The Olympic games are a good thing.
Did you know that if you attend the Christmas Eve vigil at a Catholic church, you will hear a special chant near the beginning of the Mass which lists different events of salvation history, and which has, nestled in it, a reference to the Olympics?
Yes! The Olympics are mentioned at Mass!
I went online to get more information about it, and I found an article written by Fr. Felix Just. (I’ll add the link later in this post.) Fr. Just writes:
A formal “Proclamation of the Birth of Christ” is traditionally chanted or recited near the beginning of the Christmas Midnight Mass and/or during the Liturgy of the Hours on Christmas Eve. The text, which comes from the “Roman Martyrology” for December 24, situates the birth of Jesus Christ within the context of salvation history. It begins with the creation of the world, mentions certain key events in the history of the people of Israel, and concludes with the birth of Jesus during the Roman Era.
His article contained a table which compared the different versions of this proclamation. He used the version from 1994, and this is the Olympic part of it: “In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.”
Isn’t that neat?
I think it’s quite fascinating. It shows you that the Church is very much aware that salvation comes in the context of our ordinary and special human events. The Church is not unearthly, in other words. It reminds me of how the writers of the Gospel describe the life or birth of Jesus by putting it into the context of local events occurring at that time in history.
God acts within history. He acts within the concrete events and places of today. He acts in our daily lives, and we must be careful to make sure that we don’t imagine that God is so lofty and so untouchable that he has his head in the clouds and would refuse to deal with our daily concerns.
Some people want to imagine a God who is so pristine and so hoity-toity that he can’t be bothered with people.
Some people want to refashion Christ, so that he is 100% judgmental, and 0% merciful. They imagine a church and a Christ that never wants to dirty its hands nor its feet. Nope: for them, it’s always lavender soap.
The fact is, God very much wants to be with us, to mingle with us, and to laugh and cry and celebrate with us. He sends his only Son to walk the earth with us, and the intermingling does not end there. God’s providential care continues with the Church, which acts as mother to us, teaching us and ministering to us. At the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, which is nothing less than Christ himself. He stays with us. He never wants to leave.
He likes hanging out with us, in other words.
But here, let’s understand, it’s not primarily a visual thing. So don’t go setting aside an empty chair at your already-crowded table when you have your Christmas dinner, to signal that – yes – Christ is With You.
That’s just dorky and totally unnecessary, so stop bragging to everyone about your ‘special tradition.’ Quit the posing and the look-at-us devotions. Give Uncle Bob the chair, already.
Christ is there all the time, whether you set aside this that or the other thing. The main place that you need to reserve for him is inside your heart, not beside the cranberry sauce.
And by this I mean that you need to have an openness to his will. If God wants you to do x, do you do x? If God wants you to avoid doing y, do you avoid doing y? That’s the main thing. If you do this with a real desire to do the right thing, you won’t go wrong.
If you really want to do the right thing, you’ll be able to figure it out. Consider what you know about the teachings of the Church. If any of these things sound dreadfully stupid or impossibly difficult, then probably your sources of knowledge about Church teaching are leading you astray. Consult a better source. Consult a good priest. Ask a knowledgeable Catholic friend or acquaintance what you should do in your actual situation. If some aspect of Catholic teaching causes you consternation, go online and read the actual text of the teaching.
Consider your vocation and actual life situation. If you’re at work, then do your duty. If you’re at home, do your duty. If you are married, make that a priority. If you’re in religious life, do whatever you have vowed to do, and listen to your superior. Et cetera and et cetera.
There are plenty of ways for you to figure out how to please God, if that’s your intent.
But anyway, I watched the 2016 Olympics for the first time yesterday, upon coming across, in a store, a wall of large screen televisions. It was, as you know, day 11 of the games.
I liked most of it. I think I watched, in total, about an hour’s worth. And when I got home, I went online and watched some videos of coverage from yesterday, I think it was.
My opinions about sports haven’t changed tremendously over the years. I continue to prefer those sports which have a clear way of discerning the winner. Pole vaulting, for example, is nice clean and neat – very difficult to cheat. Other sports are blurry and subjective. Too ‘artistic’ for me. Rhythmic gymnastics, for instance: it’s just not appetizing. LoyalOne joked that the balance bar queens looked like peacocks strutting through a mating dance of some kind. Puff puff.
And those outfits, well, you know I dislike.
And perhaps that could serve as some sort of test. If your sport involves wearing lipstick and sequins on your chest, then, um, maybe we should give it a rest. If I were in charge, those ‘sports’ would be relegated to the world of the arts, like the ballet and the folk-dancing fest. But I’m not in charge, so carry on with your tip-toeing and your martial arts.
I cheered for Canada, of course.
In the instances where Canada wasn’t in the line-up, I cheered for the athletes wearing the most clothes.
Will someone please tell me why the men do their sports wearing a respectable amount of clothes while the women run down the track in what looks like underwear? Why, on earth, is it necessary for female track athletes to show their belly-buttons to the world? The men don’t do it. Why all the skin?
Man. I shake my head.
So many things.
I gave mental points to those athletes who looked and behaved in a dignified manner. I liked the athletes who looked focused and simple.
I cheered when Thiago Braz Da Silva did what he had never done, and soared through the air via pole vault at 6 meters 3. The silva went to the athlete from France, who did very well too, though I didn’t like his Toller-Cranston-esque look, and was glad when he put on a more modest shirt.
I liked how Bolt held his head high as he crossed the finish line. That’s how you do it. I cannot agree with all the commentators and journalists who’ve praised the dive of Shaunae Miller. That just looked stupid. Not a photo finish in my books, and not worth it. No, I do NOT think that getting gold justifies anything and everything. No, I do NOT think it was brave or bold or great to do a face plant. I think it was lame. Part of successful completion of a fast-footed race should be ending it upright, and on your feet.
The real winner of that race was Allyson Felix. Be happy Allyson, as happy as your surname. You won.
I also do not approve of any athlete lying on the track after the race. How ick. There they are, sweating and sprawled, wearing nearly nothing at all. You can see how the videographer juggles the camera angles trying to figure out how to ‘cover’ the moment. He thought his work involved coverage of sports, and not of, well, um, something else.
Please, dear ‘athlete’: go pant and heave somewhere else. It’s been long enough.
Pick yourself up, put on a proper shirt, and go hold your flag.
(I heckled the televisions.)
Do you think, now that you’ve won, that everything you do is just fab? It’s not. Now, more than ever, you have a duty to the world to show How Things Are Done. Be gracious, be sensible. Be a role model for decent behaviour.
Drop the theatrics. The world has seen enough of your armpits, your thighs and everything else.
Pick yourself up, put on a proper shirt, and go hold your flag.
And yes, please hold the flag (not a yellow poly-filled mascot). And no, don’t drape your flag on your shoulders like a bathrobe or cape.
Hold it up proudly, like Derek Drouin did. What an athlete – a champion for sure.
Did you see how he behaved at these 2016 Olympic games? A gentleman through and through. His leaps: pristine and clean. His moves, his gestures, his words, his facial expressions: calm and discreet. He dressed between jumps and he clothed himself properly and promptly before gathering his flag. He held his flag wide and high as he went to smile at his mom, his dad and his two older sisters, all attending there in Rio. You could feel the intended hugs and the overflowing joy. I was very proud of this Canadian. What a wonderful example.
I was so happy to watch his jumps live on TV. God’s timing is perfect and that’s the segment I happened to see.
Derek’s biography on the official Olympic website is wonderful as well:
Family: Parents Gaetan and Sheila Drouin… Older sister Jillian is a two-time Canadian high jump champion and member of the 2015 Pan Am Games team… Also has older sister Alysha… Getting into the Sport: Started running track at age 9 but didn’t get into high jump until he was 15, following his sister who was a great high jumper and made it look fun… Before he did it in school, he would set up a high jump in his family’s basement using two large base speakers and a broomstick, which he would raise by stacking books under it, and then jump over it onto the couch; it’s because of this set-up and the way he had to run down the hallway that he still jumps from the left side… Inspired to represent Canada in some sport after watching Simon Whitfield win gold at Sydney 2000 when he was 10… Outside Interests: Graduated from Indiana University in 2013 with a degree in Kinesiology… Enjoys reading, movies, exploring new cities, and playing other sports (hockey, volleyball, golf)… Odds and Ends: Says the closest thing to a good luck charm he’s ever had are the Teddy Grahams he usually has in his bag to snack on during competitions… Nickname: Drouin, D… Always travels with at least one book… Favourite motto: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”…
His motto is good and I love the fact that he carries no charms. Good for him!
I wish him the best in his future endeavors, and at the same time I hope that he – and all athletes and spectators – never forget that sports are only one aspect of life.
The Olympics are big, but God is bigger.
The Olympics have their place, and that place is within God’s plan, and not the other way around.
(And on that topic, I want to say that making the sign of the cross before or after a race is fine, provided that one acknowledges that the athlete serves God, and not that God serves the athlete by making the athlete win or by bringing him good luck. That would be to treat God as a good luck charm. Your intention is key – that’s my point.)
Let us enjoy our sports, our arts and all decent human endeavors, but let us always be mindful of the ultimate finish line of our lives.
Death will come soon enough.
Can we live our lives well until then?
How do we end?
I hope we can hold our heads high.
Click here for a link to the article by Father Felix
And here’s the Proclamation:
Proclamation of the Birth of Christ
Today, the twenty-fifth day of December,
unknown ages from the time when God created the heavens and the earth
and then formed man and woman in his own image.
Several thousand years after the flood,
when God made the rainbow shine forth as a sign of the covenant.
Twenty-one centuries from the time of Abraham and Sarah;
thirteen centuries after Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt.
Eleven hundred years from the time of Ruth and the Judges;
one thousand years from the anointing of David as king;
in the sixty-fifth week according to the prophecy of Daniel.
In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome.
The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus;
the whole world being at peace,
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father,
desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit,
and nine months having passed since his conception,
was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary.
Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.