Seven Things the Olympics Have in Common with Ignatian Spirituality

Olympics and Ignatian spiritualityI love watching the Olympics. Summer or winter games, the spirit of camaraderie and competition draws me to the television. As the countdown to the next Olympic Games shortens, I’m thinking about what the games have in common with Ignatian spirituality.

  1. History—The modern Olympics date back to 1896, but the games originated in ancient times. Ignatian spirituality is a tradition dating back to the 16th century.
  2. Magis—Seeking the greater, the excellent, the best: this is how athletes achieve the right to compete on a world stage. This is also how we are called to serve Christ.
  3. Imagination—Part of the allure of the Olympics for a child is imagining that one day maybe he or she can bring a gold medal home. For followers of the Ignatian way, imaginative prayer invites us to a closer relationship with Jesus.
  4. Discipline—Any athlete can tell us that discipline is needed to maintain skills and improve. Discipline allows one praying to push through the difficult moments or the times when prayer feels dry or distracted to find the graces God has in store.
  5. Paying attention—An athlete looks for an optimal moment to make a push toward the finish line. An Ignatian looks for God’s presence in all things.
  6. Broad appeal—I’m not the only non-sports fan who is mesmerized by the Olympics and its bringing together of nationalities. And I’m delightfully surprised by the ecumenical appeal of Ignatian spirituality.
  7. Service—There are many volunteers who work behind the scenes to make a huge event like the Olympics run smoothly. We are called to live in service to each other.

What do you think the Olympic Games can teach us?

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Denise Gorss
Denise Gorss volunteers as a junior-high catechist. She appreciates the gifts of Ignatian spirituality and likes sharing various types of prayer with the young people in her groups. She enjoys seeing the world on pilgrimages and lives in the Chicago area, where she works as Web Editor at Loyola Press.


  1. And just to add, the founder of the modern Olympic movement Pierre de Coubertin was strongly influenced in his ideals and work by his own Jesuit educational background. In fact, we are to indirectly credit St. Ignatius with the inspiration that helped found and shape this movement….truly finding and honouring God in all things should be at the heart of how we are to use our gifts, talents, and education towards equipping ourselves to be sowers of the seed for the Kingdom as well as reapers of the Harvest. Everything we have been given by our Lord is supposed to be used to give Him glory in His vinyard and this is too made possible when we cooperate with His will as faithful, generous, and compassionate stewards & laborers in His vinyard. Movements like the one founded by Pierre de Coubertin are supposed to be training grounds for this end.

  2. Rio – here we come. Wishing the Olympians, the game officials, the organizers, fans, mentors, the Brazilian folk, the media and the critics – many positive gains during and after the Rio Games.

  3. I have seen the report on the Olympics recently on the most recent episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel on HBO.
    This report was so disturbing to me with a Jesuit background in education. It focused on enormous social justice issues. The poor in these countries that host the Olympics are treated horribly.
    Now in Rio there is an issue of raw sewage and debris in the ocean. The Olympians that will be using the water for their event have been told not to open their mouth.
    I ask, where would Jesus be if he was here today?

    • Kathy, I’m sure Jesus would be with both the people of Rio and the athletes. I pray for the safety and well-being of all involved.


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