Catholic Perspectives on Sports: From Medieval to Modern Times
- Publish Date: 2012-11-01
- Binding: Paperback
- Author: Patrick Kelly SJ
This book is about how Catholics have engaged in play and sport from the medieval period to the 20th century in the United States, and how this engagement has been related to theological and spiritual sensibilities. Fr. Kelly persuasively challenges the commonly held view of sport historians that Christians prior to the Reformation loathed the flesh, and therefore did not take play and sport seriously. On the contrary, he argues, Christians in the early church and medieval period insisted on the goodness of the material world and that the person is a unity of body and soul. Christians during these periods also insisted that virtue has to do with moderation. A virtuous person, according to this view, should be moderate in his studies or work and take time to engage in play and recreation. Some theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas,thought play was closely related to spiritual values.
Fr. Kelly shows how during the medieval period Catholics participated in games and sports on feast days and Sundays and depicted such activities in prayer books and on woodcuts and stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals. Catholic humanists during the Renaissance included time for play and sport in the first schools which educated primarily lay people, and the Jesuits followed their lead in subsequent centuries. Catholics brought these cultural traditions with them to the United States, where they engaged in play and sport routinely and without anxiety and incorporated them in their schools as a matter of course.
These earlier cultural and theological traditions provide us with resources for addressing problems in sport in our own context in the United States, such as the dramatic rise in overuse injuries in youth sport and performance enhancing drug use scandals of the kind that has recently engulfed Lance Armstrong.