2006-02-26 Lent is like athletic training
February 26, 2006
Lent is like athletic training. The Greek word for getting into spiritual shape, from which we get “ascetical,” means “athletics.” The saints are called “athletes of God.” A soul in shape is the ultimate healthiness, for it makes longevity eternal. A soul out of shape, through indolence and sin, is deadlier than any physical sickness.
While the world of sports has declined in many ways into crass competition and vulgar commercialism, it is edifying to come across those who have a right sense of the soul and body.
The grotesquely decadent opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Turin, which along with the planned closing ceremonies cost $32 million in a world with starving people, are offset by some worthy figures like Joey Cheek who donated the $25,000 he earned for winning a gold medal in speed skating to a group that helps children in the most disadvantaged areas of the world, like Sudan where Christian children are sold into slavery. Chanda Gunn, a goal tender for Team USA who is epileptic, works with epileptic children to encourage them in physical training.
Rebecca Dussault, an Olympic cross-country skier from Colorado, is devoted to Blessed Giorgio Frassati who died helping the poor in Turin over 80 years ago. He was a wealthy youth, an affable friend of children, who enjoyed skiing and good cigars. Throngs attended his funeral when he died a holy death at the age of 24. Pope John Paul II recognized a miracle through his intercession, and beatified him as a model for youth and sports figures.
The Frassati Society of Young Adult Catholics has information about this saintly model (www.Frassati.org). We must bear in mind that just as the old and wise saints have much to teach youth, so do the young saints have much to teach the elderly. As a symphony orchestra requires many different instruments, so is it heartening to see in our parish the compatibility of young and old at the altar of our Lord. Our older parishioners are closer to the finish line of this life and so Lent is especially important for them, but it also helps to start out well. St. John Vianney said: “The saints have not all started out well, but they have finished well.”
Saint Paul did not have to go to a gym, because daily life itself was heroic exercise. May we all be able to say with him, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Fr. George W. Rutler