As someone who sticks to a healthy diet of fruits, salads, and skinless chicken, and who enjoyed youthful years of dancing the tango, the Santo Papa is great at keeping fit. But he’s not alone in this endeavor— these saints and popes were also champions of fitness!
Pope John Paul II: The Athlete Pope
“Sports are not merely the exercise of muscles, but the school of moral values and of training in courage, in perseverance, and in overcoming laziness and carelessness,” Pope John Paul II once said. The beloved pope hiked up mountains, was an avid skier, and even joined an international kayaking competition before he became bishop! His love for cycling was so well known that Ernesto Colnago, the famous creator of bikes for champions, presented him with a very special gift— a bicycle with an 18-carat gold-plated frame, says rouleur.cc. However, the Athlete Pope was too busy to use it, so the Vatican returned it to its maker, and the bike has since been put on display at the Colnago Museum in Milan, Italy.
Pope Pius XII: Pope of Sports
Pope Pius XII was famous for his love for sports. On October 9, 1955, he even allowed St. Peter’s Square to be converted into a basketball court, where he then proceeded to watch an epic game! He succinctly sums up his belief in sports in this statement, “Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor… Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator.”
Venerable Michael McGivney: The Ball Player
Who would have thought that the founder of the Knights of Columbus, Venerable Michael McGivney, was a superb baseball player? While he was a seminarian, he and his peers formed a baseball league called Charter oaks. Everyone was amazed at his flair for baseball, especially when he scored three times in one game. But his drive for a healthy body and sound mind did not end there— he also founded St. Joseph’s Total Abstinence and Literary Society, an organization that put together sports and theater productions, and most importantly, helped young men turn away from alcohol abuse and go back to the faith.
St. Sebastian: The Patron Saint of Athletes and Archers
Text by Stephanie Jesena-Novero.