The Emmy award Movie classic of the early 80’s “Chariots of Fire” can teach us numerous lessons in our pursuit of Christ and the attainment of holiness and the prize of eternal life!

Among the many memorable scenes was the fall and resurrection of Eric Liddle in the 400 meters.  Remember that 400 meters is one lap around the track, considered a sprint that is often won by split seconds!

Ready!  Set!  Go!  The four athletes take off like a lightning bolt!  However, something tragic  that will turn to victory occurs!  Eric Liddle, the honor and glory of Scotland, who is running at the edge of the track, is elbowed by the adjacent runner.  The force of the nudge results in Liddle’s cascading to the ground!

The critical moment!   What will the fallen athlete decide?  Bemoan has bad luck, give into despair and accept defeat, throw in the towel and hope for a sunny day in the near future--- none of these ever crossed this trained and well-disciplined athlete’s mind!

As the crowds and his arch-enemy, Harold Abraham’s peer down on the fallen runner, Liddle courageously rises, not wasting a split-second, and energizes his mind, body, and spirit to meet the challenge!  Although way behind, miracles are indeed possible to those who trust in God and give themselves totally to His holy will!

Almost immediately he catches one and passes him and then another, but still there is the last—the one who knocked him down-- to reach and surpass!   With a superhuman exertion of the will, Liddle reaches and beats his opponent, breaking the rope, collapsing under near exhaustion and inhaling and heaving!   Triumph! Victory! Glory!
In the eyes of a shocked crowd and before the envy of his arch-enemy, Harold Abrahams,  Eric Liddle, the glory and crown of Scotland, proved that victory can be attained despite huge obstacles, even that of falling and losing those precious seconds that for sprinters seem to be years!

How can this short but poignant episode taken from the Movie Classic, “Chariots of Fire” influence our own journey, race, and battle in our pursuit of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?
Interesting to note is that St. Paul more than once uses sports images and analogies to explain Scriptural truths. Remember that the Olympic Games in Greece were started even before the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Paul challenges us to run the good race and to fight the good fight—that of boxing. Furthermore, he reminds us that the prize is not some perishable crown of leaves that will wither, fade and disappear in time.  Rather, the prize is imperishable and this prize is nothing less than the crown of glory that our King and Lord has in store for his athletes who run the race to the end and fight valiantly against the enemies of the devil, the flesh and the world.  In sum, the valiant athletes of Christ have their well-merited crown awaiting them in Heaven!
St. Ignatius, sinner by birth, soldier by profession, converted through the grace of God at the battle of Pamplona, he can teach us the meaning of falling and rising--- this means, living out the Paschal mystery of Jesus, His Passion, death and Resurrection!

As Eric Liddle fell on the race course and rose to great heights as a star Olympic runner, so Ignatius of Loyola who had fallen away from the right path, and had chosen a life of vanity, sensuality and sin—some authors state that he probably broke all of the commandments--- would rise through humble admission of sin, confession of sin, the undertaking of severe penance and the decision to follow in the footsteps of the athletes of Christ, the saints!

After Ignatius’ conversion at Pamplona and his confession in Montserrat, he was ready to receive form the hands of Mary in Manresa the blueprint for the Spiritual Exercises.   The saint compares physical exercises to spiritual exercises.  Both demand discipline, determination, and perseverance until the final tape is broken and eternal life attained!


Eric Liddle could have justified his loss, complained to the judges, or even cursed out  his opponent runner who evidently elbowed him to the ground possibly disqualifying this runner. Instead, the star athlete said nothing but proved the sterling quality of his interior life by his actions.  Up, supreme effort, courage to the heights, trust to the limits---Liddle won the race!

St. Ignatius could have complained to God, cursed out at  his own soldiers, and still more hated the French army that shot the cannon ball that all but eliminated both of his legs.  But quite the contrary, his falling in battle, wounded body and spirit, paved the way to a new life!  Ignatius would rise from the dust of earthly defeat and follow the Lord of Lord and King of Kings, inspired and motivated by the saints, God’s champion athletes.   “If Dominic can do it, so can I!  If Francis could do it, then so can I!”  

Shakespeare summed it up concisely: “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”  Being cut of the same mold  of all of humanity, we all indeed are sinners. However, there is an important difference between sinners--- those who relish and cling to their sins—and the saints.  Both fall into sin. However, the unrepentant sinner sinks in the mud unwilling to rise up. The saint falls but is unwilling to stay in the mud of his own sin.

Like the fallen runner, Eric Liddle, we have one of two alternatives.   We can either stay down and sink deeper and deeper into our own moral misery or we can rebound, bounce-back, and return to the Lord with a more intense love, due to our trust in His Infinite mercy.   As the man who was converted from Saul to St. Paul clearly wrote for all to read and meditate until the end of time, “Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more.” May God’s mercy triumph in our lives!

May the elbowed and fallen “Eric Liddle” in us rise to  sublime heights of holiness.  Jesus said to St. Faustina Kowalska that the greatest sinners can truly be the greatest saints, if they only trust.  Fallen? Get up! Rise! Run!  The Lord has the crown of glory waiting for you!