The Spirituality of Mountain Climbing

This is a quote from Pope John Paul II on the significance of sports and specifically mountain climbing. The meaning it has for the Christian life and how it can enhance our spiritual growth. The original in Italian can be found here, and the quote in English can be found in the book “A Catholic Perspective: Physical Exercise and Sports”, by Robert Feeney. Enjoy!

“If it is true that sports activity, in developing and perfecting the physical and psychological potential of the person, contributes to a more complete maturity of the character, this is especially true for those who practice mountain climbing and engage in it in respect for the ideals which this sport sustains and nourishes. I exhort you in the words of my predecessor, Pius XII, to be “docile to the lessons of the mountain: 

. . . it is a lesson in spiritual elevation, of an energy which is more moral than physical.” I congratulate you on your programs which aim at educating your members in respect for nature and in a deepened examination of the message which she imparts to the human spirit. Have special concern for the young, to train them to follow the type of life that the mountains demand of their devotes. It requires rigorous virtues in those who practice it: strict discipline and self-control, prudence, a spirit of sacrifice and dedication, care and solidarity for others.Thus we can say that mountain-climbing develops character. In fact, it would not be possible to face disinterestedly the difficulties of life on the mountains if the physical and muscular strength, which is very necessary, were not sustained by a strong will and an intelligent passion for beauty. Help your members also to be contemplatives, to enjoy ever more deeply in their mind the message of creation. In contact with the beauties of the mountains, in the face of the spectacular grandeur of the peaks, the fields of snow and the immense landscapes, man enters into himself and discovers that the beauty of the universe shines not only in the framework of the exterior heavens, but also that of the soul that allows itself to be enlightened, and seeks to give meaning to life. From the things that it contemplates, in fact, the spirit is lifting up to God on the breath of prayer and gratitude towards the Creator.”

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