Tuesday, January 21, 2014


CITIUS - ALTIUS - FORTIUS. You may recognize these words as the Olympic motto which translate into English as FASTER - HIGHER - STRONGER.  What you may not know is that they were coined by a French Dominican priest.
fr. Henri Didon, O.P.

fr. Henri Didon was a Dominican priest, author, educator, and well-known homilist.  He was born in Touvet, France in 1840.  fr. Didon was no stranger to controversy, as some of his homilies earned him a seven year "retreat" from public ministry at the direction of the Master of the Order.  He spent this time mostly in Corsica and Palestine working on his most famous work, Life of Christ.  In 1887, he returned to France, then completed and published  Life of Christ in 1890.  The work achieved great acclaim and sales, and was translated into many languages.  fr. Didon was able to return to ministerial work and devoted much of the remainder of his life to the education of youth.  Later in life he published works on educational theory, some sermons, and personal religious letters to great acclaim.  fr. Didon went to his heavenly reward on March 13, 1900 in Toulouse, France.

Medal from the 1948 Olympic Games in St. Moritz
So, how is fr. Didon connected with the modern Olympic movement?  In 1881, Pierre de Coubertin attended a school sporting event where the opening remarks were delivered by fr. Didon.  In his remarks, fr. Didon used the Latin CITIUS - ALTIUS - FORTIUS to represent the moral and ethical ideals of this or any athletic endeavor.   These words stuck with de Coubertin, who founded the International Olympic Commitee and is credited as the father of the modern games.  He chose these words as the Olympic motto. 

So as we prepare for the Sochi Games, don't forget fr. Henri Didon - a man who pointed the way towards the Olympic ideal.

For Additional Information:
New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia Article on fr. Henri Didon
International Olympic Committee - Olympism in Action Website
International Pierre de Coubertin Committee Website

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