Tag Archive: andy murray


What a difference a month makes, Andy Murray on the same court against the same opponent seemed to be a different person yesterday.  It has been called the fastest redemption story in sport. Murray, often seen as moody, has been smiling, having fun and playing with a freedom and a ‘lightness’ that he didn’t seem to have at the Wimbledon tournament. He has clearly thrived over the past week  not being such a focus for national attention as during the Wimbledon fortnight. Being part of a team and being inspired by others – he has said he is so glad to be part of Team GB and is motivated by the other athletes. What is the difference? I think it is that he was not just playing for himself but for something bigger than him.   It reminds me of that beautiful line in EP 4 ‘And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him‘ .  It is also beautiful – that in a sport, with huge amounts of money, pressure, were everything is oriented to the individual with a huge entourage around them – it is the Olympics, with no direct monetary award, and where Murray is one of many great British athletes…. it is this environment that has brought the best out of him.

Ignatius describes the phenomenon of spiritual consolation in a similar way – anything that opens us to the world, fills us with peace, joy, freedom – allows us to fulfill our potential can be a sign of consolation. When we are basically focused on something greater than ourselves.  The opposite, desolation, leads us in on ourselves, to self doubt, apathy, cynicism.  This is speaking very generally of course and in the spiritual life consolation and desolation can be much more subtle than that (i.e. If an evil tyrant had self doubt it might be a path to consolation!)  Ignatius talks about consolation in a much more focused and religious way – here are his words:

“ I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.”

Whereas desolation leads to “ the opposite of (consolation), as darkness of soul, torment of spirit, inclination to what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love.  The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad, and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.”


The incredible scenes at the Olympics these days – the joy, the support of the crowds,  the adulation was so powerful, particularly of your are British.   Working with boys the last few years I have seen with my own eyes how sport can ‘save them’ from lives on the streets in gangs. Coaching football I know how sport can give them meaning and discipline, so it is wonderful to see how Andy Murray, Jessica Ennis and the rest can be such positive role models.  But even the roar of the crowd, the glamour of gold fades away.  The love, so powerfully expressed in the stadium, is nothing compared to the patience of their families and friends as they embark on the discipline of training and single-mindedness of an elite athlete. There are striking scenes here too  in Edinburgh as the Fringe Festival begins, we are being bombarded with flyers and posters – it can get a bit much.  It feels like there is too much attention seeking – look at me!  Come to my show! On the other hand there is great energy and creative talent – it is exciting. Careers will be launched, shows will be commissioned, and these shows and personalities will have a big impact on our culture and televisions over the next years.  Seeing the pictures of comedians on the posters is revealing… we live in a golden age of comedy …. some of these people are starting to sell out football stadiums / becoming wealthy beyond their dreams as they sell their DVD box sets. Some of the comedy is no more than mockery, mean spirited, angry and cynical but some of the most popular stuff isn’t – its observational, balanced, self- deprecating, not nasty. However both the athletes and the comedians will find the adulation fades.  So again what lasts?

In this week of great Olympians, the church has quietly celebrated three of its own Olympians.  If you came to daily mass you know who I am talking about.  Our own St Ignatius on Tuesday, the founder of the Jesuits, in whose ‘Spiritual Exercises’ many people, kings, queens, writers, poets, and normal people like you and me, have changed our lives for the better. On Wednesday we remembered St Alphonsus Liguori – the founder of the Redemptorists, who changed the hearts and minds of so many young slum dwellers all over the world and then on Saturday we remembered St Jean Vianney – patron of parish priests. To whom 20,000 people a year  would visit and make their confession to. They would travel on pilgrimage from all over Europe, long before the days of Ryan Air….. They too are role models, but their legacy is much longer, more than gold it endures.

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life (Todays Gospel)


Most people here in the UK are getting very excited about having a Scot in the Wimbledon Final. The first British Male for 74 years but there is also a lot of debate about the significance of Andy Murray’s post match celebrations (left).  He has been making what appears to be a religious gesture at the end of every game this tournament. Intriguing…… This gesture of pointing up to heaven at the moment of victory or when scoring a goal seems to becoming more frequent in top level sport. As far as I aware, in recent times it was started by Kaka, the brilliant Brazilian midfield playmaker, who admitted in frequent interviews that it was a significant religious gesture.  Kaka, who suffered a career-threatening and possibly paralysis-inducing spinal injury at the age of 18, remarkably made a full recovery. He attributes his recovery to God and has since tithed his income to his church.  Thanks to Kaka, I had a lot of material for assemblies and masses with schoolboys over the last few years – there is something truly inspiring about giving thanks to God and remembering Him in the heat and emotion of triumph, especially in football when a goal comes so quickly and sometimes out of the blue.  Another recent exemplar would be Chelsea’s, Frank Lampard.  His pointing to heaven began in the immediate aftermath of his mothers death, so is more of an ‘in memoriam’ than an ‘amdg’ (giving glory to God).  I don’t know if he is still continuing it, because quite honestly I try not to pay much attention to Chelsea.  A similar in-memoriam gesture is made by David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.  Unlike Lampard and Murray, Kaka wears his faith on his sleeve, or literally on his boots, which are embossed with the words  ‘Jesus in first place’.  His ‘I belong to Jesus’ t-shirts, and thanksgiving prayers have been seen by audiences of billions after the World Cup 2002 win, and the Champions League 2007 victory for AC Milan, which as a Liverpool fan I avoided, as I was in mourning.  In the UK people have a phobia about overt religiosity, so we tend to be more reserved. When Murray was asked about his celebrations he  said: “Well it’s something for me and the guys that I work with. I don’t really want to go into too much detail because I’ll end up getting asked about it every single day.” When asked to explain whether or not it had anything to do with religion, Murray stood his ground. “Whether it is or not, I’m not going to tell anyone,” he said.

The Holy Goalie Artur Boric

There is another category of religious gesture at major sporting events best represented by making the sign of the cross. In football it is often seen as players run onto the pitch, or prepare to take a penalty.  Occasionally it is made as a gesture of thanksgiving after a goal is scored. This belongs to a different category to the gesture of ‘reverence’ of Kaka et al.  Cynics or the secular minded would say this is mere superstition, asking God to help you win, or the more legitimate prayer to keep you safe from harm. However a wise member of the community today told me over breakfast that it was technically an apotropaic – a gesture intended ‘to turn away harm’. A truly superstitious form of this is knocking on wood or crossing your fingers. The gesture of blessing yourself with the sign of the cross is identified with Catholicism, or if it is from right to left Orthodox ( a la Djokovic – who has been awarded the highest honour by the Serbian Orthodox Church).  Seeing great sportsmen do this can inspire devotion, indifference or occasionally hostility.  The Italian forward Marco Negri was asked to stop blessing himself by Rangers as it was seen as provocative to the anti-Catholic crowd.  The next goal he scored his celebration involved him holding his wrists together as though they were manacled. The devout Polish goalkeeper for Celtic, Artur Boruc,  would bless himself and pray before kick off every game. This was interpreted as a provocative gesture by Rangers fans rather than a simple act of prayer.  In fact former Rangers player and current Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked Mexican Striker Javier Hernandez to abandon his pre-match Catholic prayer when Man United play Rangers. Hernandez, who is deeply religious, kneels on the centre spot and prays before kick off in every game he starts.

The behaviour of such influential sports figures is often over-reported, dissected and picked over by everyone. But such overt gestures of faith are refreshing and uplifting.  Much better that Gazza’s ‘dentists chair’ celebration which glorified a binge drinking culture that was to lead to his demise or Robbie Fowler pretending to snort the white line on the pitch, even if it was an ‘ironic’ gesture to false drug allegations.  So come on Murray – man up – tell us the reason behind your celebration! 🙂