Faith and Sport – The Search for Glory
In conversation recently someone made the comment that there are very few things that unite people better than a sporting event. Events like the World Cup in Soccer, the Olympics, various Marathon or endurance events can attract huge attention.
Music is also a great uniting force. Who could forget that great original Three Tenor concert from Italia 90 in the baths of Caracalla in Rome in July 1990 with Luciano Pavorotti, José Carreres and Placido Domingo capturing the attention of a major world-wide audience. Occasionally, closer to home an event like the recent Garth Brooks concerts in Croke Park will draw several hundreds of thousands of people with a common purpose of enjoyment, entertainment, savouring the company of each other.
Political events can also be a great unifying force with rallies, gatherings, campaigns but it also has the potential to be divisive with opposing opinions and ideals.
Religious events have a similar potential, the Hindu Pilgrimage to the Ganges in the Himalayas, The Hajj to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem or Christian events like World Youth Day, World Meeting of Families, the election or funeral of a Pope can attract almost as much interest as the recent funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of England.
There was a time in Ireland in the not too distant past when religious events or Church related activities were one of the main draws and were the basis for forming community. It has been remarked that nowadays, however, sporting stadia and shopping plazas and have become the new Cathedrals where people worship on the sabbath day. Evolving times, for sure. Sport, walking, cycling, swimming, the outdoor life the pursuit of health, happiness and recreation therein has certainly taken on a new lease of life. Sometimes just for its own sake. More often than not with a purpose or end goal in sight.
The Clare Crusaders
With the lessening of the grip of Covid restrictions on the world you may have noticed the return of the orange t-shirts around Ennis early on a Saturday morning. They are a hardy group of people who call themselves the Clare Crusaders. About 60 or so regulars gather to run and train for the Dublin City Marathon every year. Like most charity events there is a lot of money riding on the backs of the 20,000 or so runners. God alone knows the total amount of funds raised in such events. The Clare Crusaders run to raise funds for a special needs clinic in Barefield. It’s a life-line for many who avail of that service. Therapies, companionship, respite for parents and carers. A very worthy charity. Well worth donating to!
Faith in search of greater glory in Sport
Running a marathon and doing that for charity appeals to the crossover of topics of an interesting new book to which I had the privilege of making a small input. It is called Faith: In search of greater glory in Sport by a man who has spent his life working with young people in a faith context, Gerard Gallagher. It’s published by Hero Books, Liam Hayes the former Meath footballer and journalist being one of the driving forces behind that company.
It’s a book about 20 of Ireland’s most successful sports stars describing their faith in themselves, their faith in those around them and their faith in striving for Greater Glory. The dedication of the book is from the words of St. Paul encouraging that “Whatever you do, do everything for the Glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31)
Reflections include famous GAA figures like Ciarán Carey, the recently deceased Brian Mullins RIP, Seán Boylan, Ger Brennan, Katie Taylor and Barry McGuigan from the boxing world, long distance runner Catherina McKiernan, Leinster and Ireland rugby star Josh van der Flyer, cyclist Seán Kelly. There is an very interesting section entitled another calling with interviews from Tracy Piggott and east-Clare native Olive Foley who lost her husband, Munster star Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley, RIP in October 2016.
What is it in the sporting endeavour that brings us beyond the subjective endeavour? What is it that helps to seek strength and focus in believing in our own talents, reach out to believe in what others around us can do to assist and to most of all reach out to a greater power above who can give that necessary lift or reserve of strength to transport us to another plain that can achieve greater glory?
I like the passage from Josh van der Flier “As part of my preparation I listen to beat music, loud and pumped-up before a game. As I drive to the game I play calm, religious music. The peaceful music is just like going to Church. It offers me that important moment of calm”. May we all have that inner calm in what we do in life to bring us to that space of greater glory encouraged by St. Paul.
Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article 14th of October 2022