The Church recently recognized St. Padre Pio’s feast day this past Sunday, September, 23rd. A few days earlier, on September 20th, we also recognized the feast day of when St. Padre Pio received the stigmata. The stigmata is known to many as the wounds of Christ for the wounds that appear on a person’s body in the same areas of Christ’s wounds from the cross on the feet, hands, and side. These wounds can appear periodically, temporarily, or can be permanent and they can also be visible or invisible. Those who bear these wounds have a close union with God and know the suffering that Jesus endured during His crucifixion. We, too, also have a union with God, just like St. Padre Pio and others who have received the stigmata, as we suffer through our own pain and sufferings.
Similarly, many athletes unfortunately suffer wounds and injuries throughout their career in their sport. Whether it be during practice or a game, there is always a chance of being injured. “Injuries” my also occur away from the field of play. An athlete can suffer physically and mentally. Athletes know the risks once they take the playing field but, are sometimes blind to the seriousness of the mental impact of their injury. Once an injury occurs, athletes must be prepared to potentially be sidelined from the sport that they love for a period of time, which can cause mental distress and affect their team negatively. There are numerous examples of professional and collegiate athletes suffering from mental illness. For instance, Hall of Famer, Brian Dawkins announced his struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, Carson Wentz even struggled with not being “the guy” to lead his team all the way to the Super Bowl although being the team player that they needed, and Brandon Brooks, Offensive Lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles, struggles with anxiety even causing him to throw up before games. When we think of injuries, we often focus on the physical aspects of injuries and ignore the impact those injuries may have on our mental health. Mental illness can be equally, if not more, debilitating than physical injuries. Brandon Brooks spoke out about mental health.
You pull your hamstring, right? And you [treat it] to get it right. Same thing with mental illness, but for some people, they don’t view it the same thing as a physical injury
Each one of us can bear our own wounds. Sometimes these wounds are not physical in nature. The wounds we may carry can weigh us down, deter people away from us, and create a negative environment. No matter the situation, whether someone hurt you or your family, you have a physical ailment or injury, you are stressed, depressed, or are just not feeling like yourself, remember that you are not alone and God is always with us. As St. Padre Pio stated, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer”.
We can reduce our worry because we can endure the situations we are in through the love and support revealed to us through God and those around us. 2 Corinthians 4:10 states, “Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body”. As we share in the pain and suffering, we also share in the goodness and grace of Jesus through our body. As Team Chaplains, it is our responsibility to open the door to conversation and create relationships with our student-athletes in order to unpack what weighs them down. Like Jesus and those who bore His wounds, we will always carry our wounds and sufferings with us but, we can persevere and be reminded that we are loved and valued through God’s grace. Take some time to #BREAKtheSILENCE.
Finally, I leave you with a prayer that can be prayed to St. Padre Pio, patron of pain, suffering, and healing:
St. Pio of Pietrelcina, faithful servant of Jesus.
You suffered the unbearable wounds of Christ and
you still served God’s purpose and goodwill.
You are honored as the patron of those who suffer from pain
and known for your many counts of healing,
I ask you through your intercession to grant me
the graces of the most blessed sacrament,
heal me and alleviate my wounds and suffering
so that I may better serve God.