20 January 2006

Patron Saint of Athletes

We know very little about the legendary St. Sebastian, martyred in the late third century. St. Sebastian is often depicted as a young man tied to a tree and pierced with arrows. Legend has it that he survived the painful encounter and was later ordered to be beaten to death. Among the many other occupations, trades, and causes placed under his care is that of the athlete.

For many, sports and athletics are a source of refreshment and a healthy outlet for energy. St. Francis de Sales believed if a person attended a tennis match -- even if he had no vested interest in either competitor -- he would, quite naturally, begin to favor one player more than the other. So natural, indeed, is the inclination for sports. As with all things, St. Francis de Sales believed that, in moderation, such a recreation of playing or watching sports was most healthful for a person.

One of our sisters who was a long-distance runner is fond of saying that running is like praying, "it makes my heart bigger" she quips. We haven't seen any conclusive evidence yet, but we'll take her word for it!

"Air and exercise, cheerful games, music, field sports and the like are such innocent amusements that they only require to be used with ordinary discretion. . . . Those games which exercise mental or bodily activity or skill, such as bowling, chess, etc., are praiseworthy amusements."
St. Francis de Sales

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