreational sports. 'I'm not really a gym kind of guy, but it's important to me to stay in shape, so this is one of the ways I get exercise,' said the pastor of Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Washington.
The other players didn't cut Father Ivany any slack during the game, but the dark-haired priest with the toned physique and megawatt smile was swift as any of the young athletes, and just as aggressive as he threw the ball to score one for his team. This kind of activity is more than just recreation for the priest, who was an All-American lacrosse player at Massachusetts' Merrimack College in 2000.
'Physical fitness and the priesthood have a lot in common,' Father Ivany told Catholic News Service. 'The healthier I am, the longer I can be a priest in service here on this earth. I love being a priest, so I'd like to do it as actively and as engaged as possible. So, staying healthy and eating well and staying in good shape I think is going to add to my service as a priest.'
FULL STORY Priests find physical health as important as spirituality (CNS)