Olympic seminarian credits Medjugorje
Spanish hockey player Litus Ballbe’s big dream was to play the Olympics, until a visit to Medjugorje gave him the call to be a priest. Now he is studying, but still his first dream has come true: His seminary has allowed him time for hockey, and on Monday he played at the London Olympics.
Spain presented a future priest in the field for the opening game of the Olympic hockey tournament against Pakistan in London on Monday.
Litus Ballbe’s dream of the Olympics has come true – but only after he gave it up four years ago because he had entered the seminary. Before that, a visit to Medjugorje in 2005 had changed his course in life.
Little in Ballbe’s childhood and youth had been hinting a future as a priest. To the Spanish website Religion e Libertad, he calls his formation in faith “traditional and superficial”.
“I already believed in God and the Virgin and all that, but Medjugorje went beyond that. During that trip I realized how important it is that God exists, because until then I had been believing in God, but as if He were me” Litus Ballbe says.
“Not like that in Medjugorje. There you realize that God is more than an ideal, that He is with you, that you are His child, and that He is there for all, but you are not at all. I do not know how to put it, but I started taking it seriously.”
A covenant with God
Litus Ballbe came to Medjugorje by what first seemed a coincidence. Bad results in the field opened him to following his father who planned a pilgrimage.
“My father was reading a book about Medjugorje. He invited me, but I was not any attracted to the idea. That summer of 2005 we played the World Cup, and we started the under-21 tournament very badly” Litus Ballbe tells.
“It was so bad that one Sunday I went to Mass and offered a covenant to God. I told Him that if He managed that World Cup, I would go to Medjugorje with my father. And He did. We made history. Never before had we had an under-21 medal, and we were third. So I went to Medjugorje with my father and my brother.”
No happiness in spite of success
Unlike many others, Litus Ballbe did not experience an immidiate conversation during his first stay in Medjugorje. First he went back to his previous pastimes, partying and women.
“But from that trip on, I felt something inside me telling me: “Litus, you are free and can do whatever you want, but you are not happy” he tells.
Litus Ballbe returned to Medjugorje in the summer of 2006. After that pilgrimage, he began living the message of Medjugorje, frequenting the Sacraments and praying the Rosary daily. His best hockey season followed, and the best team in Europe made him an offer.
Before he went to Medjugorje, the Spanish hockey player also dreamt of playing abroad. Now he revised his plan, and got the offer postponed by a year, until after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“At that time I had it all. I felt fully fulfilled. It was at that moment, when I was on the crest of the wave, that I started getting a subtle message about the plan that God had for me, of becoming a priest” Litus Ballbe tells.
Surrender on third Medjugorje visit
A few days after the German club’s offer, Litus Ballbe went to Medjugorje for the third time. This time the pilgrimage was more difficult.
“I presented myself to the Lord and said, “I do not know what happens, very rare things are happening . I want to play fairly with You, so here I am, do what You want” Litus Ballbe tells.
“That trip was the radical change in my life. I began to pray quietly, to get into God. I just gave Him one condition: “Let me fulfill my dream” he says.
When he returned home, Litus Ballbe entered the seminary. He studied while his team-mates took Olympic silver in Beijing 2008. His dream of playing the Olympics seemed gone until his seminary reached an agreement with his Spanish hockey side, Club Atletico Terrassa, enabling Litus Ballbe to keep on playing hockey while studying.
And so he played along when Spain opened the Olympic hockey tournament with a 1-1 draw against Pakistan on July 30. Living in the Olympic village is a great joy to Litus Ballbe.
“I am living an incredible and beautiful experience, trying to bring more value to the Games, not only by winning, but also by growing in my life of faith, and sharing it with people from many parts of the world.”
Spirit Daily circulated this article