Friday, July 30, 2021

Lets be prepared to pray with the Pope all August long


The Pope's Monthly Intentions for 2021


The Church

Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.

Jesuit, Ignatian Spirituality, the Spiritual Exercises and once a soldier


St. Ignatius Loyola

Feastday: July 31
Patron: Dioceses of San Sebastian and Bilbao, Biscay & Gipuzkoa, Basque Country, Military Ordinariate of the Philippines, Society of Jesus, soldiers, Educators and Education.
Birth: 1491
Death: 1556
Beatified: July 27, 1609 by Paul V
Canonized: March 12, 1622 by Gregory XV

Born Inigo Lopez de Loyola in 1491, the man known as Ignatius of Loyola entered the world in Loiola, Spain. At the time, the name of the village was spelled "Loyola," hence the discrepancy. Inigo came of age in Azpeitia, in northern Spain. Loyola is a small village at the southern end of Azpeitia.

Inigio was the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died when he was just seven, and he was then raised by Maria de Garin, who was the wife of a blacksmith. His last name, "Loyola" was taken from the village of his birth.

Despite the misfortune of losing his mother he was still a member of the local aristocracy and was raised accordingly. Inigio was an ambitious young man who had dreams of becoming a great leader. He was influenced by stories such as The Song of Roland and El Cid.

At the age of sixteen, he began a short period of employment working for Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of Castile. By the time he was eighteen, he became a soldier and would fight for Antonio Manrique de Lara, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Navarre.

Seeking wider acclaim, he began referring to himself as Ignatius. Ignatius was a variant of Inigio. The young Ignatius also gained a reputation as a duelist. According to one story, he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus.

Ignatius fought in several battles under the leadership of the Duke of Najera. He had a talent for emerging unscathed, despite participating in many battles. His talent earned him promotions and soon he commanded his own troops.

In 1521, while defending the town of Pamplona against French attack, Ignatius was struck by a cannonball in the legs. One leg was merely broken, but the other was badly mangled. To save his life and possibly his legs, doctors performed several surgeries. There were no anesthetics during this time, so each surgery was painful. Despite their best efforts, Ignatius' condition deteriorated. After suffering for a month, his doctors warned him to prepare for death.

On June 29, 1521, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, Ignatius began to improve. As soon as he was healthy enough to bear it, part of one leg was amputated which while painful, sped his recovery.

During this time of bodily improvement, Ignatius began to read whatever books he could find. Most of the books he obtained were about the lives of the saints and Christ. These stories had a profound impact on him, and he became more devout.

One story in particular influenced him, "De Vita Christi" (The life of Christ). The story offers commentary on the life of Christ and suggested a spiritual exercise that required visualizing oneself in the presence of Christ during the episodes of His life. The book would inspire Ignatius' own spiritual exercises.

As he lay bedridden, Ignatius developed a desire to become a working servant of Christ. He especially wanted to convert non-Christians.

Among his profound realizations, was that some thoughts brought him happiness and others sorrow. When he considered the differences between these thoughts, he recognized that two powerful forces were acting upon him. Evil brought him unpleasant thoughts while God brought him happiness. Ignatius discerned God's call, and began a new way of life, following God instead of men.

By the spring of 1522, Ignatius had recovered enough to leave bed. On March 25, 1522, he entered the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat. Before an image of the Black Madonna, he laid down his military garments. He gave his other clothes away to a poor man.

He then walked to a hospital in the town of Manresa. In exchange for a place to live, he performed work around the hospital. He begged for his food. When he was not working or begging, he would go into a cave and practice spiritual exercises.

His time in prayer and contemplation helped him to understand himself better. He also gained a better understanding of God and God's plan for him.

The ten months he spent between the hospital and the cavern were difficult for Ignatius. He suffered from doubts, anxiety and depression. But he also recognized that these were not from God.

Ignatius began recording his thoughts and experiences in a journal. This journal would be useful later for developing new spiritual exercises for the tens of thousands of people who would follow him. Those exercises remain invaluable today and are still widely practiced by religious and laity alike.

The next year, in 1523, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His goal was to live there and convert non-believers. However, the Holy Land was a troubled place and Church officials did not want Ignatius to complicate things further. They asked him to return after just a fortnight.

Ignatius realized he needed to obtain a complete education if he wanted to convert people. Returning to Barcelona, Ignatius attended a grammar school, filled with children, to learn Latin and other beginning subjects. He was blessed with a great teacher during this time, Master Jeronimo Ardevol.

After completing his primary education, Ignatius traveled to Alcala, then Salamanca, where he studied at universities. In addition to studying, Ignatius often engaged others in lengthy conversations about spiritual matters.

These conversations attracted the attention of the Inquisition.

In Spain, the Inquisition was responsible for ferreting out religious dissent and combating heresy. The Inquisition was not as it has long been depicted in the media.

The Inquisition accused Ignatius of preaching without any formal education in theology. Without this training, it was likely that Ignatius could introduce heresy by way of conversation and misunderstanding.

Ignatius was questioned three times by the Inquisition, but he was always exonerated.

Ignatius eventually decided he needed more education, so he traveled north, seeking better schools and teachers. He was 38 years old when he entered the College of Saint Barbe of the University of Paris. This education was very structured and formalized. Later, Ignatius would be inspired to copy this model when establishing schools. The ideas of prerequisites and class levels would arise from the Jesuit schools, which here heavily inspired by Ignatius' experience in Paris.

Ignatius earned a master's degree at the age of 44. When he subsequently applied for his doctorate, he was passed over because of his age. He also suffered from ailments, which the school was concerned could impact his studies.

While at school in Paris, Ignatius roomed with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier. Faber was French and Xavier was Basque. The men became friends and Ignatius led them in his spiritual exercises. Other men soon joined their exercises and became followers of Ignatius. The group began to refer to themselves as "Friends in the Lord," an apt description.

The circle of friends, shared Ignatius' dream of traveling to the Holy Land, but conflict between Venice and the Turks made such a journey impossible. Denied the opportunity to travel there, the group then decided to visit Rome. There, they resolved to present themselves to the Pope and to serve at his pleasure.

Pope Paul III received the group and approved them as an official religious order in 1540. The band attempted to elect Ignatius as their first leader, but he declined, saying he had not lived a worthy life in his youth. He also believed others were more experienced theologically.

The group insisted however, and Ignatius accepted the role as their first leader. They called themselves the Society of Jesus. Some people who did not appreciate their efforts dubbed them "Jesuits" in an attempt to disparage them. While the name stuck, by virtue of their good work the label lost its negative connotation.

Ignatius imposed a strict, almost military rule on his order. This was natural for a man who spent his youth as a soldier. It might be expected that such rigor would dissuade people from joining, but it had the opposite effect. The order grew.

The Society of Jesus soon found its niche in education. Before Ignatius died in 1556, his order established 35 schools and boasted 1,000 members. The order was responsible for much of the work of stopping the spread of the Protestant Reformation. The Society advocated the use of reason to persuade others and combat heresy.

Today, the Society of Jesus is known for its work in educating the youth around the world. Several universities have been founded in the name of Ignatius and in the traditional Jesuit spirit. The Jesuits also perform many other important works around the globe.

Ignatius' passed away on July 31, 1556, at the age of 64. He was beatified by Pope Paul V on July 27, 1609 and canonized on March 12, 1622. His feast day is July 31. He is the patron saint of the Society of Jesus, soldiers, educators and education.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The golden worded Saint and Doctor of the Church


St. Peter Chrysologus

St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Feast-July 30) Born at Imola, Italy in 380, St. Peter was baptized, educated, and ordained a deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola. St. Peter merited being called "Chrysologus" (golden-worded) from his exceptional oratorical eloquence. In 433, Pope Sixtus III consecrated him bishop of Ravenna. He practiced many corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ruled his flock with utmost diligence and care. He extirpated the last vestiges of paganism and other abuses that had sprouted among his people, cautioning them especially against indecent dancing. "Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil," he remarked, "cannot rejoice with Christ." He also counseled the heretic Eutyches (who had asked for his support) to avoid causing division but to learn from the other heretics who were crushed when they hurled themselves against the Rock of Peter. He died at Imola, Italy in 450 and in 1729 was made a Doctor of the Church, largely as a result of his simple, practical, and clear sermons which have come down to us, nearly all dealing with Gospel subjects.

USCCB reacts to the Democratic House killing the Hyde Amendment


U.S. Bishops’ Chairmen Respond to House Vote to Force Taxpayers to Fund Elective Abortions


WASHINGTON - Today, the House voted 219 to 208 in favor of H.R. 4502, a package of appropriations bills that currently excludes the 46-year-old Hyde Amendment and other longstanding, bipartisan provisions like the Weldon Amendment. Eliminating these provisions would force taxpayers to pay for elective abortions and would have the effect of forcing health care providers and professionals to perform and refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as forcing employers and insurers to cover and pay for abortion. 

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, issued the following statement:  

“The House has voted in a way that is completely out of step with the will of the American people who overwhelmingly oppose taxpayer-funded abortion. The Hyde Amendment has saved at least 2.4 million lives since its enactment. Without it, millions of poor women in desperate circumstances will make the irrevocable decision to take the government up on its offer to end the life of their child. 

“To be certain, this bill includes provisions that help vulnerable people, including pregnant moms. As we have said before, ‘being “right” in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life.’ In truth, ‘the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the “rightness” of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community.’[i]

“The injustice in HR 4502 extends to removing conscience protections and exemptions for healthcare providers who believe abortion is wrong, or whose faith drives them to serve and heal lives, instead of taking them.  

“Funding the destruction of innocent unborn human lives, and forcing people to kill in violation of their consciences, are grave abuses of human rights. We call on the Senate to redress this evil in H.R. 4502, and for Congress to ultimately pass appropriations bills that fully support and protect human dignity, and the most vulnerable among us.”

American Priest on path to Sainthood honored by South Korea for his service, bravery and heroic witness


South Korea honors Father Kapaun with country’s highest military honor

Father Emil Joseph Kapaun, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., and a military chaplain during the Korean War, is pictured in this undated photo. A candidate for sainthood, he died May 23, 1951, in a North Korean prisoner of war camp where he ministered to fellow POWs. (CNS photo/U.S. Army via The Catholic Advance)

WICHITA, Kan. (CNS) — Father Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Wichita Diocese who laid down his life as a military chaplain during the Korean War, received South Korea’s highest military decoration posthumously in Seoul July 27.

Ray Kapaun, Father Kapaun’s nephew, accepted the Order of Military Merit on behalf his uncle, a candidate for sainthood, from President Moon Jae-in.

The award, South Korea’s highest decoration for outstanding military service, was given to the “Jesus of the Korean War,” as Father Kapaun is known, for his dedication to peace and freedom on the battlefields of Korea. It was presented on the 71st U.N. Forces Participation Day.

Ray Kapaun’s wife, Lee, accompanied her husband at the presentation at Cheongwadae, known as the Blue House. It is the executive office and official residence of the president.

Father Kapaun, who has the title “Servant of God,” was ordained a priest for Wichita June 9, 1940. He served as a U.S. Army chaplain in World War II and the Korean War and held the rank of captain.

He died in 1951 in a North Korean POW camp after heroically serving his fellow prisoners. His cause for canonization is now under consideration by the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes.

“Under the extreme situation of being wounded and taken prisoner, Father Kapaun showed bravery of protecting freedom, peace and his belief,” said Moon, according to a Korea Times story on the award presentation.

“Also, he celebrated Mass to pray for the enemy, which was a true practice of love,” said Moon, who is Catholic. He added the late priest’s life “will become a great spiritual legacy for not only the U.S. and Korea but also for all of humanity.”

In March, Father Kapaun’s remains were identified by the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency from among nearly 800 unknown soldiers buried around 1956 in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. The transfer from North Korea was the result of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement.

His remains will be flown to Kansas after a Mass Sept. 23 in Honolulu’s Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace. A vigil will be held the evening of Sept. 28 at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas, just outside Wichita. A morning funeral Mass will be celebrated at the arena the next day. Afterward the priest’s remains will be entombed in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita.

Father Kapaun will be in front of the large crucifix in the east apse of the cathedral, which was moved closer to the wall to make room for Father Kapaun’s tomb. The foundation originally under the cross is being reinforced for the 5,500-pound marble vault.

“In addition to the liturgical events, we’re working with officials to give Father Kapaun all the military honors and we’re receiving a lot of RSVPs from all over the country from those in the military and lay faithful who wish to pay their respects,” Scott Carter, coordinator of the Father Kapaun Guild, told The Catholic Advance, Wichita’s diocesan newspaper. “It’s going to be a momentous event.”

Diocesan officials are preparing for visits and pilgrimages to the cathedral after Father Kapaun’s remains are entombed.

“There are a lot of people excited to have him back,” Carter said. “There is a lot of attention now nationally and internationally.”

In South Korea The Korea Times also reported that Moon said that Father Kapaun’s “sacrifice and commitment” — and that of the others he honored the same day from 22 countries — “have become the pride of the Republic of Korea.”

Carter said a Catholic publishing company in Korea is republishing “The Story of Chaplain Kapaun: Patriot Priest of the Korean Conflict,” published in 1954 by the late Msgr. Arthur Tonne. The book was translated into Korean by a South Korean cardinal when he was a seminarian.

In a 2013 White House ceremony, Father Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on the battlefield. It is the United States’ highest military honor.

More information about Father Kapaun’s life, ministry and sainthood cause can be found here.

Eucharistic guidance should unite, not divide but should truly defend the Eucharist


Eucharist document should unite, not divide, the church, panelists advise

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., elevates the Eucharist during a March 15, 2020, livestreamed Mass. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Newark)

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in the middle of drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist, received words of advice from a panel convened July 28 to discuss the challenges facing the American church as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic and seeks to overcome divisions that threaten church unity.

They heard about the importance of bishops being pastors rather than “chaplains to factions,” the need to communicate church teaching clearly and without fear, and hearing from as many voices as possible in the weeks remaining before they consider the document during their fall general assembly in November.

The 75-minute discussion left Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, with ideas to share with the document’s drafters working to strengthen the foundation of the Eucharist being the source and summit of Catholic life.

Bishop Rhoades is chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, which is charged with drafting the document.

He acknowledged the path ahead poses challenges, but it is one the doctrine committee is prepared to address.

“The goal of the document is to contribute to the eucharistic revival,” he said, recapping the USCCB strategic plan for 2021-2024 that is focused on the Eucharist being the foundation of Christian life.

“We’re striving to write a document that will contribute to a real eucharistic revival in the church in our nation by highlighting the truth about the amazing gift that Jesus gave on the night before he died, the importance of beauty and reverence in our celebration of this great mystery, and the wonderful graces that we receive in the Eucharist to grow in our Christian lives,” he explained.

While the document will include a section focused on eucharistic coherence, the church’s teaching on the reception of Communion, there is no plan to adopt a national policy to prohibit anyone from receiving the Eucharist, the bishop said.

It’s a statement Bishop Rhoades has repeated several times since the bishops’ virtual spring general assembly in June during which the bishops approved drafting the document. In the vote, 75% of the bishops said “yes,” while 25% said “no.”

During long discussions on the document before the vote, several bishops specifically pointed to President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who are Catholic, for not actively seeking to end legal abortion and called for them to be denied Communion.

Work has begun on sections of the document that pertain to church teaching while the section on eucharistic coherence will not be drafted until after a series of regional meetings among the bishops concludes by the end of August, Bishop Rhoades said.

As the drafting process continues, the USCCB’s actions related to the Eucharist are being watched around the world, said panelist Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. “The Eucharist is on everyone’s mind,” he said.

Cardinal Tobin was one of the minority of prelates who voted against drafting the document at the current time. “Having the bishops on a Zoom call is not an opportunity for discernment,” he said.

He called on the bishops to take up Pope Francis’ call to synodality to discuss and hear from many voices before reaching consensus on the issues and concerns facing the church.

The pandemic has left people separated from the Eucharist and Cardinal Tobin suggested that the bishops reach out and welcome people back to the church rather than restrict participation in church life.

The debate that showcased the wide disagreements among the bishops on drafting the document should not be one that causes the bishops to fear developing a document that stresses church teaching, explained panelist Gretchen Crowe, editorial director for periodicals at Our Sunday Visitor in Indiana.

The OSV Newsweekly published an editorial supporting the vote to draft the document. Explaining the reasoning behind the editorial, Crowe said it is vital for Catholics to better know church teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist.

“In my mind, a fear of division or a fear of anything else really, never should prevent the church from teaching what it professes about anything, much less what it teaches about the real presence (of) Jesus Christ in the Eucharist,” Crowe said.

However, Mollie Wilson O’Reilly, editor-at-large at Commonweal magazine, expressed concern that a document on the Eucharist would bolster an apparent connection the Catholic bishops have with the Republican Party.

She questioned why some bishops have been so outspoken against Biden, the nation’s second Catholic president, when they failed to be as vocal about the transgressions of former President Donald Trump’s policies that also endangered lives.

Saying she agreed that Democratic politicians should be “pushed” for their support of abortion, Wilson O’Reilly said she believed that Catholics would flee in greater numbers because the document on the Eucharist will be perceived as political rather than genuine teaching.

Panelist John Carr, co-director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, which sponsored the panel, credited Bishop Rhoades for taking on a most difficult task in a time of divisiveness among the bishops and within the church.

“It’s important to be candid about the differences here,” said Carr, who formerly was executive director of the bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “How did the Eucharist, which is the sign of unity at our parish and our lives and in our church, somehow become the thing we fight about in terms of politics? It seems to me like we’ve gotten ourselves in a terrible place.”

Carr said he disagrees with the bishops’ decision to move forward on the document.

“The pastoral dimensions are really serious,” he said. “This is terrible timing and, as people have said, in the midst of a pandemic, racial reckoning, let’s have a fight about whether the president ought to be ale to receive Communion. Publicly, this showcases our divisions and is a diversion.”

The program opened with a discussion between Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, and Kim Daniels, co-director of the Georgetown initiative. The archbishop recapped what he told the U.S. bishops during their spring general assembly in June.

The diplomat said in the discussion recorded July 27 that he had stressed that any work the conference undertakes must be rooted in synodality, as Pope Francis has invited the church to do. Synodality allows for discerning a path forward through thoughtful and respectful conversation that allows diverse voices to be heard and overcome misunderstanding, he said.

He also called on the bishops to remember that they are teachers and that the pope has invited them to teach about the sacraments “so we can receive the grace of God.” He also cautioned about the “instrumentalization” of the sacrament of the Eucharist lest it become a tool for ideologies to overtake.

“The sacraments of salvation are to be administered often to the people,” he said. “As such the church should remain united.”

Cardinal Tobin also called for synodality to be part of the bishops’ process as the document is drafted.

“What we need is a broader consultation with the American church on the mystery of the Eucharist, and not one, like or not, that is perceived as a political action,” Cardinal Tobin said. “We have a perfect invitation from the Holy Father to adopt a more synodal church, people who are talking together as we walk the same road.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Tomorrow we now celebrate not just Martha but Mary and Lazarus too


St. Martha’s feast day will now include Mary and Lazarus, after change from Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Recognizing their welcome of and witness to Christ, Pope Francis has approved changing the liturgical feast of St. Martha to include her sister and brother, Mary and Lazarus, on the church’s universal calendar of feast days.

The names of Mary and Lazarus will be added to the July 29 feast on the General Roman Calendar, the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

The Vatican Feb. 2 published the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments’ decree ordering the change in calendars.

Signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, the congregation’s prefect, the decree said Pope Francis approved the memorial for Martha, Mary and Lazarus after “considering the important evangelical witness they offered in welcoming the Lord Jesus into their home, in listening to him attentively, (and) in believing that he is the resurrection and the life.”

“In the household of Bethany, the Lord Jesus experienced the family spirit and friendship of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and for this reason the Gospel of John states that he loved them,” it said. “Martha generously offered him hospitality, Mary listened attentively to his words and Lazarus promptly emerged from the tomb at the command of the one who humiliated death.”

The decree explained that the “traditional uncertainty of the Latin church” regarding the identity of three women named Mary in the Gospels -- Mary Magdalene, Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, and Mary “the sinner whose sins the Lord had forgiven” -- was resolved “in recent studies and times,” thus paving the way for celebrating the siblings in one memorial.

A separate congregation decree, also published Feb. 2, said the pope also approved the optional memorial of three doctors of the church: Sts. Gregory of Narek, a 10th-century Armenian monk; John of Avila, the famed 16th-century preacher, confessor and spiritual writer; and 12th-century German abbess Hildegard of Bingen.

The saints, who hail from both the Eastern and Western church traditions, were declared doctors of the church for their important contributions to theology and spirituality.

In its decree, the congregation explained that those given the title of “doctor of the church” exemplify the “link between holiness and understanding things divine and also human.

“Indeed, the wisdom that characterizes these men and women is not solely theirs, since by becoming disciples of divine wisdom, they have themselves become teachers of wisdom for the entire ecclesial community,” it said. “It is in this light that the holy ‘doctors’ are inscribed in the General Roman Calendar.”

The optional memorial for St. Gregory of Narek will be celebrated Feb. 27, while those for Sts. John of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen will be celebrated May 10 and Sept. 17, respectively.

There are currently 36 doctors of the church, including Sts. John Chrysostom, Augustine, Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux.

The very public Catholic witness of Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky


In race for another gold, Ledecky relies on grace of God

"The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me..."

Agold in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo cemented Katie Ledecky’s status at the “Michael Jordan” of swimming. At 24, she set a new Olympic record in the event’s inaugural Olympic race.

Despite some faltering in Tokyo, several of Ledecky’s Olympic and world records still stand. She also picked up a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle. Her career is what most swimmers only dream of doing.

Her success is inspiring and many wonder how she is able to remain at such a high level of athletic perfection while the world watches. The pressure at the Olympic games is enormous and few can ever understand what the experience might be like.

What is Ledecky’s secret to success? How does she remain calm and collected, knowing that everyone expects her to break another record?

In a 2016 interview with the Catholic Standard she revealed, “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me.”

Ledecky was born and raised Catholic, attending Catholic schools all the way through high school. Her parents were supportive at an early age of her passion for swimming, encouraging her at the age of six to “just try to make it across the entire length of the pool without stopping.” It was her older brother who inspired Ledecky to start swimming, even though she wasn’t very good at it at the time.

Along with her strong family life, Ledecky credits her education for providing many life lessons that have given her the balance she needed to be successful in the pool. In fact, after winning gold in London, Ledecky went first to visit the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters in Maryland to thank them for all their support throughout the years. In 2016, she planned to do the same. This did not surprise the sisters at all, for they recognized her strong Catholic faith during her time at school.  

Referring to her Catholic education, Ledecky highlighted how it made a huge impact on her swimming career.

“Going to these schools was important to my swimming – my Catholic schools challenged me, they broadened my perspective and they allowed me to use my mind in ways that take me beyond just thinking about swim practices, swim meets and sports.

“Going to these schools also allowed me to make wonderful friends. Friends, teachers and administrators from my schools have all helped me meet my goals in swimming, and in life generally, by being supportive and caring. The importance of balance in one’s life is a lesson I have learned, and one that I hope will help me in   college and beyond.”

In addition to thanking her Catholic schools for the support and encouragement they gave, Ledecky has also helped her local Catholic community in different ways. In 2015, she helped promote the “Walk with Francis” pledge that was organized by the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. In her promotional material, she explains how loving God is not abstract but concrete. and then pledges to support charitable organizations such as Catholic Charities, Shepherd’s Table, and Bikes for the World.

Ledecky continues to defend ready to defend her Olympic title in the 800-meter freestyle on Thursday, and hopes to dominate the pool again.

When she does, she will be relying not only on her hours and hours of practice, but also on the grace of God. Ledecky knows that with God “all things are possible” and that he will give her strength and peace when she needs it the most.