Within the Sacred Heart you have no country, but the whole universe. ~ St Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart
By the time you read this the Olympics will be coming to an end. For two weeks we have cheered on success, groaned in commiseration and thrilled at superlative feats, endurance and sheer, talented perfection. We have also seen examples of grace and true sportsmanship, such as Abbey D'Agostino helping a rival who had fallen over, and heard backstories of athletes overcoming illness, injury and personal tragedy to get to where they are; sadly, alongside this there has also been the tainting of drugs and other forms of cheating to remind us that not all Olympians are true stars.
Whether in individual or team sports all Olympians compete in national teams, and our support is allowed to be partisan. Yes, we can and do applaud excellence, whatever its flag: we adopt favourite athletes, sympathise with tearful losers and cheer on underdogs regardless of nationality, but at heart, national allegiances predominate - and those of us blessed with a heritage in more than one country have an advantage in how and where to spread our favours!
This year one team has been allowed to transcend that: Team Refugee, whose members are allied not by race, culture or language, but through adversity, suffering, courage and tenacity. Here we have no country, but a whole world, filled with forcibly displaced people.
But, unknown to many there has been another, unofficial team also transcending nationalities: "Team Sacred Heart". Several athletes and two team coaches from Australia, Canada, Mexico and the US are alumnae of Sacred Heart schools, and their progress has been closely followed by the United States-Canada website, with regular updates posted on social media. Whatever our national affiliations the Sacred Heart family has been able to cheer on "our" athletes, and applaud their successes; regardless of country they are "ours" and we are connected. Here indeed there is no country, but a whole world, united by and in the Heart of Jesus.
The story got picked up by the National Catholic Register, and in turn by EWTN, who interviewed a RSCJ about the aims and values of Sacred Heart education. She explained that the objective is to engender a sense of values and a real conviction that there's a responsibility to use the talents God has given and share them with the community...
So yes, we celebrate the medals, just as we celebrate academic and other successes; but we equally applaud grace and effort, kindness and the quiet, unheralded, daily heroism of so many. What we celebrate in others though, is simply what we'd want them to celebrate in us: someone becoming fully, truly, authentically the loving, gifted, passionate person God created us all to be - becoming the best ME we can be. Someone using their God-given gifts and qualities, whatever they may be, for the benefit of others. Because, as Janet Stuart once wrote: To aim at the best and to remain essentially ourselves is one and the same thing. Just as there are no countries in the Sacred Heart, so there are no losers or failures... only the call to become the best and fullest versions of ourselves we can be, to the glory of God and for the good of our world.