St. John Paul II welcomed and addressed sports teams at athletic events all over the world throughout his many years as pope.
His words inspire and remind us that in athletics, as in every area of our lives, we are called to live the Gospel message. There is no ‘time off’ from being a Christian or trying to grow in virtue.
“Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness to his Gospel.” -St. John Paul II
He viewed the playing field as an opportunity for educational and spiritual growth that helps to “build a more fraternal and united world; sport which contributes to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person.” -St. John Paul II
We learn a lot about ourselves in any athletic activity, whether recreational or competitive. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is a gift that is to be respected body, mind and soul.
“Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry.” - St. John Paul II
In a 2004 address, St. John Paul II reminds us that the playing field is a place to grow virtue.
“The Christian can find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the race for the wreath that is “imperishable,” as St. Paul writes.”
His words of encouragement to athletes often center on being a joyful, virtuous and humble role model who leads others by example.
“I believe that we do not err to recognize in you this potential for civic and Christian virtues. In a world in which we often painfully recognize the presence of youth who are lifeless, marked by sadness and negative experiences, you can be for them, wise friends, expert guides and coaches, not only on the playing field, but also along those paths that lead to a finish line of the true values of life.” -St. John Paul II
By keeping the role of sport in the proper perspective, we can, as St. Paul said, "Glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20).
“The body, according to Christian concept, deserves due interest, real respect, loving and wise care, invested as it is with natural dignity, capable of a mysterious sacrality and destined to ultimate victory over death itself, as our faith teaches us.” -St. John Paul II