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Starting Point

Holy See goes for Olympic gold


As part of its Millennium Marketing plan, the Holy See has announced it will sponsor a "Spiritual Olympics" in the year 2000 in lieu of calling for Vatican III.

The ecumenical event will be organized along the lines of the traditional Olympics and will be held in the refurbished Ben-Hur Memorial Colosseum and the Circus Medjugorius.

The games will be organized according to team and individual events with eligibility criteria set by each religious group. (Cardinals over 93 will be eligible!) Events planned:

Spiritual exercises: A kaleidoscopic array of entries is expected, with the favorites being the Jesuit team (nicknamed the Black Knights) using its traditional Ignatius Loyola floor exercises and the Tibetan team with its mesmerizing prayer wheels.

Meditation: Both sprint and long distance. Catholics who forgot to pick up a bulletin are expected to excel at the former. The distance event will be dominated by the powerful teams from Zen Buddhism, Taoism and the well-dressed Methodists, who can sleep through sermons with their eyes open.

Theological fencing: Always exciting, with the RC team split between those competing under the flag of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and those electing to compete under the flags of their own countries or regions. Some say the CDF team may boycott if the scoring rules are not revised.

Leap o' faith: This event will incorporate a new element that values understanding the pragmatic application of beliefs in daily life and will replace the pre-Vatican II blind-leap-of-faith event.

Philosophical Judeo-Christian wrestling: Teams using fundamental holding and pinning techniques will once again grapple with the issues of who are the "chosen people" -- those who were led through the desert for years and ended up in the only spot where there is no oil, or those who ended up with the world's greatest art collection and trillions in tax-free real estate.

Prayer bead focus: Once the sole field of elderly RC knee-benders, this event has been ceded to the Islamic Coalition and its longer tradition of prayer beads. Catholics are trying to develop a new generation for this event, but will not field a full team for about another 40 years.

Many long-standing rules are likely to be challenged. For example, RC women will be allowed to carry the Spiritual Torch, but only through unpopulated areas and at night.

The proposal for a papal hiking event has drawn criticism because there would be only one entry.

Coverage will be by EWTN, the Trinity Network and MTV, which will have a corresponding "Madonna Marathon."

The highlight will be the team choir marathon, the last event, with the Mormons, Episcopalians and Hare Krishnas providing the multitude with the crowning "goose bump" effect and the valiant Catholic "all-parish" integrated team trying to evoke faded memories of Gregorian glory.

Charles Daschbach is director of medical education at St. Joseph Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix.

National Catholic Reporter, August 23, 1996