Roberto Clemente - Baseball Legend, Humanitarian and now... A SAINT!?
One of Baseballs most revered heroes of all time, Clemente has been remembered most for his athletic accomplishments: his immense batting average of .317, 3,000 hits, 240 home runs, a Nation League All-Star 15 times, a 2X World Series Champion, for being the first Latin American and Caribbean player to win a World Series as a starter, receive a National League MVP Award and a World Series MVP Award. His involvement in humanitarianism and charity work has become inspirational as his athletic achievements.
But one aspect of his that has been hidden from the public? His Catholic Faith and his (possible) canonization to Sainthood!
Richard Rossi, a 51 year old Independent Catholic filmmaker, former Evangelical minister and dedicated Clemente fan, has been hard at work filming an autobiographical film called "Baseball's Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories", which follows Clemente's life in 21 significant moments. From his numerous Baseball feats and triumphs to his struggle with racial discrimination. What is revealed is a religious side to his life that most, if not all, of his biographies never covered before. Rossi's goal with the documentary is to make a case of canonizing Roberto Clemente as a Saint!
Rossi was only 9 years old when Clemente died in an aviation accident while en route to Nicaragua delivering food, aid and Baseball supplies to Earthquake victims on December 31, 1972. So the fact that self-sacrificial charity had marked the final moments of Clemente's life makes the case for his Sainthood all the more poignant.
The canonization of a Saint, amongst other requirements, must involve two healing miracles which "is an immediate, complete and spontaneous cure of a serious and pathological disease or condition which medical science cannot explain or refute." (See link below) Most miracles, however, in normal circumstances are considered much later in the process after a case for a Catholic Saint is opened.
To fully explain the canonization process is immeasurably complex, but here is a simpler way of describing the process of Sainthood:
A big supporter of Rossi's project, along with many others, is Duane Rieder, executive director of the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh. Other supporters include Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and even Pope Francis himself via papal letter!
Though the canonization process of Sainthood is lengthy, even by centuries, there in lies the reason for the Catholic Churches longevity. A quick-paced process would overlook miniscule but essential details in the holiness of a person's life. The life of a Saint must be authentic and credible.
Still, the thought of Clemente's Sainthood is overwhelmingly exciting to ignore! If Clemente is canonized, we believe that perception of who a "Saint" is will change ASTRONOMICALLY! When one thinks of the word "Saint", one instantly thinks of priests in seminarians, sisters in nunneries, religious friars and statues of past great Saints....AT LEAST in our Post-Modern youth.
We are not implying that great Saints from St. Dominic Savio to Padre Pio to Saint John Paul II, who were called from a more religious background, haven't been influential in inspiring many young Catholics to follow Christ into Sainthood. These great Saints and many more over the centuries have been instrumental in bringing the faith to millions and essential in their mission to evangelize for the church.
But what is truly needed, in these times especially, are "out-of-the-box" Saints! Saints from backgrounds that our present culture would NOT expect to come from or associate the word "Saint": Saints who are normal school teachers, Saints who are chefs at your local restaurant, Saints who are writers, novelists, poets and artists, Saints who work in the field of science and medicine, even a Saint who is a plumber!
Millions of young kids look up GREATLY to athletes, especially Roberto Clemente. If his miracles are seen as true and he is canonized, do you know what that would mean? It would mean that to be a Saint, one does not HAVE to come from a church, a monastery, a seminary, a nunnery or a friary ONLY! Clemente's actions, if deemed pure, will bring the life of Sainthood more closely and intimately to the youth than ever before, if not then in a long time. Clemente's canonization will prove that not only is being a Saint not "impossible" or "far off at a distance", but will inspire youth, especially Catholic youth, to bring Christ closer to their hearts. No longer will bringing Christ into one's life feel "daunting", "hazily vague" or "out of reach", but will burst with a renewed freshness in vitality and "FIRE" for the Gospel, the Church, Christ's sacrifice and love for our heavenly father!
Now more than ever, we need Saints of ALL backgrounds -- secular AND religious -- to answer the "Cosmic Call" to "more". We need new, vitalized Saints to show the world the self-sacrificial love that ALL heroes from Christ to Clemente and beyond have made. Being a Saint, being a hero for love does not have to be abstract. To truly embody "Saint", one only need to see Christ on the cross, only need to see Dr. King's example, Ghandi's example, and Clemente's example. They embraced "LOVE" as their ideal bride, to which they consecrated their lives to and others, even to the point of death. It's all summed up in 1 Corinthians 13 : V 1-8.
"Greater Love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends."
(As of now, the film remains unreleased in theaters. But it is available at Amazon.com for purchase to help fund more screenings.)
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