By Linda Bordoni
In a letter addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life on Friday, Pope Francis reflected on how precious sport is in current culture which, he said, is “dominated by individualism and the gap between the younger generations and the elderly”
A place of unity and encouter
“Sports, the Pope said, is a privileged area around which people meet without any distinction of race, sex, religion, or ideology”.
It’s where “we can experience the joy of competing to reach a goal together, participating in a team, where success or defeat is shared and overcome”.
This, he said, helps us to reject the idea of conquering an objective by focusing only on ourselves.
The Pope’s letter came as the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life presented a new document entitled “To Give the Best of Oneself. On the Christian Perspective of Sport and of the Human Person.”
Pope Francis spoke of the need for a team spirit that helps each one of us give the best of ourselves.
“When a father plays with his son, when children play together in the park or at school, when an athlete celebrates the victory with his or her supporters, in all these environments we can see the value of sports as a place of unity and encounter between people. We reach great results, in sports as in life, together, as a team!” he said.
A formative vehicle for the young
The Pope also reflected on the value of sports as a ‘formative vehicle’ for the young who look to sportsmen and are inspired by them.
He pointed out that athletes exemplify the virtues of generosity, humility, sacrifice, constancy, and cheerfulness and they contribute to the group spirit, to respect, healthy competition, and solidarity with others.
Pope Francis also emphasized the role of sports as a “means for the mission and sanctification” explaining that the Church is called to be a sign of Jesus Christ in the world, also through the sports practiced in oratories, parishes, schools, and associations.
“Every occasion is good for announcing Christ’s message, whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” the Pope said quoting from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy.
And describing sports as the “discovery of the human potentials that incite us to unveil the beauty of creation and of the human being, made in the image and likeness of God” he said “sports can open the way to Christ in those places or environments where, for different reasons, it is not possible to announce Him directly”.
A call to give the 'best of oneself'
Pope Francis also said that to give the best of oneself in sports is also a call to aspire to holiness and he expressed his conviction that young people nurture the hope of giving the best of themselves, the important thing is “that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts.”
Pope Francis concluded his message with the exhortation to deepen the close connection that exists between sport and life drawing on the fact that an athletic discipline also serves as a stimulus to always improve as a person, in all of life’s aspects.
Sport, he concluded, is a very rich source of values and virtues that help us to become better people, training, practicing, discovering our limits without fear, struggling daily to improve.
In this way, “to the extent that each Christian grows in holiness, he or she, he said, will bear greater fruit for our world.”