Faith and sport
One of the unexpected but, nevertheless, welcome benefits of staying home because of the pandemic is the free time one has for other members of the family, to appreciate certain nooks and corners of your home you’ve taken for granted, to reflect on one’s life and raise basic questions like: What is my purpose in life? Why am I here? What more do I want to achieve?
As one compares notes with other senior and super senior citizens on how the pandemic has changed their lives, one hears of fellow seniors “reinventing” themselves by learning new skills, or revisiting old hobbies like cooking, baking, getting busy with physical conditioning activities like stationary biking, doing the treadmill for 30 minutes daily, lifting weights, yoga, and walking.
Others combine the above with reading books that had been long lying around untouched on book shelves and gathering dust. Some, especially those visually challenged, subscribe to audio books by the dozen and finish “reading” the books in no time. After going through two or three in a week’s time, one hears expressions of accomplishment like, “Its great communing with some of the world’s greatest thinkers, political science experts, economists, and management gurus. I should’ve done this much earlier into the pandemic.”
Still others get to pray more often. Private, silent morning prayer for 15 minutes with rosary in hand while still in bed is preferred by quite a number. The country’s difficult economic and political situation has a great number seeking shelter, solace, and assurance from unstructured prayer by simply praying for one’s needs, dreams, safety, good health, loved ones, and for peace in the country. After praying the rosary, others catch different TV/online masses and listen to the homilies of wisdom of priests, monsignors, and bishops.
Scripture reading follows as part of the discernment process. Prayers of petition, gratitude, adoration, and contrition round up what the faithful call “God’s morning.”
Another common household activity is rummaging through one’s old files, photos, old articles, pamphlets, annual reports, brochures, and reference materials on one’s various areas of interest.
One such reference material, which I had placed in a box labeled simply “Interesting and Useful Papers” and which I dug up, is a 2016 paper used in a conference called, “Sport at the Service of Humanity — Conference on Faith and Sport, Vatican.” The formal name of the international gathering, held at the Vatican on Oct. 5-7, 2016, was called “Global Conference on Faith and Sport.”
Although a bit more than five years old, the concepts discussed and issues raised remain extremely relevant as sport activities all over the world intensify and all faiths do some basic reflection on how a particular faith will relate with other great areas of human interest such as sport.
The convenors of the conference — the United Nations, the International Olympic Committee, and the Vatican — state that with the blessings of His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vatican hosted Sport at the Service of Humanity, the first global conference and faith and sport. This new combination of topics was most likely the main reason why I singled out the article for future reading.
The conference, a by-invitation affair, gathered thought leaders from different religious faiths, sports, business, academia, and media, and discussed how faith and sport can work together to serve humanity.
A conference paper says that religious faith and sport are fundamental driving forces within global society. Both share a common purpose in the promotion of human values and both have vital roles to fulfill. A summary of the proceeding states, “The Conference looked at how faith and sport can leverage their combined power and influence to promote positive values, inspire youth, and make contributions for the betterment of humanity.”
The Conference was developed under the direction of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an Italian Cardinal of 11 years. World famous athletes, religious leaders, and government leaders attended and explored how the faith and sports communities could better serve the communities, according to a conference paper. A preparation commission was convened one year before the conference. For many hours, the delegates brainstormed under the general theme of Sport in the Service of Humanity.
Cardinal Ravasi “convoked the group to help develop a cultural and pastoral approach to sports and a major international colloquium on “Faith, Culture and Sport” according to a statement of the organizers. Cardinal Ravisi opened the meeting by “delineating four cultural aspects of sport: the body, education, ethics, and play to set the general tone of the meeting.”
The narrative of the Conference relates how an athlete described the influence of coaches as being somewhere between that of a father and an uncle, and few doubt the sporting world reflects, even shapes and influences many of societies priorities, joys, and ills. Another representative laid down the challenge to focus not on “Who is the best?”, but on “What is your best?”
A write up on the conference states that, “the main theme throughout the Conference was the question. ‘What can faith and sport do together for the betterment of humanity? Some of the answers looked at the service that can be given to the poor and vulnerable, promoting tolerance, bringing down of racial and gender barriers, and effective promoting of inclusion, as well as bringing joy to people around the world.”
Combining faith and sport to be of better service to humanity will remain to be a daunting challenge in the years to come. Western and western-oriented societies will be able to respond over time. Other communities will have difficulties adapting to the basic principles of combining faith and sport to contribute to development. Gender inclusion and tolerance for unorthodox marital arrangements will, for example, be put to a test in a place like Doha, Qatar where the 2022 World Cup will be held. Let’s see how the Qataris will adapt to a new paradigm.
Philip Ella Juico’s areas of interest include the protection and promotion of democracy, free markets, sustainable development, social responsibility and sports as a tool for social development. He obtained his doctorate in business at De La Salle University. Dr. Juico served as secretary of Agrarian Reform during the Corazon C. Aquino administration.