Pope John Paul II and Sports

By Rebecca Dussault
Professional Skier
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

Pope Celebrates Mass for Athletes
Pope John Paul II arrives at Rome's Olympic stadium October 29, 2000 to celebrate a mass for the athletes'' Jubilee. The pope held a mass at the stadium to celebrate the athletes'' Jubilee for the Holy Year and later watched a friendly soccer match between the Italian national team and a selection of foreign players in Italy.
Photo: Marco Rosi
Oct 29, 2000
Lou Judd - I was blessed to be able to attend this Mass with the Pope. It was a great soccer game.