The Season Begins


As the school year begins, the Academy Secondary Schools and Bryn Athyn College are off to good starts in field hockey, football and other fall sports, winning their first games. The schools in Bryn Athyn have traditionally placed an emphasis on athletics for many years, and the reason is a surprisingly religious one. One of the hallmarks of athletic competition is the amount of effort required to succeed. This effort is typically more tangible and visible than similar efforts in other types of activities. Athletes suffer exhaustion, feel pain, and experience defeat or success in a literal way that is hard to match in other areas of life. While other areas of life may be more important than these games, and require just as much effort and skill, the efforts, pains and successes are not typically as evident, quantifiable or clear-cut. This makes athletics an ideal vehicle for teaching the value of such things as effort and teamwork to young people, whose appreciation of spiritual values may not be as mature as it will later become.
The teaching is this:
“A person ought to compel himself to do what is good and to speak what is true. The secret contained in this is that a person is then gifted by the Lord with a heavenly proprium, for this heavenly proprium is formed in the effort of his thought.” Arcana Coelestia 1937.3
That is, we are reborn in the efforts of our day-to-day lives, especially as we come to see that these efforts are not ours but the Lord’s. Athletics may play a useful role in teaching young people what effort is and how to withstand and overcome hardship. The inherent excitement, interest, and passion inspired by these kinds of games motivate both athletes and spectators to value these qualities.
People worldwide love and value athletic competition, whether high school, college, professional teams, or special events like the Olympics. This Sunday we will enjoy the new Community Worship Service and the Organ Vespers, both held at the Cathedral. We will also join millions of Americans in welcoming the beginning of the football season. According to polls, 73% of American men and 55% of American women regularly follow the NFL. These games are among the most watched television events in the country. Eight of the top 10 television events in history and 22 of the top 30 have been NFL football games. While many sports are popular in the US, the overall viewership of the NFL is about the same as that of the NBA, NHL and MLB combined. So enjoy the upcoming weekend, and if you watch any sports, try to appreciate the role that the development of qualities that are both spiritual and tangible plays in these fun and popular events.