July 23, 2021


Summer Olympics offer a golden opportunity to build community

If you’re like millions of people around the world, you’ll spend some time in the next few weeks with your eyes focused on Japan.

The Summer Olympics is being held in the Land of the Rising Sun from July 23-Aug. 8, and fans of numerous sports are no doubt excited to have the opportunity to watch world-class athletes compete at the highest level. The Games also present a wonderful opportunity for families to gather together and share quality time as they see the best of the best in competition.

It’s hard to believe the originally-scheduled 2020 Games are finally taking place—albeit a year late. The delay is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused chaos, uncertainty and

tremendous loss of life worldwide through the past 18 months. Sadly, as of July 19, the global death toll from COVID had reached 4.1 million people, including more than 600,000 in the U.S. May all those who have died from this illness, and all of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

We see so much division in society today, and it extends beyond faith, politics and culture. There is unrest to the south in Cuba, an ongoing border crisis, and continuing concerns about new strains of COVID that are appearing across the globe. For many of us, the Games will serve as a respite from these worries. At least we hope and pray that will be the case.

While some look at the Olympics as a chance for their home country (fill in the blank) to demonstrate their athletic superiority over others, we believe the Games offer a chance to build community and demonstrate sportsmanship.

Pope Francis recently said as much.

In a meeting in late May with Athletica Vaticana, the Vatican’s own sports association which was about to compete in the athletic championships of the Small States of Europe, the Holy Father said sports is a central dimension in people’s daily lives, so much so that it can be seen as a “sacramental of beauty.”

The pope underscored the importance of working together as a team, a key element in sports.

Pope Francis went on to recommend to the Athletica Vaticana delegation to always live with a community spirit, training together, running together, and never losing sight of the importance of amateur, non-professional sporting activity.

Although the Olympics now include professionals in various sports, the majority of the athletes are still amateurs. No matter where competitors rank in their respective event, most of them have trained tirelessly to achieve this lifelong dream. And, as fans, we should appreciate the athletes’ commitment to their craft.

For those of us in central and southern Indiana, we have extra reason to be proud. 2012 Indianapolis Cathedral High School graduate Joe Schroeder is a member of the U.S. Rugby team, and cyclists Coryn Rivera and Felicia Stancil, both graduates of Marian University in Indianapolis, are members of the Women’s U.S Cycling team. Those three are featured in articles in The Criterion this week, beginning on page 1. More stories are published on page 20.

But the trio aren’t the only Olympians with local ties. Cole Hocker, a 2019 graduate of Cathedral High School, will be featured in next week’s July 30 issue. Cole is a former high school state cross-country champion who will compete in the 1,500 meter run in Tokyo.

We wish these Olympians the best, and pray they stay safe and represent our country, their families and our community with world-class sportsmanship.

We also pray that their faith shines through, no matter the outcome.

As St. John Paul II, himself an athlete, once said, “Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness to his Gospel. But to succeed in this, he must persevere in prayer, be trained in virtue and follow the divine Master in everything.”

Like the Olympians, may we each follow the divine Master, no matter what our vocation in life.

—Mike Krokos

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