The Gospel through Kayaking
John Paul II, who was a fine athlete even into his papacy, never ceased to remind the faithful, and particularly our youth, that the human body has a specific meaning and role to play in God’s creative plan (Theology of the Body 1-129, 1982-84). In his biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, George Weigel writes that as a young priest, Father Karol “took single and married couple hiking, skiing, and kayaking. As a veteran hiker from his youth in Wadowice, the future pontiff was thoroughly at home in nature. And so he created the pastoral method of accompanying his young friends to Poland’s mountains and lakes.”
Weigel continues: “The annual kayak trips were a vacation plus, and they were always the occasion for conversation or for spiritual direction. Mass was celebrated using an overturned kayak as an altar, with two paddles tied together to form the altar cross. He made it a point to take a meal with a different family every day of the vacation, working his way around the entire group. Soccer games were organized between the married team and the youth team. Wujek, his nickname, “played for whichever team was shorthanded. Around the campfire in the evening, the adults would discuss significant books or church documents.”
“The future pontiff’s essential point was that the priest’s duty to help make God present in the world was not satisfied by his daily celebration of Mass. In addition, “the duty of a priest is to live with people, everywhere they are, to be with them in everything but sin. That was the context for looking at vacations as a pastoral opportunity. Daily Mass took on a special texture on a vacation trek: nature, not only human art, participates in the sacrifice of the Son of God. At Mass, a thought for the day could be proposed and reflected on during evening prayer.”
“An excursion had to be a well-prepared improvisation in which the priest was ready and willing to talk about everything: “about movies, about books, about one’s own work, about scientific research, and about jazz bands. Was this kind of pastoral work, built around vacations with young men and women, a compromise of the priesthood?”
This form of ministry had to be discerned by the individual priest, but it was certainly a way of leading others to Christ. The excursions helped the young people look at their problems from a different perspective...to look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel” (103ff). These excursions created the sense of a Christian community.
Symbolism of the Five Rings
The Olympic symbol, the five intertwined rings, represents the unity of the five continents. The rings of blue, yellow, black, green and red over a white field form the Olympic flag. The Games always begin with the raising of the flag and majestic displays of music, singing, dance, and theater representative of the host nation. With their closing, three national flags are hoisted with the corresponding national anthems of the flag: that of Greece to honor the birthplace of the Olympiads, the flag of the current country, and the flag of the country hosting the next summer or winter games. The next host nation briefly introduces itself with artistic displays representative of its culture.
Regardless of activity, regardless of sport, all activity is intended to give God our praise and glory.