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In pursuit of excellence

What’s so beautiful about the straight, level throw of a frisbee, a perfectly tight spiral touchdown pass, an accurate cross on a corner kick, or a graceful bump-set-spike? The answer is simple: Athletic feats are excellent in themselves. They’re beautiful when they are done in exactly the right way, conducive to victory. Holiness of life is governed similarly by excellence-in-itself. We pray because it is good to do so. To be holy, to be a person of prayer, is to be an excellent person.

More than 140 young men from the Arlington diocese including campers, seminarians and religious lived out this connection between sports and holiness last week at Quo Vadis Days. Quo Vadis is a summer camp for high school boys built around Mass, common prayer, brotherhood and athletic competition. While the mornings featured classroom lectures on the spiritual life and ample time for confession, silent reflection and contemplative prayer, the afternoons and evenings found all of the men competing in about a dozen different sports and games. While many participants are considering a call to the priesthood, Quo Vadis is not primarily about seminary recruitment. The goal of the program is to help young men live and pray well.

Why use sports in service of this goal? What does pick-up soccer have to do with men fostering brotherhood, learning about prayer and sincerely striving to draw closer to Jesus Christ? What unites all these is excellence, so clearly visible in the feats of endurance, speed, precision and talent found on the fields of friendly rivalry. The drive for excellence we experience in sports teaches us something about the drive for holiness. Just as athletes are at their best when they play in the way most excellent for their sport, we as human beings are at our best when our lives are in accord with the way of our nature: the Way himself, source of all excellence and beauty.

Courtney, who is from St. Rita Church in Alexandria, is entering his first year of theology at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019