On June 1st, 2018, the Vatican released its first major document on Sports titled, “Giving the Best of Yourself”. Although this title might be interpreted as another motivational essay, this document offers so much more.
For centuries, our Church Fathers have heralded the importance of recreational games as a means to free the mind in order to get back to work, and for this reason, the word “play” was paramount with transcendental meaning.
According to Fr. Pat Kelly, SJ (a major contributor to this document) the Catholic Church was the first to recognize the importance of sports within an educational framework. From Thomas Aquinas to St. Ignatius de Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus), the fundamental truth of sports emphasized the goodness of the material world and that the person is a unity of body, mind, and soul. And when we combine all three realms we are bringing up a person.
As I have mentioned in my previous writings, there has been a reductional approach within our society to mislead or totally abolish this fundamental truth to how sports, properly directed, can bring about the development of these three realms.
Aquinas argued that our body and mind longed for the soul, as the soul does for the body and mind. In a time where Christian Anthropology has been negated within our current society relative to education, economics, and politics, it might be time to rethink where Christian Anthropology fits within an educational framework, and in our current youth sports program.
Is it possible for us parents and educators to come together and ask these tough questions:
Are we introducing sports to our youth, relative to the different development stages of growth, relative to not only the physical but the mental? Are we introducing sports as a means, as Aquinas first saw it as an opportunity, where virtues are properly introduced, to serve the common good and human dignity? Are we introducing youth sports where discipline and humility are engaged to build friendship and solidarity? Are we introducing youth sports where knowledge of the body is never in competition with the soul, but rather in harmony with each other?
Only when these tough questions are answered in its proper framework can we truly say that youth sports, when properly directed, can transcend to glorify the Creator.