Metaphors regarding the Church and sports are nothing new. St. Paul certainly used them and there are intersections with sports and the practice of the faith that make them useful. So I was interested when I saw a new book called The Catechism of Hockey by Alyssa Bormes. That it had a forward by Dale Ahlquist and is published by the American Chesterton Society certainly recommended itself to me. Plus that it has positive reviews from Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Paprocki sealed it.
Now I am not exactly a hockey fan and only have passing familiarity with the sport. Yet my lack of knowledge about hockey did not subtract from my enjoyment of the book in any way. A book as an extended metaphor comparing the Catholic faith and the sport of hockey would seem to be able to only go so far. That you would be stretching the metaphor at every juncture to try to make an apt and worthy comparison. Yet over and over I was rather amazed at how she put this forth with comparison after comparison and provided examples and lessons that I think are quite helpful in thinking about the faith. The penalty box and confession makes for a good parallel, but it is her writing which takes it beyond that. She ties it up quite nicely going from personal sin to how it affects the whole Body of Christ or using the hockey term being at “full strength.” There were a couple of comparisons that I thought were stretching it a bit. Still overwhelmingly it was dead on with an intriguing perspective of the faith and a real Catechism in the amount of topics covered.
Not every comparison in the book was hockey related, but even these parallels were made after originally grounding it in something hockey-based. One of these correlations involving the Mystical Body and the crowd of people in line to see the body of Pope John Paul II was stunning in its aptness and another example of how she took a metaphor and drew so much out of it. Over and over again in a Chestertonian way you would start to see something fresh from a new angle. No surprise that G.K. Chesterton was quoted a couple of time. In fact as I was reading the book and where she talked about the rules of hockey I was often reminded of one of his quotes.
“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playgroundÉ.We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliffÕs edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were all huddled in terror in the centre of the island; and their song had ceased.”
So I was quite pleased to see her use that same quote later on in the book. I so enjoyed how fun and inventive this book was which made serious points in a way I suspect could break through a previous barrier to something regarding the faith.
Update: Pope Francis on November 22nd offered what I would call a Catechism of Rugby.