Pope Francis has said sports are educational as they possesses the same characteristics as work and school and can help the faithful advance.
The Holy Father made the comments to thousands of people who participated in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Centro Sportivo Italiana in St. Peter’s Square Saturday afternoon.
His message centered on focusing on an eternal win rather than fleeting victories, and realizing how one’s motivation in sports-related endeavors needs to be applied to other endeavors in life.
“Put yourself in play in search of good, in the Church and in society, without fear, with courage and enthusiasm,” the Pope said. “Enter into the game with others and with God; do not be satisfied with a mediocre ‘draw,’ but instead give the best of yourself, spend your life for what it is really worth and for what will last for ever. Do not be satisfied with merely drawing even: no, no! Go ahead, always seek victory!” he urged.
The Pontiff said he sees “three roads” for the young: “The road of education, the road of sport, and the road of work: that is, that there are jobs for them at the beginning of their young lives. If there are these three paths,” he said, “I can assure you that there will be no dependencies: no drugs, no alcohol.”
“Why?” he asked. Because “school takes you ahead, sport takes you ahead, work takes you ahead. Do not forget this. To you, sportspeople, managers, men and women of politics: education, sport and jobs!”
Francis continued stressing sport must remain a game, as only in this way is it good for the body and spirit. He added, “I urge you not only to play, as you already do; put yourselves in play in life as you do in sport,” encouraging those gathered to expect the best of themselves.
In sports clubs, he said, “one learns to welcome. Every athlete who wishes to join is welcome, they welcome each other. I urge all managers and trainers to be, first and foremost, welcoming people, able to keep the door open to give every person, especially the least fortunate, an opportunity to express himself.” He added his hope that those gathered “may experience the pleasure, the beauty of playing as a team, which is very important in life. No to individualism!”
Belonging to a sports club, Francis said, means “rejecting every form of selfishness and isolation” and is an “opportunity to meet and be with others, to help each other, and to compete with mutual esteem and to grow in fraternity.”
He also commented that many educators, priests and nuns have also taken sport as a starting point to develop their vocation and that there are many clubs which originate “in the shadow of the Church steeple.”
He added that if there is no sports group in a parish, “something is missing,” because sport in the community can be an excellent missionary tool, where the Church draws close to each person, helping him or her to improve and to encounter Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis said this invitation should exclude no one: “I ask that all may participate, not only the best: everyone, with the advantages and limits that each person has, indeed helping the disadvantaged, like Jesus did. And I encourage you to continue your commitment to children in the outskirts of the city, through sport: with a ball to play with, you may also offer reasons for hope and trust.” (D.C.L.)