Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy applies a Franciscan focus on Pope Francis’ August Monthly Intention: that sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…” (Eccl. 3)
The rounds of time have again brought us to the beginning of a new series of articles dealing with Social Justice. This year, we will consider Pope Francis’ monthly intention which we remember each morning in our Morning Offering. As with so many daily practices, they can recede into routine and lose meaning. Perhaps considering the needs behind these intentions and viewing them through the lens of the call to promote social justice will enliven our prayer each day.
During the month of August our Holy Father gives us the intention, That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world. At first glance, we might be tempted to dismiss this as a need that comes in on the lower part of our scale of world needs. However, time has shown us that Pope Francis is ever alert to the needs and issues of each new day.
This month brings the spectacle and the strength involved in the Olympic Games. The Olympic motto is made up of three Latin words : Citius – Altius – Fortius. These words mean Faster – Higher – Stronger. It was the Dominican priest Henri Didon who first expressed the words in the opening ceremony of a school sports event in 1881. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder for the modern Olympic Movement and who was present that day, adopted them as the Olympic motto. It expresses the aspirations of the Olympic Movement not only in its athletic and technical sense but also from a moral and educational perspective. The Holy Father calls us to an awareness of this gathering of nations in the name of sport at its highest level. The Olympic spectacle is an image of a world in which all nations are welcome, in which all bring their best selves and their best efforts, in which rules are just and enforced fairly, in which all bring the ambition to excel without the need to defame their opponent.
Also, in October, the Vatican is launching a multi-faith sports conference called “Sports at the Service of Humanity.” This event will examine the role sports can play in society, from establishing relationships to helping promote health and wellness. Pope Francis authorized the event because he believes the Vatican can tap into the worldwide popularity of sports to bring people of all faiths, races and nationalities together in peace.
We bring to our daily prayer Pope Francis’ words, Every sport has its worth — not just in physical and social benefits, but also morally in the ways it can offer people, especially kids, a chance to experience a more balanced life, “self-control, sacrifice and loyalty toward others,” he said, especially today when it seems “betrayal” is on the rise. As Franciscans, we are to treasure the gift of the Incarnation which lifts our physical being to a new level. Let us pray that all people, especially the young will find sports to be a means to grow in respect for self and others, for winning and losing, for cooperation and healthy competition.