Kobe Bryant's Catholic faith guided and supported him

  • Ellen Teague

The news that basketball great Kobe Bryant attended Mass hours before he, teenage daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a Los Angeles helicopter crash on 26 January shows Bryant's commitment to his Catholic faith. He and Gianna attended a 7am service and received Communion at the Our Lady Queen of Angels in Newport Beach before boarding the flight at Orange County's John Wayne Airport to attend a youth basketball game.

Every mass in the parish after last Sunday's news broke was dedicated to Bryant and the families of all the victims. Bryant reportedly attended Catholic mass weekly. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles called the 41-year-old husband and father of four a "very good Catholic, a faithful Catholic" whom he had often met. "Let's pray for him and pray for his family," he said. Bishop Timothy Freyer, of the Orange Diocese, wrote on Facebook: "A longtime Orange County resident and parishioner in our diocese, Kobe would frequently attend Mass and sit in the back of the church so that his presence would not distract people from focusing on Christ's Presence". Bryant is survived by his wife and three other daughters.

Bryant shot to fame as an 18-year-old and played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years, helping them win five National Basketball Association (NBA) championships and he was their leading scorer. He also won two Olympic gold medals before retiring in 2016.

However, his life was not trouble-free. Beyond basketball, Bryant was a husband and a father who in 2015 attributed his Catholic faith with helping him move past a challenging period in his own life and the life of his family. Born in Philadelphia 23 August 1978, Bryant was raised a Catholic and as a youth lived for a while in Italy. He and his wife, Vanessa, married at St. Edward Catholic Church in Dana Point, California, and raised their children Catholic. In 2003, he was arrested and accused of raping a woman in a Colorado hotel room. Bryant admitted a sexual encounter with the woman, but denied that he had committed sexual assault. When the allegation became public, Bryant lost sponsors and faced criminal charges, which were eventually dropped. He later reached a settlement with his accuser in a civil lawsuit. In 2015, Bryant credited talking to a priest as a turning point in moving on. "The one thing that really helped me during that process…. was talking to a priest," he reflected.

Bryant connected his Catholic faith to a family commitment to address social concerns through the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The foundation helps fund youth homeless shelters and other projects aimed at serving the poor. "You have to do something that carries a little bit more weight to it, a little more significance, a little more purpose to it," he said in 2012. In his view, homelessness, "is one that kind of gets pushed on the back burner because it's easy to point the blame at those who are homeless and say, 'well, you made that bad decision; this is where you are; it's your fault." He felt that, "in life, we all make mistakes and to stand back and allow someone to live that way and kind of wash your hands of it … that's not right".

Tags: Kobe Bryant

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