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August 18 - 31, 2013

White Sox catcher enjoys praying the rosary Tyler Flowers credits his wife for helping him grow deeper in his Catholic faith

Tyler Flowers at bat. Ron Vesely/Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers made his major-league debut for the White Sox in 2009. Raised Catholic, Flowers is originally from Woodstock, Ga., and was originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2005.

His wife, Nancy, has been a tremendous influence on renewing the faith of his baptism, and their daughter, Mia, is no less than an answer to prayer. Flowers discussed his faith, his family and baseball at the halfway point of the season with correspondent Trent Beattie.

Trent Beattie: Do you come from a Catholic family?

Tyler Flowers: My mother, Kelly, was raised in a Catholic family as one of seven children. In the past few years, she has been able to convince my father, a non-practicing Lutheran, to attend Mass with her.

My siblings and I were raised Catholic, but it has only been in the last five years that I’ve really gotten deeper into what the church has to offer. Even though I went to Catholic schools, it wasn’t until late in the game that I learned about things like eucharistic adoration and the rosary. I had to rely on my wife, Nancy, to introduce me to those things.

Nancy and I went to Blessed Trinity Catholic High School in Roswell, Ga., and since her maiden name is Fiedler, we would always have lockers next to each other in the hallway. This must have been by divine design, because she has made my life better in so many ways.

Beattie: Do you have any children?

Flower s : We were married in 2008, but didn’t conceive any children for a couple of years. I just viewed it as apparently not being God’s plan for us yet, and Nancy agreed. Yet, as more time passed without any babies, she became discouraged.

We saw Catholic doctors and found out that nothing was wrong with us physically, so their advice was to pray. We took that to heart and regularly went to eucharistic adoration. We also went to the sacrament of reconciliation more frequently. Then, once we started praying to St. Thérèse of Lisieux for help, we conceived.

It must have been God’s plan to use our lack of children as a way to get us closer to St. Thérèse. She is one of t he grea test saints of the church, so we can gain so much from her. Our biggest gain is our daughter, Mia Therese Flowers, who is almost 11 months old. She is the most wonderful gift of our marriage.

Beattie: Is it difficult to maintain family cohesion as a professional athlete?

Flowers: In the off-season, it’s not, but during the season, it really can be. The team is on the road a lot, so families don’t get to see each other as much as they’d like. That’s a major reason why so many players are looking forward to the All-Star break: It’s a time to reconnect with family.

I do enjoy playing baseball, but the game’s ups and downs can really get to you if you let t he m . It’s easy to become selfish, which leads you down the road to temptations which you wouldn’t otherwise notice. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have selfless Christian teammates to discuss holy topics with. This is an especially helpful blessing when you’re away from family.

While we agree on many things, some of my teammates don’t understand the role that Mary plays in the lives of (Catholic) Christians. The common misconception is that to be devoted to Mary is to worship her. The reality is: We are honoring her as the mother of our Savior and asking for her help. We ask for the prayers of family and friends here on earth, so why not ask for the prayers of the Queen of Heaven and Earth?

Mary’s life was selflessly and faithfully centered on her Son, so we should only expect that she wants all Christians to be united more closely to him. It’s not a matter of Mary vs. Jesus, but having an even better relationship with Jesus, through his mother, Mary.

Mothers have special relationships with their sons, and it’s no different in the Holy Family. It’s easy to see, then, why we should definitely want the Mother of our Savior on our side.

Beattie: What are some ways in which having Mary on your side has helped you?

Flowers: I love to pray rosaries, which are very Christ-centered. In fact, Jesus’ name is literally at the center of the Hail Mary. It’s been said that praying the rosary is learning about Jesus at the school of Mary.

When you consider what Jesus said about becoming like a little child in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, it’s easy to see the importance of placing ourselves at the feet of our spiritual mother, Mary.

Everyone knows it’s perfectly normal to see a child with his mother in the natural order, but the same is also true in the spiritual order: Children of God the Father need a mother, and they have one in Mary. When you become more devoted to Mary, you will inevitably become more devoted to Jesus in the Eucharist.

It’s easy for me to attend Sunday Mass in Chicago because there’s a Mass within the stadium available to players before the game. Ray McKenna, founder of Catholic Athletes for Christ, has made this possible here and in some other cities as well. In those cities where it’s not readily available, I look for churches with early Masses. Participation in Mass keeps Christ not only on my mind, but also on my tongue and in my heart.

Another way that Mary has led me closer to her son is through the sacrament of reconciliation. I appreciate it a great deal because of the relief it can bring to your soul as soon as you finish. The dead weight of sin is lifted off your shoulders, and you experience the great love and refreshment this brings. You’re freed to live as a child of God because the grace to do this is imparted to you.

St. Augustine said it is a greater work to make a just man out of a sinner than to create heaven and earth. This is amazingly accomplished by Jesus when you go to reconciliation, and I’d strongly encourage those who haven’t experienced this in a while to do so this week. Get back to Jesus and get renewed in his grace.

Beattie: Do you find your faith has helped you to see not only the things around baseball, but the game of baseball itself in a better light?

Flowers: That has definitely been the case. I really enjoy playing baseball because of the camaraderie among teammates and the challenges the game brings. It typically takes a combined effort for a team to be victorious, so you have to think in terms of contribution rather than personal reward. This is particularly true in my position as a catcher. You’re supposed to make calls that are for the good of the team, and the decisions you make have an effect on everyone else.

On the other hand, I’ve learned what every player does at some point: Baseball is not always going to be there. The body eventually starts to break down, and you can’t do the things you were once able to do.

It seems to be just the opposite with God, however. He is always there, but when you’re healthy, it’s easy to take that for granted. When you’re declining physically, it’s probably much easier to remember God.

God speaks to us not only through the consolations, but the trials of life. I’ve experienced that reality this season. I haven’t had a year like the one I planned on having, so my plans and God’s don’t seem to be matching up in that regard. This means I need to quit making plans of my own and go where he leads me. I’m not sure where that will be, but I will keep working hard and keep my heart and ears open to see how I should do his work.

I’m most definitely a work in progress, as far as practicing my faith and being a true follower of Jesus, which is true of most of us. Yet I do know that I’ve grown in the knowledge and practice of the faith. This is largely due to my wife, Nancy. She has really opened my eyes to a number of things — eucharistic adoration, Marian intercession and reconciliation, as examples — that bring me closer to Christ. I can’t help but be renewed when around her and our daughter, Mia Therese.

This story originally appeared in the National Catholic Register. It was reprinted with permission.