Although I’m far from being an Olympics junkie, I’ve managed to watch an event here and there, usually while having my morning coffee. Watching the Men’s 100m heats the other day I was pleasantly surprised to watch Usain Bolt cross himself and point skywards as he settled into the starting blocks. It was as if he were telling God that what he was about to do was for Him.
Bolt isn’t the only elite athlete that I’ve noticed doing this lately. Recently Luis Leon Sanchez of Spain made the sign of the cross as he won the 14th stage of the 2012 Tour de France. Also, as a soccer junkie, I’ve noticed many players making the sign of the cross as they enter onto the pitch at the beginning of a game or as a substitute – most of them from countries where the Catholic faith is still strong: Italy, Spain and Latin America.
When I was a young boy, I remember watching my hockey hero, Guy Lafleur, make the sign of the cross before starting a hockey game and I asked my mother why he would do that if he wasn’t in church. She told me that it was a superstitious thing that athletes do. Personally, I think it goes further than that. Just like Usain Bolt seems to be telling God that he is seeking perfection through his athletic talents, I think other athletes are also saying a special prayer to God for one reason or another. Whether it’s asking God for strength and courage before the match begins or giving Him glory after a goal or a victory, these prayers are a way for athletes to recognize God’s role in what they do.
Reflecting on this got me to thinking about my own life, my own profession as a catholic educator and how I pray to God as I go about my day-to-day routines. Do I visibly ask God for strength and courage as I begin my day, students filtering into their seats? Some days I need it more than others. Do I give thanks to God after giving a particularly good lesson or helping a student understand a concept they were having difficulty with? If it were not for the talents God gave me, my successes would not be possible.
As we revel in the athletic exploits of the Olympics, I think we need to learn a thing or two from the athletes. We need to turn to God in our day-to-day lives, remembering to lean on Him when times are hard and to give Him glory when things go well; and finally, not to be afraid to show it.