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Hockey sticks in Italy

Living so far from our homes, fraternity is a treasured element of seminary life. There are many things we do to foster this community, but I have found few are as unifying as sports. The pursuit of a common aim creates friendships even where you might not expect. In short, it is safe to say that the unity of mission, even in small things, and sometimes especially beginning in small things, brings about a unity of persons.


The long-standing importance of our soccer matches (“football” to all but us Americans) with amateur teams around the Eternal City is proof enough of the effect our culture has on us while in Italy. Still, we cannot help but enjoy our American games as well. One that has been missing from our campus on the Gianicolo (Janiculum) is hockey.


This year I took the initiative to come as close as I could to enjoying the rink by playing street hockey. While assembling the equipment and finding others to join me, I could not help but reflect a little on why these innocuous games matter.


Amongst the street hockey crew, only a few of us are former ice hockey players, while the rest of our careers ended in the neighborhood — when games were played until it was dark outside, and someone’s younger brother was forced to play goalie.


Yet, for all of us, the competition brings back fond memories of afternoons that turned into nights with the game never abating. Many of us can be serious athletes about serious competitions, but in street hockey we play to play, just like we did during childhood. It is hard to take yourself too seriously pushing a poor substitute for a hockey puck past a wooden goalie.


Games such as this one add a sense of mirth that is refreshing in the midst of a serious world. They build a strong sense of unity not only upon the element of competition, but also upon the sheer enjoyment of the activity. And it is simply good to enjoy these together.


In most sports, the competition is healthy and even fierce at times. That is a great thing. But when all is said and done, when the great buzzer sounds off once and for all, and all the battles are won, there will be no more glory to merit by cooperating with God’s grace. However, there will remain other sorts of play.


Even worshiping God together — as serious as that is — is sometimes understood as a type of divine play: the kind that enlists not only one another but even God himself as a partner. Similarly, I think we can all use some mirthful and unifying games from time to time.


Joe Moschetto, from Our Lady of Hope Church in Potomac Falls, is in his third year of theology studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.


This article originally appeared in Roman Echoes, the quarterly magazine of the Pontifical North American College in Rome.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019