This past week Pope Francis met with delegates from the European Olympic committees, in advance of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, next February. He suggests that sport unites us, and provides fertile ground for thinking about the spiritual life.
Indeed, the practice of sport stimulates one to healthily overcome oneself and one’s own selfishness and to train oneself in the spirit of sacrifice and … promotes loyalty in interpersonal relationships, friendship, and respect for rules.
He goes on:
Sporting activity typically unites rather than divides. … When sport is regarded solely within economic parameters, or in terms of the achievement of victory at any cost, there is the risk of reducing athletes to mere merchandise through whom profit may be obtained. The athletes themselves enter into a mechanism that overwhelms them, causing them to lose sight of the true meaning of their activity. ”¦ Sport is harmony, but if the unrestrained pursuit of profit and success prevails, this harmony is lost.
His words point to a spirituality of sport, a theme that I explored in my book The Ignatian Workout ten years ago. This theme is on my mind again recently, as Loyola Press asked me to return to that theme in a sequel due out next month. I reached deep and came up with the title The Ignatian Workout for Lent. With Saint Paul, it conceives of the spiritual life as a metaphor for the life of faith, to be lived with others in pursuit of a mission.