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Find your “Hail Mary” focus: How sports build a prayerful mind


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Daniel Esparza - published on 04/24/24

Sports demand one follows St. Teresa of Ávila’s proverbial saying: “Let nothing distract you, let nothing frighten you.”

Juggling faith, family, work, and health can sometimes feel like a four-ring circus, especially when our focus is thinner than a butterfly’s wing. The many distractions we are bombarded with on a daily basis make it really hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. Have you ever been in the middle of prayer and suddenly remembered that grocery list you forgot? Or during that intense boxing class, your mind wanders to that work email you haven’t tackled yet?

Distractions are like pesky gnats at a picnic. That is, they’re guaranteed to show up. But we all have a secret weapon hiding in plain sight: sports. Yes, you read that right. The very activity that might have you muttering a Hail Mary after a near wipeout can actually be the key to sharpening your focus on the things that really matter.

Learning to be present

Think about it: How often do you find yourself daydreaming about dinner plans while trying to hit the perfect volleyball serve? Or maybe your mind drifts to that to-do list while jogging, leading to a less than graceful stumble? These moments are a hilarious reminder that focus is a muscle, and just like our biceps, it needs to be worked.

The thing is that sports (like any other physical activity) train us to be present in the moment. That perfectly placed kick, that flawless jump shot – they all require laser focus. In more ways than one, sports demand one follows St. Teresa of Ávila’s proverbial saying: “Let nothing distract you, let nothing frighten you.” In the chaos of modern life, sports can be our training ground for letting go of distractions.

Now, Catholic tradition is more than familiar with the power of physical activity. Monks, the undisputed masters of spiritual discipline, have always understood the power of focused activity. Their tradition of manual labor isn’t just about chores; the repetitive tasks foster a meditative attitude analogous to that of sports.

A sporty spillover

With regular practice, this focus spills over into other areas of our lives. Imagine breezing through your morning prayers without a single intrusion from that always-pending grocery list. Or tackling that mountain of laundry with the same determination you bring to the final sprint. Or going through your working day with the sharp focus and skill of a pro skater.

The benefits extend to our families as well. By sharpening our focus on the court or field, we learn to be more present with our loved ones. Nothing like a family dinner where everyone is truly engaged in conversation — instead of mentally composing pending emails.

The next time you’re feeling scattered, don’t despair. Lace up your shoes, grab your rosary, and head out for a game of catch, a swim, or anything else that gets your heart pumping. You may find that your focus becomes sharper, your prayers more meaningful, and your family time extra special. After all, a clear mind is a blessing. And who knows, you might even discover a hidden athletic talent along the way.

So,get out there, and find your Hail Mary focus.

Catholic LifestylePersonal GrowthSports
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