Bianca Andreescu makes the sign of the cross after beating Serena Williams in the final of the U.S. Open tennis championship Sept. 7 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, N.Y. The 19-year-old Andreescu became the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title. CNS photo/Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

Editorial: Courting sainthood

  • September 12, 2019

In the words of Pope Francis, to give the best of oneself in sports is also a call to aspire to holiness.

That being the case, Bianca Andreescu may be in line for sainthood.

It is difficult to imagine anyone giving more of themselves than the Canadian teenager in a stunning finals victory Sept. 7 over the queen of women’s tennis, Serena Williams, at the prestigious U.S. Open championship. 

Before accepting the champion’s trophy she paused and, in front of 24,000 New Yorkers, gave silent thanks and made the sign of the cross. 

As the Pope once said, sport can introduce people to Christ in environments where “for different reasons it is not possible to announce Him directly.” 

This tournament is one of four “grand slam” events on the tennis calendar. It is not meant to be won by a 19-year-old barely out of high school, or by a professional novice from a hockey nation, or by a virtual unknown facing a tennis icon widely called the best female player ever, or by an underdog who, during a break in the match, stuck her fingers in her ears to silence the home-town roars of support for her opponent.

After she gave the best of herself and then some, who in Canada would be shocked if the Pope were petitioned to bestow Andreescu with an honorary title of St. Bianca?

OK, we go too far. 

But it is worth noting that, in victory, Andreescu modelled many virtues the Vatican believes are intrinsic to sport at its finest and also should inspire those who seek a life that testifies to holiness.

For many centuries, the Church has encouraged the pursuit of art, music and literature and other vocations that give expression to God-given talents. Such pursuits of beauty are ultimately the divine working through human hands. Likewise, sport can be resplendent in beauty when a path to excellence becomes a journey towards holiness and an encounter with God.

That sentiment was explored last year by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. It published a 52-page document, “Giving the best of yourself,” that explored how sport is global, pervasive in modern culture and how, at its purest level, often affirms such Christian virtues as sacrifice, perseverance, fortitude, humility, integrity and creativity. 

“When sport is lived this way,” said Pope Francis, “it can become a model for all areas of life,” including a good Christian life. At its finest, “sport transcends the level of pure physicality and takes us into the arena of the spirit and even of mystery.”

Bianca Andreescu didn’t set out to lead anyone on a spiritual journey. But the attributes that propelled her to give the best of herself, to achieve her grand prize, are not unlike the tenacity required for all those who aspire to holiness and the ultimate spiritual reward.

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

To achieve sainthood, she will have to give away most of her $6 million.

Felix Kryzanowski
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Before achieving sainthood, she will need to give away most of her $6 million.

Felix Kryzanowski
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