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?)

Featured Videos

Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Nov
23

Liturgical Calendar

November 23, 2014

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 25:31-46

Gospel
Date
11/23/14
11/22/14
11/21/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Ezek 34: 11-12, 15-17
Second Reading:: 1 Cor 15: 20-26, 28
Gospel:: Mt 25: 31-46

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
11/23/14

Homily of the Day

Lk 19:45-48

Homily
Date
11/21/14
11/20/14
11/19/14
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: