In Your Faith Life, Go for the Gold

Fist holding gold medal

In Your Faith Life, Go for the Gold


Have you been following the olympics? I was on a retreat over the weekend and missed the opening ceremonies. But interestingly, I saw a very clear connection to what I was doing and what athletes do to get to the olympics.

The analogy between following the Christian Way and the pursuit of athletic excellence is not new. St. Paul loved to speak in this analogy. Let’s take it a bit further by looking at the characteristics of an elite athlete. 

Athletes love their sport. They make a decision to commit to it unreservedly. They order their life around the pursuit of excellence in their sport- their training, their diet, their sleep, their habits, their company, etc. They develop an intense mental focus that sees the end goal as well as the immediate challenges.

They recognize the cost of this excellence, that they will choose not to do some of the things their friends do, things that would hinder their pursuit. But these things look insignificant when measured next to the end goal. To stand on that podium, to get that gold medal, they would do anything, whatever it takes. Failure is simply not an option.  

What among these characteristics could not be applied to the spiritual life? To the pursuit of sanctity through a life of deep prayer and commitment to following Jesus wherever he leads?

I think we need to see the spiritual life in these terms, as an adventure, as a pursuit of something amazing and worth a life-altering decision. Because that’s what it starts with: a decision. As Fr. Thomas Dubay said in Saints: A Closer Look

“Progress toward God is indicated much more by actual choices than by pious feelings.” 

“Progress toward God is indicated much more by actual choices than by pious feelings.”  -Fr. Thomas Dubay

On my retreat, the speaker asked an interesting question: “Do I want to give 95% and be a good Catholic? Or do I want to give that extra 5%, and be a saint?”

It really left me thinking. The difference between an elite athlete and an olympian, I would bet, is probably 5% or less (in terms of effort, ability, etc.). But an olympian will go that extra 5% because they care that much. And they believe that gold is possible.

Do I care that much? Do I want to be a saint that badly? Do I even believe that gold is possible?

Gold is possible. For each and every one of us. I know this because God has said so by asking sanctity of us, and God never asks the impossible. This is the key difference in the analogy: to be an olympian certain genetic characteristics have to be in your favour. But anyone can be a saint.

Do you believe that?

Whatever God asks, he also provides for, so whatever may prevent me from pursuing the sainthood right now (laziness, doubt, indifference, ignorance, etc.) is not from God. It’s all on me.

So the question is: when it comes to my holiness, will I get off the couch?

Final question worth pondering: if God in his design intends for me to be a saint, who stands to lose if I don’t respond? My sanctity benefits me first, but also the people I love the most (not to mention friends and acquaintances; my parish; my community; my town; my country; the universal Church..). So is my love for them worth the extra 5%? 

When I think of it in these terms, you know what? Failure is not an option.

The podium moment is a beautiful celebration of one’s striving for excellence, but even more memorable is the unveiling of the image of a newly proclaimed saint in St. Peter’s Square. This is the goal we should have in mind.

So go for the gold!


For further reading: Chapter 5 of Lumen Gentium: The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church. You may also like: Athletic Spirituality

So the question is: when it comes to my holiness, will I get off the couch? — Josh Canning

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