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Why the soul needs to be the foundation of gymnastics

WOMEN'S GYMNSTAIC OLYMPIC WINNERS

Martin BUREAU | AFP

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/01/21

Pope Pius XII believed that the beauty of gymnastics is revealed in the beauty of the athlete's soul.

Gymnastics, like any other athletic competition, reveals the beauty of the human body and its marvelous strength and grace.

However, Pope Pius XII that gymnastics has that beauty only when the soul is the foundation.

Pope Pius XII addressed a variety of athletes and sports leaders on November 8, 1952, and highlighted this fundamental truth.

In reality, what would be the use and development of the body, of its energies, of its beauty, if it were not at the service of something more noble and lasting, that is the soul? Sport, which does not serve the soul, will be nothing but a vain agitation of the limbs, an ostentation of transient beauty, an ephemeral joy.

Pius XII compares the soul of a gymnast to the musician playing a violin.

The soul is the determining and definitive factor of every external operation, just as it is not the violin that determines the release of melodies, but the brilliant touch of the musician, without which the instrument, even the most perfect, would remain silent. In the same way as the harmonic movements of the limbs in gymnastics, the agile and shrewd movements in the games, the powerful grips of the muscles in the struggle, the main and determining factor is not the body, but the soul; if this were to leave it, it would fall like any other inert mass. 

He then goes on to explain that the closer the union is between body and soul, the more beautiful the routine.

This is all the more true the closer is the bond that unites them: in man it is a union of substance, so that both form one nature; very different from the relationship of association, as between the musician and his violin. In sport and gymnastics, therefore, as in the sound of the musician, the main, dominant element is the spirit, the soul; not the instrument, the body.

As a result, he believed that greater emphasis should be placed on the soul, than the body.

[T]he greatest value is not attributed to the one who possesses the strongest and most agile muscles, but to those who also demonstrate the most ready ability to submit them to the empire of the spirit.

This is a profound concept, one that reminds us that while bodily perfection is remarkable to see, what is even more astounding is when bodily perfection is matched with spiritual holiness.

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