I’m from Chicago, a BIG sports town (bigger than ever this week with Da Bears in Da Superbowl!). Often, sports can be a thorn in the side for catechists: students miss religious ed. classes because of games, tournaments, and practices and, worse yet, they and their families often miss Mass on Sunday because of games and tournaments. These are serious issues that need to be addressed. On the other hand, I’m a huge sports fan myself and I see great opportunities for using sports as an entryway to faith issues.
Having taught in an all-boys high school for nearly a decade, I often found myself using sports analogies to captivate my audience. Today, of course, girls are just as involved in sports and I continue to find myself using sports analogies in my rel. ed. classes. Sports is a metaphor for life. Kids (and people in general) learn from metaphors. For example, it’s easy to talk about understanding the concept of redemption when you can refer to a certain Chicago Bears quarterback who has a knack for occasional lousy games from which he needs to redeem himself (restore his reputation). Building on that analogy, it’s easy to talk about how we are incapable of redeeming ourselves from sin and that Jesus alone is our redeemer. (By the way, I teach at Most Holy Redeemer Parish!).
Finally, sports is a great vehicle for talking about prayer. As a 10-year old in 1969, I prayed that the Cubs would hang on to their lead over the Mets in the penant race. Didn’t happen. I cried, wondering why God did not answer my prayers. (My inner child continues to cry over the Cubs!) Kids pray about sports all the time and they should, because it’s a big part of their lives. However, we catechists can help them to understand that God doesn’t pick winners based on prayers but that, through prayer, we come to see as God sees, which means we learn to put things into perspective. God wants us to grow and become holy. That can happen whether we win or lose.
Having said all that, my inner child is praying that Da Bears win on Sunday!