ON MAY 16 of this past year my wife and I were given our greatest challenge to date.A baby boy was put into our care and with him the responsibility of bringing him to heaven.We both believe that no one goes to heaven alone and that in order for us to get there we would have to make sure that our son got there too.

I have to admit that at times that was a disheartening realization.I had read Guadium et Spes and understand that there is a dichotomy in man.Although he may act as if there were no God, on the other hand he has a yearning in his heart for something greater.In the time leading up to my child's birth it was easy to see men and women acting as if there were no God, but the inner yearning was not as evident. Parents rely on positive role models to assist them in their child rearing.I was on a quest to find some.

The scandalous allegations against our president seemed commonplace, and did not deter him from winning re-election.The world watched O.J.Simpson being chased in his white Bronco after the brutal slaying of his wife and her friend.Mike Tyson went to jail for rape.The heroes of the ‘86 Mets, Dwight Gooden and Daryl Strawberry, both had their bouts with cocaine.Michael Irvin, Leon Lett, the list seemed to go on of people we would not want to influence our son.’

So, who was left? As a father, I could not wait to see my son playing sports, yet would he look at these figures and think that this was the proper way to behave?

If this was all there was, my wife and I would be faced with an arduous battle.But in 1996, it seems that God was making a comeback in professional sports. Men were yearning for something greater, something outside themselves, and some of the greatest sports figures were not afraid to say it.

It all started with the N.Y.Yankees winning the World Series under the leadership of Joe Torre.Torre loves to tell of how his mother stressed two things — baseball and religion.She would cheer for her sons with her rosary beads in hand.She raised a daughter who became a nun and a son who became a Catholic manager, one who was not afraid to give credit to his sister who offered her prayers for his team's victory.

Then there was Evander Holyfield, who beat Mike Tyson in the world championship for boxing.No matter what was asked of him after the match, he responded that he gave all thanks to Jesus Christ.

Most recently, there was the AFC and NFC championship games in football.It seemed that every player interviewed took an opportunity to thank God.In particular, Reggie White of the Green Bay Packers, an ordained minister, credited the team's success to Jesus Christ and Willie Clay of the Patriots said his interception was something he had prayed for and that he thanked God for his talent. The Patriots as a team kept the media out of their locker room until they had said a team prayer of thanksgiving.Let's hope they do well in the Superbowl.

There is evidence of hearts burning for Christ, and more and more popular figures are not afraid to proclaim this.St.Peter tells us: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3, 15).If young people see that their sports hero praises God on national TV, and that he gives credit to the power of prayer, they will be less inclined to be embarrassed by their faith.

With all of the recent positive role models, parents like myself need not be so intimidated by the task ahead. I look forward to seeing my son in his first sports uniform, confident of the examples that are there for him.

John McCormack is based in Connecticut.