Respect in the Franciscan Catholic Tradition is sourced in the belief that we are all made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). When we serve one another, we serve the God who created each of us. Respect is critical in sports. An athlete needs to respect the officials, fans, opponents, and the rules and traditions of the game. Equally important is that the athlete honor the values inherent in competition. Respect in the athletic arena is often equated with sportsmanship. However, respect also involves a deep gratitude for the opportunity to compete and a willingness to accept the responsibility that comes with this privilege.
Balance is about wholeness. When one is whole, one is holy, even saintly. Being a person of balance means to be integrated in mind, body and spirit. The successful athlete recognizes this by paying equal attention to training, skills and practice as well as aspects such as stress, nutrition, sleep and relationships. These must be balanced to positively affect the performance of the athlete. Perspective plays an important role in living a balanced life. Perspective means “to see through; to see clearly.” It allows us to truly see ourselves and our situations, helping us to deal with injury, change and loss. Balance requires healthy relationships with others as well as with God’s creation.
Reflection means “to look again.” We are urged in the midst of our busy lives to stop and “look again” at the people, places, experiences and moments in our lives. God is present in all things. To find God in sports entails pausing and re-examining our athletic experiences. Reflection enriches our knowledge of self and provides awareness of our own gifts and weaknesses. We look to the models of both Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi who balanced their lives of service with time in prayer. Reflection itself must be held in balance. As spiritual writer Fr. Adrian van Kaam explains, it is good unless it leads to an unhealthy dwelling on the experience. Reflection is most healthy when we look again at our life experiences with gentleness and compassion.
“Beauty is a central spiritual insight of Francis and his followers,” says Franciscan scholar Sr. Mary Beth Ingham. An awareness of beauty in nature, in other people, in actions, in relationships helps us to be better aware of God at work in our lives. In fact, beauty has the power to transform and heal our lives. As we witness beauty with wonder, we witness the Incarnation; we are forced out of ourselves, urged to do good and reminded that God is with us. Beauty is evidenced in sports. It is witnessed in a beautifully executed play, a graceful pass or an awesome display of athleticism.
Sport at its best allows us to play. The English word sport, from the Latin word deportare, means to “carry away.” Play lightens us up, opens the imagination and invigorates the soul. True play promotes freedom, creativity and joy. In Man at Play, Fr. Hugo Rahner defines play as “an activity that is undertaken for the sake of being active, meaningful but directed towards no end outside of itself.” The Judeo-Christian notion of Sabbath allows for moments of leisure and prevents the seriousness of work from dominating and defining us as “human doings” rather than ”human beings.” St. Francis of Assisi, known affectionately as the “Fool for Christ,” modeled this much-needed playful spirit in the world.