June is Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The month of June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque is recognized as the saint associated with the Sacred Heart of Jesus due to her private revelations in 1673-1675. She responded to Jesus by promoting the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart, First Friday devotions, and the Holy Hour of Reparation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 478) states that Jesus knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony and his Passion, and gave himself up for each one of us: "The Son of God. . . loved me and gave himself for me." He has loved us all with a human heart. For this reason, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation, "is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that. . . love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings" without exception.

When I contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the beautiful statue in our Church, I am reminded that he is constantly pouring out his grace to us to strengthen and guide us. With the present day challenges, turning to devotion to Sacred Heart of Jesus can comfort us and prepare us for what lies ahead in our lives.

When Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will rest, for My yoke is easy and My burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30) he is truly calling us to share in his love … love poured from his Most Sacred Heart and we are called to respond to his love by building a loving relationship with him and with our neighbor.

We recently enthroned our home to the the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. This a beautiful and way to bring Jesus and Mary into our hearts in a new and special way to receive his grace. Visit www.sacredheartcolumbus.org for information about home enthronement.

The Sacred Heart Feast Day is June 23 and here is a beautiful prayer to the Sacred Heart:

O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

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

Striving

We strive to improve how we execute kettlebell and barbell lifts and movements in the gym. The word striving makes me think of working harder and doing more. In fact, one definition of strive is to ‘struggle or fight vigorously.’ 

Often what we really need to do when learning a new skill is to relax, slow down, feel and learn, be patient and let the process of learning and advancing unfold naturally and gently over time, rather than forcing it.

Our spiritual lives can be the same way. We might be striving for holiness by doing lots of actions … volunteering at a shelter, joining parish committees, praying multiple rosaries a day and being a caregiver to a family member or friend. 

While these are wonderful ways to serve God, it’s easy to get caught up in doing so many tasks that there is little time to get filled up with God in silent prayer and reflection. We might even get so caught up in striving for holiness, that we place our volunteer responsibilities before our family needs.

I think part of our striving should be to stop striving … to give God freedom, open space and unstructured time to do his gentle and quiet work in us — to fill us up and rejuvenate, renew and strengthen us so our service continues to bear fruit. Even 15 minutes of heart-felt prayer daily can be life-changing.

Some of our striving, or our rush to accomplish, is the nature of our secular culture where we place a high priority on productivity, setting goals and achieving results. The spiritual life is different. God already loves us just how we are; he created us, and like a loving parent, is always there waiting to guide his little children. He gives us the freedom to decide when, how and how much time we spend time with him in prayer. I think St. Francis de Sales said it well:

Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.

While we are called to serve others, we are called first and foremost to love; to love God and love our neighbor. Growing in any loving relationship requires time, patience, gentleness and commitment. So giving God latitude to work in us in prayerful adoration, in contemplation, and through the Sacraments is less about striving and more about being faithful to slowing down and trusting that, over time, he will transform our hearts.

“Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you.” -St. Augustine of Hippo

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!

Prayer Tracking

Wearable fitness trackers measure heart rate, number of steps, sleep patterns and the variety and intensity of exercise. These are popular and the information can be useful in helping build new healthy habits.

While this tool can make a difference in how much we exercise, and our approach to exercise, I like to take a break from technology when I’m exercising. 

In fact, I thrive on fitness freedom, and maybe you do too. 

Moving, lifting, and stretching is a sensory experience for me and a much-needed break from the phone, computer, iPad and television. I like the challenge of listening to my body and responding appropriately with varied movements and intensity without technology.

I like freedom in my prayer life as well.

There are plenty of books available about how to pray, methods to use to grow closer to God, and at certain points in our lives, those resources can be helpful, if not critical. But we know from Scripture, and wisdom of the saints, that methods of prayer are secondary to simply giving time to the Lord in prayer to grow in a loving friendship with him.

Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love. Love is not great delight but desire to please God in everything. ~St. Theresa of Avila

How we feel called to pray can vary and the freedom to pray any way we’d like, anytime and anywhere, is a beautiful gift that reminds me just how personally God works with us.

While I’m not a fan of fitness trackers, I think it would be interesting to track how many times a day we think about God,  pray, read holy books, mediate on Scripture, pray the Rosary, offer an action or sacrifice to God, make a change in behavior due to a prompting from the Holy Spirit, fast, or give alms.

We are called to pray unceasingly, and even our desire to pray pleases God, so it would be interesting to see just how much time we spend with God daily compared to the other activities in our lives. Unlike fitness tracking, this type of information could be life-changing! So let's make prayer a priority in our daily lives.

Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love. ~St. Theresa of Avila

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 lori@movestrongkbs.com by Jan. 9.

Prayer: The Keystone Habit

Time is a precious commodity especially during the Christmas season. I hear people say that their busy lives don’t allow them time to exercise.

It’s the same with our prayer lives. We may have the desire to pray, but we don’t know how to get started, we can’t seem to find time in our daily schedule, or people and activities seem to zap our time and energy.

Now is the time for us to dig deep, flex those spiritual muscles, and make time for prayer as a top-priority, healthy habit for the New Year.

Do you think ofprayer as a healthy habit? Do you consider prayer the most transformational habit in your life? 

Giving God time in prayer not only deepens our relationship with him, but helps us grow in virtue and can help us reorder our lives—and not just our spiritual lives, but every aspect of our lives.

In business training, we learned about the Keystone habits — these are are habits that lay the groundwork for developing even more practical habits that will ‘supercharge’ our lives and help us become ‘successful’ in business and in life. There are different lists out there, but here is a basic summary:

  1. Set goals
  2. Manage you time well
  3. Exercise
  4. Practice daily gratitude
  5. Learn a new skill

While these are effective habits, I would argue that Prayer is the Keystone habit that will lay the foundation for these five habits — and every other habit and activity in our lives. Through prayer, we learn to know ourselves better and to know ourselves through God. 

This enlightenment through prayer can change our behavior, clarify priorities, lead us to spending our free time in more meaningful ways, remove unhealthy attachments, connect us with people who inspire and encourage us, soften our hearts, bring us more peace, confidence, joy, love, wisdom, kindness, understanding, and so much more. 

The impact of prayer on our souls, and on the Body of Christ, is truly infinite!

“Give me a person of prayer, and such a one will be capable of accomplishing anything.”
~St. Vincent de Paul

Perseverance

Perseverance is a virtue that helps us get something done despite difficulties.

When we begin to exercise, perseverance is vital because there is a lot of learning that isn’t easy and it takes time for the body to acclimate to new movements. Building a new habit of regular exercise, on certain days and times each week, also requires a commitment to good time management.

I admire people who have persevered in the habit of exercise over many years. It is exciting to see how physically strong they become; I especially enjoy hearing how their perseverance in exercise has helped them build positive changes in other areas of their lives. 

It’s not surprising that commitment to one healthy habit can contribute to the practice of other healthy habits, such as setting aside daily prayer and spiritual reading time. getting plenty of sleep, de-stressing and seeking life/work balance.

Perseverance is vital for a healthy spiritual life. 

We know that St. Teresa of Kolkata persevered in prayer and service to Christ, and to the body of Christ, despite years of darkness in her prayer life. We hear stories about many of our saintly brothers and sisters who persevered through spiritual and physical hardships so severe that their stories read like adventure novels. They inspire us and give us a exciting examples of spiritual and physical strength.

One of my favorite stories of perseverance from sacred Scripture is the ‘shipwrecked’ passage from St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:24-26.

“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.”

We can pray for the grace to seize our St. Paul moments with hope and trust. Difficulties can shape and sharpen us when we look at them in light of Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. Offering up our difficulties for the greater good, or for the good of someone we love, is a beautiful way to persevere through a hardship or challenge, no matter how severe.

May we aspire for the perseverance of St. Paul, 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Sport at the Service of the Spirit

Sport and physical culture can contribute to a better understanding of ourselves and our relationship with God and neighbor. The topic of sport has been addressed by many pontiffs including Pope Pius XII who made this statement entitled, Sport at the Service of the Spirit, July 29, 1945.

"Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator."

There are some phrases that stand out for me as someone who teaches physical skills to others and seeks to grow in holiness. I encourage you to pray about what stands out for you.

Courage: It takes courage to challenge the body and mind to explore new limits in a physical endeavor. Courage is also necessary to authentically live our Catholic faith in everyday life. Physical courage can help us develop the confidence to be courageous in living out our faith in the way God is calling us.

Gracious victor: It takes humility to be a gracious victor. Practicing humility in athletics can prepare our hearts and minds to be gracious, humble and hospitable to those people who challenge us at home, work and in our community.

Steels the will to endurance: Life on earth is a marathon, not a sprint. Learning to be physically strong can parallel our journey of growing spiritually strong. In both cases, we strive under the leadership of Jesus Christ who is with us in all endeavors. Cry out to the Holy Spirit for assistance when you, or your loved ones, are on the court, in the gym or pool, on the field, road, rink or trail.

Makes the mind itself a more refined instrument: One of the most powerful results of properly-directed physical activity is mental clarity. Physical activity can leave you feeling physically energized and mentally calm and clear-headed; this can help you focus in prayer, at work, and respond more patiently to the needs of others.

Service and praise of the Creator: If you are a faith-filled person who enjoys physical endeavors, you probably already praise God for the gift of your physical vitality. Ask him to guide you in caring for your body so you can continue to serve God and your neighbor with spiritual and physical vigor.

Community

I attended two beautiful weddings recently and this reminded me of the importance of our community of loved ones, both family and friends, that care, guide, challenge and support us through the everyday joys and challenges of life. Our community of loved ones is our front line, our village that is ready to do whatever we need whenever we need it.

It might seem like an odd comparison, but people join a gym to be part of a community too. They depend on the coach and other exercise enthusiasts with similar goals to guide, care, challenge and support them on their journey to improved health and strength. Some might have started out doing it on their own at home, then discovered that it can be more fun and rewarding to learn, practice and train in a group that pushes them to levels they might not explore or achieve on their own.

It’s the same with our spiritual lives. Our brothers and sisters in Christ guide, care, challenge and support us in different ways as we seek to grow closer to Jesus and to know him better. Those who know us best, and love us the most, are often how God speaks to us about the direction and priorities in our lives. 

In my own life, my husband Al has often been one who can help me discern whether something is my will or God’s will. It’s a gift to have those people in our lives who help us to stay on the road to holiness. The fewer detours the better!

Because we are generally social creatures, we may gravitate toward groups almost naturally in different areas of our lives — especially our spiritual lives. Sometimes it might be tempting to to stay safely enfolded in prayer in the quiet of our homes even when we know that praying in community, authentically sharing our spiritual struggles with others, learning from one another on retreats, and serving in ministry can be special opportunities for spiritual growth.

There is perhaps no one more more aware of our need for each other than St. Teresa of Calcutta. She enjoyed the company of her Sisters immensely. She spent private time in prayer daily before the Blessed Sacrament. She gave her life to public ministry. She reminds us that we’re all called to care for others, wherever we are in our lives, and it can be as simple as offering a smile and kind words:

“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.” 

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” 

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

Take a moment today to pray in gratitude for the communities you are part of and how they guide, care, challenge, support and love you.

Moderation and Consistency

I heard a priest say recently that he does three things every day: pray, celebrate Mass and exercise.

The first two are obvious, but why exercise? 

He wants to keep his body and mind strong and healthy so he can vigorously serve his flock. 

Exercise, when done moderately and consistently, can be a wonderful way to increase our physical and mental energy to be God’s hands and feet in the world. Since diocesan priests are serving their parish 24/7, good health and physical vigor is truly a blessing.

It’s funny that the word Moderation can sometimes feel counter-cultural.

A few years ago, I posted ‘Moderation and Consistency are the Keys to Fitness’ on the whiteboard at my gym. 

One of our gym members strongly disagreed with this sentiment. He told me it sounded weak. His philosophy was to go all out all the time. Unfortunately, he had many former injuries from extreme exercise so maintaining the habit of moderate and consistent exercise proved to be challenging for him and he ended up quitting altogether. 

Unfortunately, our go-go-go culture can make us feel that we must always do more and push harder.

There are circumstances where extreme physical preparation might be necessary, for example, in the military and in law enforcement where your job is to protect and save lives. However, the average person will benefit greatly from doing most activities with Moderation and Consistency.

The principles of Moderation and Consistency can guide our spiritual lives as well. 

While we may desire to pray silently at home every day for an hour, that might not be compatible with how God is calling us to serve in our vocation. We might not start to pray at all until we have a full hour — but if you are like me, that might not happen very often! We can become discouraged and stop praying altogether, so setting realistic expectations is key.

At my weekly Holy Hour last week, I was distracted. I had a hard time praying, reading or even really being present to the Lord. So much was going on in my mind about family and work. I know that God sees and loves our desire to pray even when we do it imperfectly, so we have to keep trying.

Like the priest I mentioned who prays, celebrates Mass, and exercises daily, we can greatly benefit from maintaining healthy habits, in a spirit of Moderation and Consistency, to serve God and the people God places in our lives.

Adventure

I believe that most people who walk into the gym have a bit of an adventurous spirit. They might not know it at first, but they soon discover many new things about themselves as they start to lift weights and move in new ways. 

Some gym members tell me they were a little unsure at first. Others say exercise has helped them get to know themselves better. More than a few have said they never dreamed they would be doing this and that they are excited to see what’s around the corner.

I am very grateful for my gym members who trust me to keep them safe and to teach them a new skill. Life is an adventure and learning a sport can be an exciting part of that adventure.

However, I believe that our faith journey, with Jesus as our guide, is the greatest adventure of all. 

Our Catholic faith is rich and deep and gives us the opportunity for a lifetime of learning about God, ourselves and serving others.

This adventure with Jesus doesn’t require us to travel to faraway lands. St. Therese of Lisieux wanted to visit all five continents to share God’s love with others, but illness and death at age 24 didn’t allow her to leave the convent. Her adventure centered around prayer and a desire to grow in holiness in her daily life. She is patron saint of missionaries.

From Story or a Soul: “For me, prayer is an upward leap of the heart, an untroubled glance towards heaven, a cry of gratitude and love which I utter from the depths of sorrow as well as from the heights of joy.”

Growing closer to Jesus is an exciting adventure that might make us feel like my gym members expressed: a little unsure at first, learning about ourselves, doing things we never dreamed of and excited about what’s around the corner.

We don’t know how our daily adventure with Jesus will unfold, but we trust in His love for us and we know He is right there with us. 

A friend recently told me that she thanks God for every part of her daily adventure with Him — from the gentleness of a summer morning, to time spent with loved ones and even for little conveniences in everyday life.

The pursuit of a God-centered life is an incredible adventure. We might not know what’s coming next, but through faith we know we are in good hands.

Guest Post: Spiritual Fitness by Lisa Marino

It doesn’t take a doctoral degree to understand the poor health of our nation. Most can cite the rising incidence of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, let alone those we know affected by cancer and stroke. Yet, St. Mother Theresa of Kolkata, in her pure and holy wisdom, diagnosed the chief cause in 1975: spiritual poverty. 

“You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is.

“What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.”

Can you imagine? A simple woman living amongst the outcasts of society and the deathly ill for over 50 years. Sum up every cry she has heard, every wound she has touched, and every illness she has nursed and it still doesn’t even touch the sickness of our souls in the Western world. She once said, “It was easier to deal with poverty and death in India than the lack of spirituality in America.” 

I have no doubt most of you here are working towards a fitness or health goal- awesome! Keep it up! Always remember our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and we are made to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor 6: 19-20).  Being physically fit gives us the energy to work, to care for our family and friends, and to share the Good News with vigor.

So my question for you becomes: How much do you work out your soul? Not that this can be quantified by time or reps, but how is your living relationship with God? Have you stretched yourself to remain devoted to prayer, Eucharistic adoration, daily mass, confession, or a bible study? Spiritual fitness requires daily training even more than diet and exercise demand of us. 

The fruits of being physically fit are obvious: health, energy, confidence, and must I say appearance. The fruits of being spiritually fit are a bit more elusive. Yet I would argue they are infinitely more desirable than we care to admit: happiness, hope, mercy, love, purity, obedience, and peace to name just a few. Our souls are made to be refined like gold by fire, taking “feel the burn” to a whole new level (1 Peter 1:7). For the true journey we are on, my friends, is to be fit for heaven. 

Lisa Marino, PT, DPT

Peace

I sometimes wonder what it would be like if it was normal in our culture to greet each other with, “Peace be with you!” instead of our standard, “Hi, how are you?”

It would be a wonderful reminder that Christ’s peace is always available to us and that we can offer Christ’s peace to others any time.

In Matthew 8:23-27, we hear the story of the storm that rocked the boat that contained the disciples and the sleeping Jesus. The disciples became frightened and awoke Jesus in a state of panic. Jesus reminded them to trust and assured them that God cares for all their needs — even if it isn’t in the way we expect or according to our timeline.

Truly turning our lives over to God requires a child-like trust that He will care for all of our needs, big and small.

Each of us will face periods of calm and storms in our lives. We can pray for the grace to be peaceful and remain trusting in God’s providence and fatherly care in good times and in hard times.

I remember a friend telling me a story about traveling to Italy and having her purse stolen in the airport as she prepared to return home. She said she thanked God for this and then went on to deal with the problem of having no passport— lots of time and inconvenience to be sure!

I was struck by her comment that she thanked God first! Of course she was not happy about the situation, but she remained calm, prayerful and trusted that somehow she would get home. She attended to the details that were required of her because trust in God doesn’t mean that we sit back, wait, and do nothing. She knew that Jesus was there with her and she did eventually return home.

Remaining peaceful in the midst of trying circumstances might not be easy, but as people of faith, we are equipped to persevere. We know that Jesus does not abandon us and His friendship brings us a peace that is not of this world.

Peace be with you!

Strength

Originally published in The Catholic Times, June, 2016.

Variations of the word ‘strength’ appear hundreds of times in the bible. I am especially moved when I read Scripture or hear the word ‘strength’ mentioned during the readings at Mass. References to strength move me to go deeper into prayer and reflection.

Psalm 28:7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him and he helps me.

The type of strength that I teach at the gym is physical strength, which is fleeting. I know that the strength that matters is the strength we receive in our relationship with God. Allowing His strength, which is love, to fill us up and then flow out of us in service to others is what we are called to do as Christians.

How many times a day do we remind ourselves that God is our true strength and that we can rely on Him in everything? We may know intellectually that His strength is always there for us, but how often do we actually ask for it?

Sometimes it’s difficult to discern when we are relying on God’s strength, by cooperating with His grace, and when we are relying on our own strength. Since we are free to cooperate (or not) with God’s will, there are probably times when we miss the signs that point in the direction God desires for us. His generous love for us means that even in our missteps, He is still there offering us His strength and guidance.

References to God’s strength in Scripture sometimes sound like we are preparing for battle — which we are — the battle for souls, the battle against evil, the battle to stay on our daily walk with Him.

Psalm 18:32 It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

St. Paul the Apostle gained his spiritual strength from God. Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

St. Paul also reminds us that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ on this journey. For St. Paul, it was Sts. Timothy and Titus. 

Who is it your life? Maybe this is a good time to reconnect and strengthen friendships with other Christians who rely on God’s strength in their daily lives so you can help each other.

In closing, I offer you St. Paul’s encouraging words:

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong.

Humility and Confidence

St. Teresa of Calcutta is the epitome of humility and confidence to be His hands and feet in the world..

St. Teresa of Calcutta is the epitome of humility and confidence to be His hands and feet in the world..

I begin this column asking the Holy Spirit to guide me; the topic of humility and confidence is currently on my heart, so I will share my thoughts with you.

We might view humility and confidence as opposites, but when we look at this through the eyes of faith, we see they work beautifully together in our lives of service to others.

By remaining close to Jesus in prayer, receiving the Sacraments, and asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded that our gifts and talents, and even our desire to serve others, flows from our relationship with Jesus. All that we have is meant to be shared. We know that it takes great humility to live this authentically.

If we are rooted in humility, we can move forward in confidence doing His will. He needs us to be bold to be His hands and feet in the world—each in our unique way.

Sometimes His plans for us are not clear, so we discern the best we can and move forward with small steps. Acting with humility means we are willing to try, accept failure, adjust, and keep right on going!

I think about St. Paul’s confidence in Christ that resulted in him being shipwrecked, stoned, imprisoned, exiled, flogged, starved, nearly drowned, robbed, slandered and stripped. Yet he persevered, with confidence, in his mission to share the word of God with as many people as possible.

St. Paul’s humility in Philippians 2:3–5 is a beautiful reminder for all of us.

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.

How do we know if we are acting with humility and confidence in our daily lives? If we are feeling peace and joy that is good sign. We may see positive fruits from our labors. We might know through prayer or through the words of those whom we serve.

Jesus needs us to serve with both humility and confidence, in our homes, churches, businesses and communities. Are you ready to answer His call to you?

Warmup or Workout?

Originally published in The Catholic Times, May, 2016.

People often ask me how to warm up and if warming up is really necessary before exercising. The answer is a resounding yes because it is important to stimulate and prepare the muscles before you challenge them to do intense work. 

There are many ways to warm up, but generally we prefer dynamic movement to get the entire body moving. Warmup also helps people tune in to how their body is feeling that day to help prevent tightnesses and injuries.

Typically, warmup flows naturally into the workout. Sometimes I am asked whether a movement is still part of warmup or if we’ve crossed into the workout. That makes me smile.

We lift the heaviest weight at the end of class when we are really warm and have slowly increased how much weight we are lifting. People think they will be stronger when they are fresh at the beginning of the workout. Surprisingly no. It is unsafe to attempt to lift heavy without a gentle progression of lifting heavier weights while listening to your body. 

Warming up is also necessary for us as followers of Jesus Christ. 

I consider a spiritual warmup to be some form of prayer and study. Listening and asking in prayer and reading the Word of God can help prepare our hearts and minds to know how Jesus is calling us to serve others and take action in our everyday lives.

I have found that without the spiritual warmup of prayer and study, it can be easy to get off course in our actions. Since God works so individually with us, there is no prescribed warmup. We can approach prayer and study by asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, staying close to the Sacraments, and reading the Bible. We may also be inspired by other books, music, art, nature, and spending time with people who challenge us to be holy.

Warming up those spiritual muscles before taking action will hopefully increase our self-knowledge and direction. The spiritual warmup and workout should flow naturally in and out of each other with a balance of prayer, study and action.

This cycle should never stop. Ideally, we exercise our physical and spiritual muscles on a regular basis. We warm up and work out to challenge our muscles to get stronger to support our health. We warm up spiritually with prayer and study to prepare us to move into action by serving others in our homes, churches and communities.