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Seeking souls instead of gold at the Olympics

In these turbulent social times, i sometimes have a tough time making it through the newspaper. Even the comics get tangled up in the issues of the day. My refuge is often the sports page. I love athletic competitions. Not being a great athlete myself, I love to read about the feats of those who are. Athletes are not saints by any stretch of the imagination, but normally the stories focus on values we can all agree upon: discipline, strong work ethic, perseverance. Other than Barcelona FC, I don't have a strong emotional attachment to many teams. I always cheer for the National League in baseball because I hate the designated hitter rule. I tend to cheer for the team with the best back story.

The Olympics is the mother lode of inspiring stories. There are so many obstacles, challenges, and come-backs. However, I was feeling a bit jaded this time around. American soccer goal keeper, Hope Solo, has been dishing about the bacchanalia that takes place in the Olympic Village. Olympic organizers are distributing 150,000 condoms to athletes. The health director of Brazil's Olympic team claims such sexual exploits are both normal and necessary for such physically fit young people.

So I was so happy to read this article in the British Catholic Herald:
Twenty-four hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will be held in St Francis of Assisi’s church, Stratford, east London, throughout the Olympic Games, it has been announced. 
Not just in London but throughout the country the Church is gearing up for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. 
Priests and religious will be on hand in the Olympic Village for athletes, coaches and officials, with chaplains available for visitors to the Games. Spiritual and pastoral hospitality centres at St Francis’s church and at Westminster Cathedral will offer Masses in different languages, talks by priests, and will also provide a place for volunteers at the Games to “chill out”, according to Frank van Velzen, assistant Catholic coordinator of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I don't know how many athletes will take advantage of this spiritual opportunity. However, it is nice to know that the British Catholic Church sees an opportunity to celebrate virtue while others are promoting vice. This is what the "New Evangelization" is all about. As Pope Benedict XVI has clearly articulated, we need to "re-propose" the Truth. We cannot assume that others already know what the Church is about. Even years of Catholic education are no guarantee that someone is well catechized. I am saddened at how few of my own Catholic school compatriots are still active practicing Catholics.

So I will enjoy the competitions. I will marvel at the physical prowess. And I will pray that these athletes recognize their talents are gifts from God and seek a closer relationship to Him. May the efforts of the Catholic Church in England bear much fruit. They may not win gold medals but they will win souls.

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