He is the number one soccer player on the globe. He has had thousands of adoring fans since he was a teenager. Now his fans number in the millions. In this lesson we will look at soccer sensation Kaka’. We will try to understand a bit more about his life and his values.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos, better known as Kaka’, was born in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil on April 22, 1982. He presently plays for AC Milan in Italy. Even though he is only 26 years old, he has already won every award he dreamed of as a boy.
His accomplishments include leading his junior and senior teams to win Brazil’s soccer championship, being a member of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup Champion team, leading his Italian team to both national and international championships in 2004 and 2007, and being awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year for 2007. In May his AC Milan team just clinched another Italian championship.
For the Team
Even though Kaka’ scores many brilliant goals himself, those who really know soccer are most impressed by his unselfish play. He actually prefers playing in a support role (at midfield) rather than in the lead scoring position. He drives defenses crazy with his ability to do everything well: stealing the ball, dribbling, creating plays for others (passing and assists), and hitting deadly shots on goal under pressure. His quick smile shows he considers it aprivilege to play sports for a living.
More than a flashy smile
But Kaka’ is not the typical superstar. He does not flaunt his success and good looks. In fact, he continues to surprise the world by a different set of values, values that he learned in his family and through his faith.
He comes from a close and loving family. His nickname was given to him by his younger brother when they were children. Kaka’ continues to be proud of his little brother. In fact he used his first paycheck as a professional player to help pay for his brother’s education. His dream is that one day his brother can play beside him.
Finding Faith Young
Kaka’ s family is deeply Christian. They are evangelical Christians. Kaka’ claims his faith is what really makes him happy. He was baptized when he was 12 years old (normal in his evangelical church), and says that moment in particular helped him in his relationship with Christ.
“When I was baptized in 1994, something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I got closer to God, more in tune with Him. At that moment I was really born spiritually. I began to know God more in depth, and I’ve learned that faith works within the limits of circumstances. I began having a Father to son relationship with God.”
Catholics Can Do It Too
As Catholics, our baptism, our First Communion, our Confirmation, our personal prayer time, our participation in Sunday Mass, and the many times we receive the sacrament of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) all help us live this type of relationship with God and deepen it as we grow. Like Kaka’, we should all have moments when our relationship with Christ grows, just as our heart and our intelligence grow as we mature.
Like most Brazilian boys, Ricardo had been playing soccer since he could walk. He was discovered at a very young age. He was eight years old when he was invited to be part of the boys’ teams of Sao Paulo FC, one of the country’s most prestigious soccer clubs. He turned semi-professional when he was 15, not unusual for a soccer star in Brazil, and eventually led his youth team to the national championship. He made his debut in Brazil’s top professional league when he was 18.
But tragedy almost seemed to end his career when he was 18. He was at a water park while visiting his grandparents and fell from a water-slide. He broke a vertebra (a disc in his back) as he hit the bottom of the pool. Doctors said the fracture should have paralyzed him permanently. They said he was lucky even to walk. Remarkably, after a year, he made a full recovery, and came back to lead his team to the championship.
Kaka’ and his family have always seen his recovery as a sign of God’s mercy. “They (the doctors) were talking about luck and my family was talking about God. Back at home we always thanked God because we knew that it was His hand that had saved and protected me.”
This is one of the reasons Ricardo always raises his hand to the sky after he scores a goal. He knows that without God’s help, he would not be where he is. He recognizes that his success is a gift from God, a gift he can acknowledge or a gift he can misuse.
The Soccer Star and Courtship
Another area where Kaka’ shows his faith is by his Christian commitment to chastity. He believes deeply in what the Bible teaches about the true meaning of marriage.
Ever since he was a boy, Ricardo had always felt the beauty and attraction of marriage, and often prayed that God would lead him to the right girl. When he was 19, and already a professional soccer player, his dad introduced him to Caroline. Caroline was the daughter of a friend of his father. She was also a committed Christian. And she was very pretty.
But deeper than her beauty, Kaka’ saw something special in Caroline, something that brought out the best in him. Caroline became his best friend. They would talk often, and they would spend a lot of time with each other’s families. But there was something else they shared: a Christian commitment to chastity.
Their courtship lasted four years, and had to endure two years of separation, because Kaka’ went to play in Italy after their first two years together.
During those last two years, 2003-2005, they set rules about how they would stay faithful to each other. Kaka’ says he and Caroline considered this time as very important: “It allowed our love to mature and be tested.”
Even though Kaka’ was already a star in Brazil, it was expected that he would only play a minor role his first year in Italy. Kaka’ was hired for a team that already had several international superstars, including fellow Brazilian, Rivaldo, who had been the top scorer in the 2002 World Cup.
But something happened when Kaka’ hit the field in Italy in 2003. His magical passes and brilliant shots could ignite the team to victory. Much to his surprise, within a few months he became the acknowledged leader on the field, and Rivaldo, unselfishly, became his proud advisor. That year AC Milan won the Italian league and the European Super Cup.
Worth the Wait
After two years of separation, Caroline and Kaka’ were married. Their wedding was on December 23, 2005. Last month Caroline gave birth to their first child. Talking about their commitment to chastity before marriage, Kaka’ comments, “The Bible teaches that true love waits until marriage. If our life today is so beautiful, I think it is because we waited.”
Others on the Radar
Another value that is important to Kaka’ is helping others. He often does promotion for charitable causes, even at great sacrifice of his time.
Among the many causes he supports, one is the fight against world hunger. In 2004, at age 22, he became the youngest Ambassador Against Hunger at the United Nations. He travels to Africa and other poor parts of the world, including the poorest regions of his own country, Brazil, in order to promoteawareness of world hunger. He appears in television and other media advertisements asking for donations to help alleviate world hunger.
As a Christian, another area that is important for Kaka’ is sharing his faith. He tries to give an example of sportsmanship on the field because he knows that others will be convinced by the way he lives, more than by what he says.
Yet he is not afraid to talk openly about his faith, and has encouraged other players to do so as well. In fact, when he retires from soccer he hopes to become a lay missionary in his evangelical church.
When Love Touches the Pockets
Kaka’ is also generous with his money. He donates 10% of his salary to his church, and helps other causes as well. In the Bible, giving 10% of your earnings to God is called tithing. Being generous with our money helps us realize that we are stewards of God gifts, not absolute owners of them, and that we have a responsibility for others as well. Tithing helps us live the virtue of thankfulness to God, and makes us less selfish.
What is in the future for Kaka’? As he will tell you, only God knows. But there is no doubt that his example is having a positive impact on the world. He is helping people think about deeper values and especially about their relationship with God.
Kaka’ shows us that love, faith, chastity, and generosity lead to a happiness and fulfillment that last beyond the thrill of the moment. Whether we are world soccer champions or simply the person next door, we can all be champions of faith, hope, and love. In the end it is these values that are the real championship.
Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:10)
Any tendency to treat religion as a private matter must be resisted. Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”
(Benedict XVI, April 16, 2008)
Do not cease to cultivate your own personal encounter with Christ, to keep him ever at the center of your heart, since in this way your life will be converted into a mission; you will let Christ who lives in you shine forth.
(Benedict XVI, August 23, 2007)
It is necessary to discern between what serves to build the “civilization of love” according to the design that God revealed in Jesus Christ, and what runs counter to it.
(Benedict XVI, March 3, 2008)
1723: The beatitude (happiness) we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement – however beneficial it may be, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love.
1656: In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith.
2013: All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
2347: The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us.
Saints and Heroes
United in Love for God and Others
Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Amelie Soulacroix Ozanam
Frederic Ozanam and Amelie Soulacroix were born in France during the 1800’s, at the time of the Industrial Revolution. Both Frederic and Amelie grew up in families with a strong, Catholic faith. Both had a great desire to show love to others.
When he was 20, Frederic, along with his friends, founded of the now-famous St. Vincent de Paul Society, as an attempt to do something for the many poor they found all over the streets of France. He said to his friends, “I am weary of words – let us act.”
Frederic was a very intelligent, restless man, full of enthusiasm and love for God and the poor. Amelie was the woman he was looking for: the perfect soul mate.
He met her when he was 26, as he was finishing his doctoral studies in the city of Lyons, France. He was invited (by a priest who was convinced Frederic’s vocation was to marriage) to have dinner with the president of the university. There he met Amelie, as the priest was hoping. She was the president’s daughter. Even though she was very pretty, what most impressed Frederic was that she was totally focused on attending to her handicapped brother. The kindness and delicacy with which she loved her brother deeply touched Frederic’s heart. He came back to get to know her better, and fell in love.
Before their wedding he wrote her a letter. He said he could not offer her riches and an easy life:
“Nevertheless, I hope that my gift, as modest as it may be, will be kindly accepted …: I give you the will of a man, an upright and honest will, the will to be good so as to make you happy.”
They were married on June 23, 1941. In remembrance of this day, Frederic made it a custom to give his wife a bouquet of flowers on the twenty third of every month.
They moved to Paris after they were married. They lived their marriage deeply in love. They also brought Amelie’s handicapped brother to live with them.
In Paris Frederic became famous at the university for his ability to stir up a great passion for God and a great love for the poor in his students. Besides his work as a professor, Frederic continued founding chapters of the Saint Vincent De Paul Society all over France and other parts of Europe. He also wrote many books that combined scholarship with faith and received much acclaim. God did not spare him sufferings, though, and both his work and his writings also received many strong criticisms.
Amelie was there to support him and encourage him every step of the way. He found strength in her companionship and love.
Back then, medicine was not as good as it is now, and Frederic became sick because of all his work. After twelve years of happy marriage, it became clear that Frederic was dying.
Amelie, who had always worked to protect his health, cared for him with tremendous affection. She was with him when he died, on September 8, 1853, at age forty. She raised their only child, Marie, and continued supporting the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Today the St. Vincent de Paul Society is one of the biggest charitable organizations in the Catholic Church, with over 700,000 members.
Frederic was beatified by Pope John Paul II on August 22, 1997. Many hope his wife will also be beatified, and she has been included in many studies on saintly married couples.
- Have you ever seen Kaka’ play soccer? What most impresses you about his style of play? Would you agree with the description of his play in this lesson?
- Is living love in our families always easy? In what ways does it help us?
- What are some ways we can deepen our personal relationship with Christ, like Kaka’ did?
- Why is it important to have “strong moments” of closeness to God as we grow?
- What do you think of Pope Benedict’s statement that faith should not be hidden? Besides sports, what other areas of society need courageous witness to faith today?
- What do you think of Kaka’ and Caroline’s decision to stay chaste until marriage? Do you think it was easy for them? What sort of difficulties did they probably face frequently? How do you think they handled them?
- What do you think of the phrase, “True love waits”? Do you think it fits with the teachings of Christ? Do you think it is possible in today’s world?
- What are some ways guys can help girls wait until marriage? What are some ways girls can help guys wait? How can the way we dress, the way we act in front of others, even the way we have fun send the right or wrong message about our decision?
- Do you think that Kaka’ and Caroline will always remain best friends? Do you think they have a better chance of remaining faithful as spouses since they waited? Why is it so important to put a solid friendship and respect at the base of a lasting marriage?
- Do you think Jesus loves human love? If so, why does he set rules about it?
- Do you think we should wait until we have a lot of money in order to donate to church or good causes? In what ways can generosity help us find true happiness? What does a generous person show the world about God?
- Have a debate about showing faith in public, such as during sporting events. Does it help others think about God? Is it a good testimony? Is it an important testimony? When is it good and when could it become counter-productive?
- Write a letter to your future spouse. (You can also write a letter to God as your greatest friend.) Tell your future spouse or tell God what type of person you would like to become in order to make him or her happy. Tell your future spouse some things you will do in order to prepare for that day when you will be together.
Acknowledge – to express thanks for; to state that one has received (a gift, favor, letter, etc.)
Alleviate – 1) to make less hard to bear; lighten or relieve (pain, suffering, etc.) 2) to reduce or decrease
Chastity – the virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason.
- “Chastity means the integration of sexuality within the person. It includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery.” (Catechism of the the Catholic Church 2395)
- “Those who are engaged to marry are called to live chastity in continence. They should see in this time of testing a discovery of mutual respect, an apprenticeship in fidelity, and the hope of receiving one another from God. They should reserve for marriage the expressions of affection that belong to married love. They will help each other grow in chastity.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2350)
Commitment – 1) dedication to a cause or long-term course of action 2) pledge or promise to do something;
Courtship – a time of relating with another, getting to know the person – and his or her friends and family – through friendship before moving into a dating relationship. Courtship (versus dating) teaches you to first be friends with a particular person for a good period of time before jumping into a romantic relationship. This low-risk, balanced approach to pursuing a relationship creates a firm foundation on which love can be built. (Definition courtesy Theology of the Body for Teens, Ascension Press)
Faith – trust in God; a personal relationship with God; trust in God’s promises and in Christ’s teachings.
Faithful– maintaining allegiance; constant; loyal
Generosity – quality of giving or sharing liberally and willingly; Generosity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Generosity is sharing God’s goodness with others and responding to God’s love with the gift of self.
Hope – trust in God; trust that God wants the best for us, even in difficult circumstances; trust in God’s mercy and forgiveness; trust in God’s gift of heaven.
Lay person – In the Catholic Church a lay person is anyone who is not ordained as a priest or deacon. Most Catholics are lay people. Most Christians are lay people. Technically, even Catholic monks who are not priests are lay people, but they are consecrated lay people, like nuns, etc.
Love – 1) a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; kindness, respect, and generosity towards others. 2) God’s tender regard and concern for all human beings. 3) devotion to and desire for God as our supreme good.
Responsibility – condition or quality of being answerable or accountable for someone or something.
Sacrifice – forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
Sportsmanship – ability to exercise the virtues of justice, truthfulness, kindness, respect and fairness while playing a sport.
Steward – a person entrusted with administering the goods, property, household, estate, or finances of another
Articles on Kaka’
- LifeSiteNews report on Kaka’ interview about chastity and faith
- Kaka’ Interview in Athletes for Christ
- “The golden boy of a golden team”: article on Kaka’ in The Independent
- “Kaka’ able to see beyond the dollar signs”: Article on Kaka’ becoming youngest “United Nations Ambassador Against Hunger”
- “Milan put their faith in Kaka,” article in The Telegraph
Teen chastity support resources: