In an age when a number of young people leave the Church, professional soccer player Drew Beckie remains happily at home with Catholicism. The former All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation First Team selection at the University of Denver enjoys the structure the Church provides amidst the troubles of life.
The Columbus Crew finished at 12-17-5 and out of playoff contention this year, but Beckie has learned about patience, balance and focus on the field. Helpful teammates are among those deserving credit for the soccer insights the 23-year-old defender has gained.
Off the field, Beckie has been reminded of the fragility of life, as his friends and family have dealt with flooding in Colorado. Memories of the early loss of his father have come to mind, but, more importantly, so has an overall faith context in which to place them.
Drew Beckie recently fielded questions about soccer, life and Catholicism from Register correspondent Trent Beattie.
What do you think of your first professional soccer season?
It was great to be welcomed onto the team right up front. We have a wonderful group of guys here on the Crew, so I’m blessed to be around them. From a results standpoint, however, it’s been kind of a tough season. One of our starters, Eddie Gaven, went out with a knee injury in May, so we’ve missed his contributions. We finished at 12-17-5 and aren’t in the playoffs.
However, I have learned a lot, especially about being patient. At this level of competition, there are always going to be guys who are a little better than you are as a rookie. They’ve been around longer and have more experience, so you can’t get discouraged by any setbacks you might have while playing against them.
You just have to do your best every day and try to maintain an even balance. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, it’s better to be a 6 or 7 every time out than it is to be a 10 one day and a 1 the next. Every player in the league can have a spectacular game, and that’s great, but what’s better than one extraordinary performance is many good performances.
You mentioned Eddie Gaven. What is it like to have him and fellow Catholic Danny O’Rourke on the team?
It’s great to be on a team that brings in strong men of faith. There are other Catholics in the league, but it seems as though the Crew has an overabundance of those who are willing to speak about it. Protestants usually do a better job of sharing their faith than Catholics.
Most of the athletes I’ve met in college and the pros are religious. You generally don’t get to this level without some kind of hardship, and relying on faith in God is where most players go for support. Faith is a way to make sense of things and have an overall structure to life.
Then, once you’re successful, you know you have to attribute that to the Lord. Despite the work you put in, you know that, ultimately, God is the one who gave you the talent, the ability to work with that talent and opportunities to display it.
You’re originally from Canada, right?
I was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and our family moved to the Denver, Colo., area when I was 3. Then we moved back to Canada and then again back to the U.S. I’ve been able to compete on the Under-17 Canadian National Team, but I currently have a green card to live in the U.S.
Even though I’m not officially an American, I do consider myself to be one. I’ve spent most of my life in the States, and I’m here now, so it just seems like I am a citizen. I know when the recent flooding occurred in Colorado, it hit very close to home. It’s such an overwhelming thing when natural disasters happen. The damage to property can be difficult, but death is the most devastating to deal with, because it’s so permanent.
You encountered a death in the family at an early age. How did that affect you?
My father died when I was 11, but he had been fighting cancer for four years leading up to that, so our family did have plenty of time to prepare for his passing. Father John Lager, a Franciscan monk and friend of the family, helped us in that preparation.
Encountering death is very challenging, but it can also be very beneficial. You can’t help but think about heaven and what we’re supposed to do in this life to get there. The darkness of death can really be a bright light if you treat it as such. You can see the beauty of Catholicism and the unbroken connection we have to those in the next life.
Death also helps you to understand the blessings you have in this life. When I would hear kids complain about their parents, I would get somewhat angry and think, “Don’t they know that it’s a gift to have both of their parents?” Ironically, I seemed to get that better than they did, even though I was operating with one less parent.
I can look back and still remember having my father coach my first soccer team in Denver. He didn’t really know what he was doing, but just being together and playing together was the important thing. Later on, he and my mother would encourage me to have fun playing and put God first. Sports won’t last forever, but God will, so we have to live according to that truth.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about the Church?
I really enjoy the Mass, which, unfortunately, can be misunderstood. Sometimes I hear stories about people who used to be Catholic, but they left the Church because the Mass is “boring” or they didn’t get anything out of it. They thought of it as needless repetition.
Yet the repetition is one of the things I appreciate most about the Mass. All of life is filled with routines, so why would our faith life be any different? Should we be expected to make up our own worship as we go along or should we humbly receive what’s given to us from the Church?
Sometimes loud bands and lively sermons are sought after in worship. I can understand the desire to get an emotional charge out of things, but that’s not the goal of worship. Worship is about giving to God what is his due: our praise, honor and thanksgiving. It’s clear from Luke 22:19-20 and John 6:51-59 that the Mass is the primary form of worship we’re supposed to participate in.
Some people don’t like the regular routine of the Church, but I do. The rituals of the Church draw us into the life of Christ and provide us with much-needed structure. I like how this structure serves as a base from which we can do charitable works. Those works are an extension of the love of God, not just isolated acts without reference to God.
I enjoy volunteering with Special Olympics soccer programs and with soup kitchens. When you help those in need, you also help Jesus himself, who is hidden among the poor. It’s important to remember that everything we’ve been given in the Church is a free gift, so we’re obligated to share it with others.
Do you have a patron saint?
St. Joseph is my patron. I have a plaque of him on my locker and also a holy card of him in my car. He’s someone who is often overlooked, but if you think about it, no one, except the Blessed Virgin Mary, was closer to Jesus on earth. No one.
St. Joseph had the unimaginable honor of being the earthly father for the Son of God. That’s a truly unique position in the history of mankind, and the fact that we honor Joseph as a saint means that he fulfilled the duties of the position. Because of this, anyone, but especially fathers, would do well to ask for his intercession.
After my own father’s death, St. Joseph has been a father figure in my life, and so has Father Lager, who was recently appointed national chaplain of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. Father Lager sees the importance of men who are strong in the faith, who can then lead others to Christ and the beauty of his Church. That’s what life is all about.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.