Appleton, WI

July 31/Aug 1: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition: In Joy & Sorrow

A question for you: Do you enjoy the Summer or Winter Olympics more? I just plain enjoy the Olympics, regardless of summer or winter. So, I am already looking forward to the Winter Olympics next year in Beijing and the Summer Olympics in 2024 in Paris. In the meantime, I am watching these Summer Olympics.

For us Catholics who appreciate the beauty of ritual, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies are always a treat. Ritual is reliable. We don’t sit down to plan the Opening Ceremony, per say. It is more accurate to say that we prepare the ceremony. Its basic elements have been set in place for many years. There is always the parade of nations. There is always the proclamation by the leader of the host country declaring the games open. There is always the welcome of the Olympic flame into the stadium as well as the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

Similarly, we do not plan the Mass, since its plan has been set for the ages. We prepare for the Mass. The key to full, active, and conscious participation in the liturgy is to let the ritual wash over us. The words and gestures, set down for us, touch us differently at each Mass, because we are at a different place in our lives for that Mass.

My ears perk up to hear the stories of the young athletes. Many of these young people are such an inspiration. For example, 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby stunned the swimming world on Monday, winning the gold medal for the 100-meter breaststroke. Lydia hails from Alaska. Interestingly, there is only one Olympic-sized swimming pool in all of Alaska! Perhaps you saw the joy of her teenage classmates and family as they reacted to her first-place finish. Such unadulterated, pure joy! It was a holy moment to witness!

Also, on Monday night (Tuesday morning, Tokyo time), Olympic swimming champion, Katie Ledecky, came in second place in the 400-meter freestyle. If I have done my math correctly, Katie lost her race by 0.67 seconds to Ariarne Titmus of Australia. Katie’s time for the event was the second-fastest of her career. Katie reported, If anything, I’m even happier with my swim. That’s my best time in five years so I hope that bodes well for the rest of my races….I wouldn’t be here without her (Ms. Titmus). She set this amazing standard for middle-distance racing, and if I didn’t have someone like her to chase, I definitely wouldn’t be swimming the way I am. So I am really grateful to have her and now it’s good to have someone that I race all the time and [can] just have fun out there. Being in the battle is the best thing.

Katie’s perspective is so beautiful. Even in loss, she is grateful, humble, and affirming of a fellow swimmer. Together, Katie and Ariarne challenge each other to be the very best. This kind of a competition is so very commendable and worthy of our appreciation and imitation.

Finally, on Monday, British diver, Tom Daley, competing alongside his diving partner, Matty Lee, won the gold medal in synchronized 10-meter platform diving. This was Mr. Daley’s first gold medal of his diving career. Tom said this: I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything. Hopefully, Tom’s words matter in the lives of our young LGBTQ sisters and brothers!

I am looking forward to being inspired as the Summer Olympics continue to unfold in Tokyo. Bring on track and field!