They're only fighting for bronze, silver and gold, but they have something to show us in our fight for the imperishable crown.
The Olympics inspire and showcase true human excellence: rigorous discipline, united patriotism, and even, though otherwise unpopular in contemporary culture, judgement — right judgment against an objective standard, striving to signify with the beautiful precision of numbers exactly how unequal performances are.
What is more, as St. Paul testifies, athletic events can motivate us toward supernatural virtue as well as natural: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it.” The prize he means, of course, is heaven itself. St. Paul advises us, like athletes, to practice self-control, to pommel and subdue our bodies, so that we might avoid disqualification and attain our victory wreaths through lives of Christian charity.
In other words, we ought to allow the examples of great sportsmen and women to inform our spiritual lives! And in this year’s Olympics, there are several athletes who can provide us with spiritual lessons.
First, snowboarders Red Gerard from Colorado and Chloe Kim from California remind us that in the spiritual race, youth is no handicap to holiness. Many of the greatest saints were very young when they obtained that heavenly reward. Like St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, Red Gerard did not let his smaller stature stop him from playing a huge role and taking the greatest prize in slopestyle. Like St. Maria Goretti — who not only died for purity but even forgave her murderer — Chloe Kim was not content with securing the gold medal by her first run in the halfpipe; she was determined to win it with an even higher score on her last. And so she did.
Saint Maria Goretti, the youngest Saint
Alex and Maia Shibutani, the brother-sister figure-skating duo from Michigan, remind us that our families can be our best partners on the path to spiritual perfection. They are like St. Benedict and St. Scholastica: in winning their multiple PyeongChang medals, these two have shown us how siblings, when united in pursuit of a higher purpose, can both help each other accomplish it and grow in love for one another on the way there.