St. Teresa of the Andes (1900-1920) was a Chilean girl who loved swimming (pool and ocean) and horseback riding; her brother said her wild riding made her look like an Amazon goddess. Teresa played tennis and croquet, loved singing and playing the guitar, and was an excellent dancer. Though she struggled with her temper and stubbornness, she followed a call to Carmel and became a nun. Before she had been there a year, she died of typhus.
St. Philip Evans (1645-1679) was a Welsh Jesuit ordained in Belgium and sent back to Wales to serve as an undercover priest. After he was arrested for the crime of being a priest, he spent his time in jail playing the harp and playing tennis. When a jailer was sent to inform him that his execution had been set for the next day, interrupting his tennis match to take him back to prison, Fr. Evans responded, “What haste is there? Let me first play out my game.” This he was allowed to do, but the next day he was taken to his death.
Though there’s no record of St. Jean de Brebeuf (1593-1649) playing organized sports, he was the one to give the game of lacrosse the name by which it’s been known for centuries. It’s not hard to imagine the strong priest joining in the game as a way to build relationships with the Huron people he was evangelizing in Canada. His people had nicknamed him “Echon,” the strong one, and were floored by his physical strength in bearing burdens and rowing their canoes. Even the Iroquois who martyred him were amazed at his courage and endurance under torture, eating his heart after his death in an attempt to absorb his strength.