Some people hike to compete, others to challenge themselves. But as the sport increases as a global trend, others have taken it up as a way of drawing closer to God. Take the new “To the Top” initiative from Chile's Mas Alla del Deporte (Beyond Sports) organization. These young people, their families, as well as professional and amateur athletes alike are climbing the mountains of Santiago to bring together sports, nature and spirituality. Walking sticks, water bottles, backpacks outfitted to carry small children — combined with a little joy and fraternity — are among the essentials of these day trips. The purpose? To see Christ in the beauty of nature and to experience outdoor sports as a means of growing in holiness, said Maria Jose Correa, a member of the organizing team. “What's important is to fix your eyes on the goal, to let other people help and encourage you, to encourage the others and see them as a brother or sister, and to discover for yourself the meaning of those moments when the ascent gets harder,” she said. During the hikes, the group makes three stops to meditate on both the virtues of athleticism and the Christian life. When they reach the top, they celebrate Mass together with the priest that accompanied them on the climb. “That God who created all this natural beauty is the same one who made each one of us and has placed within us a desire for the infinite,” said Father Sebastian Correa, chaplain for the University of Gabriela Mistral. “This is what leads us always to seek something beyond. You can see this searching very clearly in sports, because we always want to give more, accomplish something greater, bigger, stronger,” he added. “That interior desire speaks to us of our need for that one who is infinite and He's the only one in whom we can be satisfied.” In the most recent climb at the beginning of August, the young people placed a cross at the top of Manquehue Hill in Santiago. They offered the effort of the climb for their prayer intentions which they wrote down and left on the hilltop. On that occasion they were accompanied by the decorated Chilean tennis player, Jaime Fillol, who holds the record for the longest set in Davis Cup history and is now part of the organizing team. “When I was playing at Wimbleton, I went to a church to ask God to help me win the match. In the end I lost,” Fillol said. “There I understood that God teaches us to be humble, to understand that victories aren’t necessarily what helps us the most in life and make us better people.” “Sports help you grow in humility and to understand that however important a championship may be, there’s always going to be more transcendent things in life.” Also accompanying the group on that hike was Chilean hockey team member, Paula Valdivia, who said that “the art of working together as a team also means blindly trusting your teammate which is ultimately what you do when you trust in God.”
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