Living the Gospel in Athletics

St. John Paul II welcomed and addressed sports teams at athletic events all over the world throughout his many years as pope.

His words inspire and remind us that in athletics, as in every area of our lives, we are called to live the Gospel message. There is no ‘time off’ from being a Christian or trying to grow in virtue.

“Every Christian is called to become a strong athlete of Christ, that is, a faithful and courageous witness to his Gospel.” -St. John Paul II

He viewed the playing field as an opportunity for educational and spiritual growth that helps to “build a more fraternal and united world; sport which contributes to the love of life, teaches sacrifice, respect and responsibility, leading to the full development of every human person.” -St. John Paul II

We learn a lot about ourselves in any athletic activity, whether recreational or competitive. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is a gift that is to be respected body, mind and soul.

“Every care must be taken to protect the human body from any attack on its integrity, from any exploitation and from any idolatry.” - St. John Paul II

In a 2004 address, St. John Paul II reminds us that the playing field is a place to grow virtue. 

“The Christian can find sports helpful for developing the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance in the race for the wreath that is “imperishable,” as St. Paul writes.”

His words of encouragement to athletes often center on being a joyful, virtuous and humble role model who leads others by example. 

“I believe that we do not err to recognize in you this potential for civic and Christian virtues. In a world in which we often painfully recognize the presence of youth who are lifeless, marked by sadness and negative experiences, you can be for them, wise friends, expert guides and coaches, not only on the playing field, but also along those paths that lead to a finish line of the true values of life.” -St. John Paul II

By keeping the role of sport in the proper perspective, we can, as St. Paul said, "Glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:20).

“The body, according to Christian concept, deserves due interest, real respect, loving and wise care, invested as it is with natural dignity, capable of a mysterious sacrality and destined to ultimate victory over death itself, as our faith teaches us.” -St. John Paul II

My Journey to SoulCore

Some of us enjoy being physically active for recreation and some also enjoy combining prayer and physical movement. Walking or running while praying the Rosary is a popular practice, but it’s not one I was ever able to do well. I also tried to pray between sets of lifting weights … and that led me to look for a method of praying the Rosary with gentle movement.

I discovered SoulCore and attended a SoulCore Prayer Leader Retreat and discerned a call to share SoulCore with others. SoulCore is gentle stretching, strengthening and movement (not yoga) done while praying the Rosary. We reflect on the fruits/ virtues of each Mystery with Sacred Scripture passages and wisdom from the saints. 

As it turns out, the Hail Mary prayer is the ideal amount of time to hold a stretch or to move in and out of a position, such as a squat or single-leg balance hold. Praying the Our Father prayer during planks or pushups is an excellent body and soul offering because it’s challenging!

Auspice Maria ... Under the Protection of Mary

Auspice Maria ... Under the Protection of Mary

Exercise helps strengthen the body and settle the mind and heart in prayer and is a beautiful physical and spiritual offering to Jesus through Mary. 

Praying this way feels natural to me as our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit that should be celebrated with joy, gratefulness and gentleness. Being made in the image and likeness of God, and honoring our bodies in this way, is refreshingly different from the methods of exercise in our secular culture.

As with any physical activity, there must be rest and recovery. With SoulCore, we pray a reflection for each Mystery, while in a quiet and reverent position, where we can reflect on the Mystery, the life of Christ and his great love for us.

I will close with this beautiful message about our bodies from St. John Bosco:

"Health is God’s great gift, and we must spend it entirely for Him. Our eyes should see only for God, our feet walk only for Him, our hands labor for Him alone; in short, our entire body should serve God while we still have the time. Then, when He shall take our health and we shall near our last day, our conscience will not reproach us for having misused it.”

The Lost Sheep

The group of adults who I have the privilege of teaching to use kettlebells vary in their athletic backgrounds. Some people pick up the skill of lifting heavy things very quickly. Most students make steady progress over time. Every now and then someone really struggles to learn to move well for a variety of reasons.

I find the greatest joy in helping that struggling student progress. The student has to first have the courage to start, then the persistence to persevere and practice, and finally the patience to allow their bodies to adapt to the movement over time.

We have a supportive, non-competitive gym environment, but it can still be tough when you feel like you’re the only who isn't getting it in the group.

So that student is the one who makes my day when they step up to a challenge or improve in a weak area. That one improvement is more exciting to me than if the entire group lifted heavier than they ever did before. That one student is the one my husband will hear about when we have dinner together that evening.

That may be why one of my favorite Scripture passages is Luke 15 3-7 about the one lost sheep.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

An interesting thing about the one lost sheep in the gym is that the other sheep also rejoice when that person makes progress. They might even applaud that person. Before you know it, that lost sheep might inspire others to accept new challenges or to develop a new spirit of gratitude for what their bodies can do.

Aren’t we all lost sheep at some point in our lives, whether spiritually, physically, emotionally or intellectually? Aren’t we happy when someone notices and comes after us to help us?

We can ask the Holy Spirit to show us who needs us and how we can help. One person, powered by God’s grace, can do great things to help another.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” ~St Teresa of Calcutta

Rosary Beads

I always enjoy reflecting on the incredible Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference experience. This year was different for me as a Vendor sharing SoulCore, but just as spiritually moving in a different way.

The day was about faith and fellowship. 

As a Vendor, I didn’t listen to the speakers that day (I did listen on CD later!), but I was blessed to participate in Holy Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi.

The rest of the day was devoted to sharing the SoulCore mission of prayer with gentle movement and talking with so many faith-filled sisters in Christ about how praying the Rosary vocally in community is so moving.

The varied and wonderful vendors at the Conference.  Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi

The varied and wonderful vendors at the Conference. Photo by Tomorrow's Memories by Christi

It was a joy to meet women from all over our diocese and beyond, hearing their stories, sharing their excitement about praying the life of Christ through the mysteries of the Rosary, and growing closer to Jesus with SoulCore Rosary prayer and movement.

Sharing our love of prayer.  Photo by Memories by Christi.

Sharing our love of prayer. Photo by Memories by Christi.

We have a common love of Jesus, Our Lady and prayer.

At the Vendor table, I had the nearly 6-foot alabaster Rosary and the candles that I take with me when I visit a parish to lead the Rosary with SoulCore.

The Rosary especially attracted many women to the table who wanted to touch the beads, admire the beauty, talk about how much they love to pray the Rosary and some even inquired if I would sell the giant Rosary beads!

Prayer transforms our hearts.

Our senses can be a powerful way to experience Jesus in our lives. Touching the beads can remind us how Jesus and Mary touch us with their love, and how much grace and peace Jesus desires to give us through prayer.

The tactile experience of having the beads in our hands can unite us with Jesus through Mary silently, gently and powerfully.

We are called to share His Love with others.

In a related story about Rosary beads ... a few days before the Conference, a friend shared how she almost always has her Rosary beads in her hands throughout her day. She said she isn’t always praying the Rosary, but the beads comfort her and remind her to give rosaries to others -- which she does often!

What a powerful sign of our Lady and her Son working in her heart and leading her to evangelize the world by giving away rosaries!

The grace-filled day at the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference inspires me to to do more for Christ. The prayers of the Rosary unite us, strengthen us and teach us about the Way, the Truth and the Life who we are all called to emulate by being His love to others.

Jesus and Mary, pray for us!

Columbus Catholic Women's Conference 2017

It is with great excitement that I invite you to the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference.

Every year this event gets even larger -- and this year we are in a new venue, Cardinal Hall.

The speakers will inspire us and it is always wonderful to reconnect with old friends and make new friends.

I am excited to be involved in the Conference as a SoulCore vendor this year, so please stop by our booth and say hello and find out more about this Catholic Lay Apostolate that combines Rosary prayer with gentle movement.

Please see the Women's Conference blog for an announcement about SoulCore.

A Season of Renewal

Christmas is a time of renewal in many ways. 

We renew our relationship with the Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the humility of Jesus’ birth. We are renewed by God’s great love for us in the act of sending his only Son to us as the Incarnate Word.

Our spirit is renewed by special times with family and friends during the Advent and Christmas seasons.

We are renewed by a change in routine — some time off from work, maybe some travel, more prayer time, and carefree timelessness with those we love as other activities slow down for a while.

All of this renewal is good for the soul and can spiritually strengthen us to move into the new year with a fresh perspective and a desire to grow in holiness and healthiness.

At our parish, St. Joseph-Plain City, OH, we’ll be offering a Women’s Day of Renewal on Sat., Jan. 14 from 9-noon with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, SoulCore Rosary prayer, a talk and small group sharing, and concluding with fellowship and lunch. 

Please join us for a beautiful morning of spiritual renewal and fellowship to prepare our hearts and minds for what God is calling us to do in the new year. All women are welcome -- any parish, any denomination, teens and adults.

Please email Lori to reserve your registration at by Jan. 9.