Loading
July 30, 2012
Olympics and Faith
By Brian Caulfield *

By Brian Caulfield *

With the Olympic Games opening this week in London, and the world’s attention turned toward the performances of a few hundred elite athletes gathered for this quadrennial competition, it is a good time to consider the role of sports in our culture. It is safe to say that competitive sports – especially football, baseball and basketball – exert an outsized influence on our society, raking in millions in revenue and riveting the attention of young people in particular, who grow up emulating sports heroes, whether they are worthy role models or not.

Yet there is much good in sports, especially when young people are inspired to train and compete themselves, and better their physical and mental toughness. Sports afford an outlet for youthful energies that otherwise could go into destructive behavior or sexual excess. When placed in perspective, sports also can teach discipline, hard work, how to follow rules, share with teammates, self-sacrifice, sportsmanship, and “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” I still cherish memories from my Little League days, and my own boys now have learned much and grown in many ways from their Little League play.

Even the Vatican has recognized the value of sports, forming a “Church and Sport” section in 2004 under the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The goal is to highlight the positive elements of sports, and show how an informed spiritual life must be part of a fully integrated person – a healthy mind and spirit in a strong body. After all, St. Paul famously used sports metaphors for the spiritual journey of life:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” (1 Cor 9:24-26)

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me…” (2 Tim 4:7-8a)

As we watch the Olympics, and cheer for athletes from the USA, and hopefully appreciate the skills and guts of talents from other countries – even as we count the medals for “us” and “them” – let us remember that there are challenges greater than gaining the gold, and steps higher than the top of the winners’ podium. Sports, it is often said, are a microcosm of life, with all the human faculties brought into play in a competitive game. While there is truth in this insight, the larger lesson is that this life is also a sort of competition or race for the ultimate goal, the highest prize, which is “the crown of righteousness” St. Paul writes about. The ultimate finish line, goal post, point score, is heaven, and this life is the arena of play. It takes the ultimate in “sportsmanship” – that is, love of God and love of neighbor – to get across the goal.

Sports, in perspective, can teach us to work for that higher goal, with regular training, self-discipline, self-sacrifice and sights set on a higher goal. The ancient Olympics shared its name with the mount in the clouds where the gods resided. In our own way, we as Catholics believe in Olympus as heaven where the Trinity reigns. There is our goal and our home. Let the Games begin!

Brian Caulfield is editor of the website Fathers for Good, an initiative by the Knights of Columbus that features regular articles, videos and other multimedia on the subject of Christian fatherhood. A father of two young boys, Brian writes on the spiritual truths found in daily life and the issues men face while striving to live out their vocation.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis celebrates the closing Mass and announces site of next World Youth Day
Pope Francis visits poor neighborhood and meets with young people from Argentina
Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida
Denver rally draws hundreds in support of religious freedom
Pope Francis prays over a sick man in St Peter's Square
Denver women's clinic will offer natural, Catholic care
Interview Clips: Barbara Nicolosi speaks to CNA
US Cardinals press conference at North American College
Pope Benedict to retire to monastery inside Vatican City
Pope cites waning strength as reason for resignation
Hundreds convene in Denver to urge respect for life
New Orange bishop encourages Catholic unity in diversity
Chinese pro-life activist calls for reform, international attention
At Lincoln installation, Bishop Conley says holiness is success
Mother Cabrini shrine reopens in Chicago after a decade
Ordination of 33 deacons fills St. Peter's with joy
Cardinal says "Charity is the mother of all the virtues"
Augustine Institute expands evangelization effort with new campus
Bishops recall 'Way of St. James' as chance to trust in God
Los Angeles cathedral's newest chapel houses Guadalupe relic
Apr
24

Liturgical Calendar

April 24, 2014

Thursday within the Octave of Easter

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Gospel
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Acts 3:11-26
Gospel:: Lk 24:35-48

Saint of the Day

Easter Sunday »

Saint
Date
04/24/14
04/22/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 24:35-48

Homily
Date
04/24/14
04/23/14
04/22/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: