Entertainment and Sport
1. It is wrong to imagine that Christianity is a sad and gloomy religion. Quite otherwise, it is the religion of joy, of the real joy, that is, which comes from God, from the serenity of a sound conscience and from the hope and sure expectation of the immeasurable happiness of heaven after the trials of this world are over. Other pleasures are passing and often leave behind disillusionment, boredom and remorse. The happiness of living a sincere Christian life does not vanish even in the midst of suffering, for it bestows an inner peace which nothing else can give. “The kingdom of God,” says St. Paul, “does not consist in food and drink, but in justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) “The fruit of the Spirit,” he says in his letter to the Galatians, “is charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness...” (Gal. 5:22) St. John the Apostle, writing to the faithful of his time, encourages them to be joyful with the joy which comes from Jesus Christ. “These things we write to you that you may rejoice, and our joy may be full.” (1 John 1:4) It is not contrary to Christian teaching to indulge in lawful recreation and amusement. If a bow is drawn too tight, it snaps. Our physical constitution demands that after our work we should rest. Resting does not mean idleness and inactivity, but suitable recreation and entertainment. God Himself set aside six days for working and one for repose. This day of solemn repose, however, should be dedicated in a particular way to God by the fulfilment of the obligations which the Church prescribes. But there is no question of our being forbidden to refresh ourselves mentally and physically on this day by suitable entertainment.
2. Sport and amusement are particularly necessary for youth. Young people are full of life, and their exuberance must have an outlet. It is true that there are privileged souls, such as St. Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Dominic Savio, whose natural exuberance is completely channelled into the love of God and of their neighbour. But such people are rare. Normally, young people need entertainment and sport. Sport has made tremendous progress today. Far from being evil, this is an excellent development. If these forces of vitality were not diverted into athletic activities, they would probably find an outlet in other more dangerous pursuits. However, as our late Holy Father, Pius XII, often explained in his audiences for sportsmen, it is necessary that bodily exercises should be joined with those which are spiritual. Just as the body must be trained intensively to succeed in athletic competitions, so the will must be trained by means of daily sacrifice and self-denial to achieve victory over our unruly inclinations. This victory is eventually won by the grace of God and brings a far higher happiness than athletic conquests could ever give us.
3. Unfortunately, there are forms of amusement which are not lawful, either because they are sinful in themselves or because they present a grave danger to the soul. Certain uninhibited kinds of dancing, for example, can aim at arousing the basest instincts of the human organism. There are beaches where the healthy pastime of bathing is made only an excuse for indecent and exciting exhibitions. There are parties and receptions, moreover, at which we know well that we shall be subjected to serious temptation. All such places and occasions should normally be avoided. It is the wise advice of spiritual writers that we should always aim at uniting our amusements and recreations to goodness of thought and conversation. Moreover, we should often detach our minds from our worldly entertainments and think of the realities of Heaven.