On Sunday, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others, including a teammate of Gianna’s and her parents, were tragically killed in a helicopter accident in California.
Bryant, a devout Catholic, reportedly attended mass the morning of the accident.
“A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning,” Boston priest David Barnes said via Twitter on Sunday. “Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven.”
A friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s saw #KobeBryant at #Catholic Mass this morning. Mass is the worship of God. Heaven is the worship of God. Go to Mass here so that you can worship God forever in heaven.
— David Barnes (@PadreBarnes) January 26, 2020
The report reverberated within the Catholic community. Father Jeremy Daniel Paulin posted the message from Father Barnes, adding: “Thank you, Fr David Barnes for sharing this. May Kobe, his daughter and all who died in the crash rest in God’s peace.”
"As sad as Kobe’s death is, a friend texted me today to tell me that a friend of her’s attends the same Catholic Church…
“Wonderful to hear reports that Kobe Bryant went to Mass on the same morning as that fateful helicopter ride that took his life,” wrote professor and Catholic writer C.C. Pecknold.
“Death comes like a thief in the night, friends — no one survives it happily without being united to Jesus Christ. Make Mass the habit of your life!” added Pecknold.
Wonderful to hear reports that Kobe Bryant went to Mass on the same morning as that fateful helicopter ride that took his life.
Death comes like a thief in the night, friends — no one survives it happily without being united to Jesus Christ.
Make Mass the habit of your life!
— C.C. Pecknold (@ccpecknold) January 27, 2020
As noted by Catholic News Agency (CNA), Bryant, who was raised Catholic, credited his faith and the help of a Catholic priest for allowing him to overcome major personal stumbles.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in a Colorado hotel room. The basketball star admitted to cheating on his wife and engaging in the sexual encounter, but has always denied the allegation of rape.
“When the allegation became public, Bryant lost sponsors and faced criminal charges, which were eventually dropped,” CNA reported. “Bryant issued an apology to his accuser, with whom he also reached a settlement in a civil lawsuit.”
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter,” the 2004 apology from Bryant read.
“What I came to understand, coming out of Colorado, is that I had to be me, in the place where I was at that moment,” the NBA legend told GQ in 2015.
“The one thing that really helped me during that process—I’m Catholic, I grew up Catholic, my kids are Catholic—was talking to a priest,” he added.
“It was actually kind of funny: He looks at me and says, ’Did you do it?’ And I say, ’Of course not.’ Then he asks, ’Do you have a good lawyer?’ And I’m like, ’Uh, yeah, he’s phenomenal.’ So then he just said, ’Let it go. Move on. God’s not going to give you anything you can’t handle, and it’s in his hands now. This is something you can’t control. So let it go.’ And that was the turning point,” recalled Bryant.
In the wake of the fatal accident, fellow Catholic and singer Cristina Ballestero posted about an encounter she had with Bryant at Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, California, during a weekday Mass.
“As we went up to communion, [Bryant] waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice,” Ballestero wrote in the post, adding, “His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision.”
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I wanna tell a story about the time I met Kobe Bryant. I was sitting in the very back of Holy Family Cathedral in Orange, CA, on a WEEKDAY mass. At the time I was very into wearing veils and on this particular day I had a scarf I used as veil. Right as mass begins I see a huge shadow in my right peripheral vision and hear a decently loud creak from probably a big man. I double took to see… it was KOBE BRYANT IN THE SAME PEW AS ME ON THE OTHER END! I just went about my normal praying and singing as usual cause he like all of us came to pray. Thank God I had the veil so I could stay focused on Jesus not this insanely talented Basketball player my whole family has looked up to and watched our whole lives. As we went up to communion, he waited for me to go. If you grew up in the Catholic Church, you understand this is a respectful thing men do in church as a sign of respect to women. He said I have a beautiful voice. I said thank you and went up to communion. @marydallal @mandymissyturkey and a couple other friends saw him standing behind me going to receive Jesus. And we talked about it after mass and freaked out together. It was such a cool experience to receive Jesus right before him, and also, to walk up to receive Jesus together. It was also cool to see him come for a weekday mass. He said in his GQ interview how a Catholic Priest helped him through the tough time he went through in the media. He also talks about how his faith is important. His most inspiring trait was his decision to turn to his faith in God and receive God’s mercy and to be a better man after a regretful decision. Him and his wife do so much great work with their foundation. I’m heartbroken at the news of his death, alongside his daughter Gianna. My prayers go out to his Family, friends and loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto him, and her oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they Rest In Peace, Amen. We love you Kobe & Gianna. 💔 . . . . #kobebryant
“Bryant also had connected his Catholic faith to a family commitment to help the poor, through the Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation,” noted CNA.