By Rebecca Dussault
One of the greatest symbols of sport is beheld within the Catholic Church itself and it’s the late, (Great!) Holy Father John Paul II. Through the many years of his episcopate and papacy he made a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of athletes and sports enthusiasts everywhere as to what is the proper place and function of sports for humankind.
Himself a very devoted athlete, he is able to speak from the side of truth and integrate it so wondrously with the practice of being an athlete. We find in his writings a great testament to the fusion of both faithfulness and fitness.
The Pope himself loved athletics like they were his breath. He was know to frequently summit mountains, alpine ski, bike, swim, play soccer or volleyball and he even found time to enter an international kayaking competition in 1955 just five years before being ordained a bishop! He was known since the beginning of his papacy as the “athlete Pope.”
His words are of great encouragement to those who desire to combine the discipline and motivation of athletics with the spiritual practices of prayer and meditation. The whole purpose of athletics is in fact to aid the mind in the search and communication of Truth.
The pope had this to say in 2004, “St. Paul the Apostle proposed the image of the athlete to the Christians of Corinth in order to illustrate Christian life and as an example of effort and constancy (1 Cor. 9:24-25). Indeed the correct practice of sport must be accompanied by moderation and training in self-discipline. The Christian can find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the race for the wreath that is “imperishable,” as St. Paul writes.”
He encouraged a sporting mindset and culture that will promote “doing sport” which will help people rediscover the full truth about the human person. He put for the notion that sports played within a Christian outlook will become a generative principle of profound human relations and the building of a more serene and supportive world.
Do not be fooled by the commercialization of sport which can stifle its real value, but instead see it as a language understood by all, which expresses man’s physical abilities and spiritual capacity.
Let us remember Our Holy Father’s great example of sanctifying sport and practice it in a way which brings us closer to Christ.
“If you are what you are meant to be then you will set the world on fire.” St. Catherine of Siena
We made an amazing pilgrimage to California for the culmination of lent and celebration of the Risen Lord. It was a total immersion in faith and prayer. This is something we’ve done annually for almost the whole last decade.
It was an endurance week of spiritual training. It went like this:
The Last Supper and washing of the feet on Holy Thursday starts at 5:30p.m. and goes till 7:30 followed by a small meal. Then again for the Vigil of the Passion starting at 8: and lasting 2.5 hours. On Friday the Royal Hours of prayer were at 7, 9, 12, 3, 4:30 and then 7 to 11pm. There are readings of scripture, psalms and hymns reflecting on the passion and crucifixion and on to. Amazing liturgies! We were also invited to contemplate our whole life and pray for everyone we’d ever met along this great journey we call Life. Then on Holy Saturday much of the day is spent in silence preparing food for Easter Sunday and reflecting on Jesus descended to the dead and resting in the dark of the Tomb. Saturday evening began the joyful celebration of the Pascha (or Easter) Vigil starting at 7 and went until 11:00 with the lighting of the Easter Candle, reading of the scriptures from Genesis and Israel's release of bondage from Egypt, a reading from Job and then the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then into the new testament readings and on to the Gospel proclaiming the Risen Lord. During this liturgy the church is completely darkened and very solemn and by the end the chandelier of candles is swinging, people are chanting with utmost joy and Fr. David is dousing the whole chapel in fresh bay leaves and red rose petals. A few hours of sleep and then we all gathered before the break of dawn at 5:30 am Easter morning for a procession around the outside of the church and another beautiful liturgy that lasted 3 hours!
The parish is made up of about 70 people. All very devout families. The entire parish fast from all meat, dairy, oil, wine, fish for all of Lent and then do a total fast starting Thursday after dinner until Saturday late at night when the fast is started to be broken with bread, fruit, nuts and wine. The real feast is Sunday morning after liturgy where everyone brings amazing dishes of meat, eggs and cheese, for a big potluck! It is always a deep, beautiful and spiritual time to celebrate with this community. Feels kind of like we were participating back in the early church. Most of the traditions, hymns and chants are taken from the early church fathers St Basil, St. John Chrysostom and others.
After our days in Ukiah we headed out to the coast for Bright Week for a couple days and then stayed a couple nights in Napa Valley. We ate a ton and didn't get in any exercise except games of tag on the beach, but visited instead with a lot of friends and family.
Now it is back to decision time. We have to decide by Friday if we are going to move on our top prospective for the next phase of our life. Things are looking positive but nothing is for sure yet. If that doesn't happen we are looking at other options. Exciting times!
Christ is Risen!