Those who have put discipline and hard work into sports – whether an Olympic gold medal or a fifth grade tournament – help show how Catholics should dedicate themselves to their faith, the author of a new book has said.
Alyssa Bormes, author of “The Catechism of Hockey,” praised the Olympic Games’ displays of accomplishment and the “gorgeous unity of the human spirit.”
“Somehow, even though I’m not skiing, when I hear of my fellow Americans skiing, they’re skiing for me. We won the gold. It’s so wonderful that we all become one in sports. And in the Church,” she told CNA Jan. 30.
Bormes said sports are attractive because of athletes’ discipline, their self-mastery, and the way some have suffered for their sport.
She said the Olympics are about “the full gift of self.”
“It’s very Catholic to give everything to what you’re doing,” she said. Olympic athletes, just by qualifying for the games, in many cases have already “given everything they have.”
“Some of them will have colossal failures, and others colossal wins. Our hearts will go out in both cases, for either the sorrow of the athletes who have lost or for the great joy of the athletes who have won.”
Bormes’ book, published by ACS Books, reflects on hockey and other sports and how they can provide inspiration for Catholic life.
The former youth minister and religious education director, compares players who neglect drills, practices, and good diet—and so play poorly--to Catholics whose private sins affect the Church.
Time in the penalty box is akin to penitence for one’s sins. Coaches are like catechists, while team memorabilia resembles devotion to relics, she said.
Bormes said her book is written for sports-minded individuals and parents whose children are involved in sports.
“We fully catechize our children in sports,” she said. Sports, like religion, can feature inter-generational teaching, regular observances, and an “all-encompassing” attitude.
“We tithe to sports. Some of us hemorrhage (money) to sports. We organize our schedules around sports. I’m asking parents not to give that up, but to do the same for the faith, and teach their children the faith as if it were football or basketball.”
She said she agrees with criticisms that sports can become a “parallel religion” in which people are more concerned about the rules of sports and commit more to sports than to their faith.
However, everything a sports devotee is doing “can easily be translated in to the faith.”
“Sports are great, and they’re a great training ground,” Barmes said.
She suggested a connection between dedicated athletes’ willingness to submit to the rules and discipline of their sport and faithful Catholics’ willingness to submit to their faith.
“It’s utterly Catholic in that submitting, and yet there’s this gorgeous freedom in it.”
In sports, she said, “we watch greatness come from within the rules, not in spite of the rules.”
“If someone were consistently to break the rules, it’s not great. It’s distracting, it’s ugly, and we don’t like it as someone watching the sport.”
Like great athletes, the lives of the saints tell the story of virtue again and again.
“Even though each saint is submitting to the same rules of the Church, the same commandments, they do so in such dramatically different ways that the story is consistently interesting.”
Barmes said the Catholic faith stresses “the important thing.”
“It’s to make saints, it’s not to make Olympians, even though they’re great. It’s to make saints.”