My father introduced me to the game of international chess at a young age, and I’ve been hooked since. I enjoy learning opening moves to prepare a solid footing, being required to think a few steps ahead, crafting strategies to counter the various attacks or obstacles presented, and of course the thrill of winning. And while chess may seem to be merely a hobby or brain exercise for some of us, perhaps it has a few things to teach us about our spiritual lives as well.
In chess, one wins by capturing the opponent’s king. It does not matter how many of your opponent’s pieces you have captured or how much advantage you may appear to gain during the game, if you allow your king to be captured. In the end, only the king matters.
In the end, only the king matters.
It’s the same for us, isn’t it? To “win” at life is possible only by ensuring that God our King (Ps 145:1) is present throughout our journey through life, putting Him foremost on our minds even as we go about our daily activities. How often do we “lose” because we are preoccupied with being king of our own lives, keeping God from ruling over our studies, career, leisure and relationships? Do we take our abilities and achievements in our studies and careers for granted as though through our sheer hard work rather than a gift that we have received from Him?
We often pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done”. To bring about the kingdom of God on earth requires that we protect His presence in our hearts and let Him reign over all aspects of our life.
Next, the queen is the most powerful piece in chess, able to attack and defend in any direction across the board. To aid us in this journey of keeping the King close to our hearts, God grants us the gift of our Queen, the Blessed Virgin Mary. She helps us in our fight against the temptations of the evil one, chosen by God to bring Christ into the world, to conquer sin and death forever. Let us draw near to Her for strength in our daily fight against temptation and sin, perhaps through the Rosary or even short prayers of aspirations like the Miraculous Medal prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” (visit my earworms post for an aid to praying this)
To aid us in this journey of keeping the King close to our hearts, God grants us the gift of our Queen.
While many more parallels can be made, I would just add a couple. Playing chess is both a science and an art. It is not sufficient to merely know how to move the pieces around the board in a haphazard manner. There are various opening sequences that need to be learnt to as to prepare a solid foundation to defend the king’s position and to launch a concerted attack. Chess also requires us to think a few steps ahead in anticipation of what the opponent might do.
Likewise, in our spiritual life, we are not to go about aimlessly.
Likewise, in our spiritual life, we are not to go about aimlessly. A routine of prayer is preferred, and the Church teaches us different methods for prayer (a recommended book for prayer is Opening to God by Thomas Green SJ) to help us build good foundations in our relationship with God. To be able to think a few steps ahead, St Ignatius of Loyola proposes the Examen of Consciousness once or twice a day to help us be more aware of our gifts, motivations, weaknesses and blind spots, tendencies towards sin, to make better choices for the future.
So while chess is just a game, let us continue to strive to fight the daily battles over the enemy during this journey through life, knowing that our goal is to be victorious with our King for eternity.