‘Christ is in me, and I am enough’

I don’t know about you, but I found it very inspiring this year to watch the Olympics. And even with the many medals the United States won – with many Marylanders (Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky being the most prominent of them) – what has been most impressive to me as a priest and a Catholic Christian is to see the increasing witness of faith the athletes have given in Rio.
This was seen so often in their words, their interviews, in their gestures of praise, prayer, joy and thanksgiving, giving all the glory to God on a worldwide stage. SO impressive!
Immediately after members of the U.S. Women’s 4×100 relay team won a gold medal, they huddled together, got down on their knees, and said a prayer of most sincere thanksgiving to God. Before Katie Ledecky swam, she prayed a Hail Mary because it calmed her down. And a mature, grounded and faithful Michael Phelps, with all of his medals, gave thanks to God for his help.
One of the smallest (if not the smallest) Olympians for the U.S., gymnast Simone Biles, gave big thanks to God and wears her faith openly as bright as her smile. Even Usain Bolt, after winning gold and smiling his own joyful, infectious smile, pointed heavenward and made the sign of the cross often in these two weeks.  

Watching Simone Biles compete.

My favorite story in these Olympics has been Helen Maroulis. She’s the female wrestler who won the first-ever gold medal in women’s wrestling for the United States. But to do it she had to defeat Saori Yoshida, a winner of three prior gold medals and 13 world championships. Yoshida is known to be the greatest women’s wrestler in the history of the sport. She is truly a legend.

There are many aspects of the backstory here that are so inspiring. Helen, a 24-year-old Rockville native, grew up  as a very shy girl who very much wanted to wrestle. She almost didn’t, however, because it just wasn’t popular or available years ago. None of the boys wanted to wrestle her. But Helen eventually did get trained and never quit.
She has wrestled Yoshida twice before and lost both times by pins. In both Japan and in the international community, Yoshida was the heavy favorite and seemed invincible. For Helen it really was like David and Goliath. But on Thursday she defeated Yoshida 4-1, and by doing so she gave her Japanese opponent her first-ever Olympics loss.
When Helen outlasted Yoshida for the gold medal last week, she collapsed on the mat in tears. And after running a “victory lap” with the American flag draped over her like a superhero cape, she received her gold medal on the podium. She was one of the most inspiring of all recipients of medals – all smiles, with tears streaming down her face. So beautiful!
But here’s the best part.
Helen said after her victory that this was the hardest thing she had ever done, mentally, physically and emotionally. She noted what an honor it is to be an American. But right before she walked onto the mat for her match, she said a prayer.  It was very simple, but very powerful:

“Christ is in me, and I am enough.”

Even with a gold medal around her neck an hour later, Helen realized that Christ was her strength – and she could never have done it without him. Even – and especially – in the Olympics.
Like Olympians who train for a perishable crown, we Christians train for one that is imperishable. We train for salvation. We train for heaven. 
Like Helen and so many of these faithful, humble Olympians who have spent many hours, days, weeks and even years training for an event that may only last a mere three minutes, may we know that our strength lies not in our own power. Our strength ultimately is found in Christ: only in him.   

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.