We live in a world that is obsessed by sport. Every day the media reports on men and women whose whole lives have been devoted to the pursuit of excellence in their chosen sport. We are fascinated by their heroic achievements, but also by the sacrifice that is made in the name of success. Yet while most of us enjoy speaking of their achievements, we would never dare to make the same sacrifices or commit ourselves to such goals. It is much safer being a spectator watching it all from the safety and comfort of our lounge room.

The same priciple unfortunately applies to Christianity. We love to speak about the saints, the holy people who have gone before us. We will tell stories of their heroic faith and the sacrifices that they have made. But we would never dare to follow them. The Catholic author Georges Bernanos once said of the church,  “You are rather like the legendary Italian soldiers waiting to attack. All of a sudden the colonel snatches up his saber, jumps over the parapet, and charges off beneath heavy fire, all by himself, crying Avanti! Avanti! Whilst his soldiers remain crouched under cover, electrified by such a display of valour, clapping loudly, with tears in their eyes: Bravo! Bravo!”

The consequence of not following are all around us. While talking about St Francis of Assisi, Bernanos concludes by saying, “my dear brothers, I keep on saying the same thing, because it always in the same thing. Had you followed that saint instead of applauding, Europe would never have known the reformation, nor the religious wars, nor this horrible Spanish Crusade. Saint Francis was calling to you, but death did not pick and choose: death descended on us all. The danger is the same today. It must be even greater… Yet I cannot help thinking that this is your last chance. Your last chance – and ours. Are you capable of rejuvenating the world or not?”