Running the Race

Last Saturday I accomplished something I had long thought I could do: running a half marathon. My wife has been a runner as long as I’ve known her, and her family events including her and her sister running half and full marathons, running 5ks, 10ks, triathlons and halves with her dad… and an occasional 5k with me.

Watching her in the races I had always thought I could do a 10k (approximately 6 miles) or a half marathon (13.1 miles), and I’d get around to it someday. Yet the last time I ran any sort of a race was 6 years ago when I ran the anchor, both literally and figuratively, leg of the Fargo marathon… and I’m certainly not getting any younger…

Kids came and life happened. And on a routine doctor’s checkup in spring of 2012 I was astounded at my high weight and with way-too-high blood pressure, especially for a 28-year-old. I wasn’t running and hadn’t ran in a long time and could barely make it a couple miles. Half marathons were way out of the picture, but I knew I needed to change my lifestyle and needed to set a goal to work toward.

Last summer and fall I would go to the gym and use the elliptical because running with so much weight and a bad knee was still too painful. Looking back now, I’d set my pace on the elliptical at essentially a brisk walk, but at least I was moving toward something…

The goal became a 10K and I began working toward that last winter. Beginning with small steps forward, I was moving in the right direction and the first time I ran 6 miles this spring was a great personal victory for me. We were unable to run the 10k in May that we had signed up for due to a family funeral, but my wife and I ran 6 miles that morning  anyway. So, probably floating on an endorphin high, I signed us up for a half marathon in Bismarck.

What was I thinking?

I knew I could run 6 miles, now I needed to double that… and then some. I had a couple really bad long runs in the process of training, like really bad. I got down on myself and at times was convinced I’d never make 13.1 and was wasting time and money. The temptation was to give up all together. When you tell coworkers you’re running 13.1 miles they call you an overacheiver and there are the typical jokes about running only when necessary, like to save your life. When you tell friends they laugh and there are the jokes about running only when necessary, like to get more beer. Maybe they were right. Maybe its enough just to run 6 miles and finish with a 7 mile walk and call it “good enough.”  Be satisfied, don’t push yourself too hard, you have a bad knee. All reasons to do something other than run a half marathon.

Race day came and I was truly nervous. I’d never run this far before. Would I make a fool of myself? Would I have to tell everyone that my poor time was because my knee was acting up, or just because I simply couldn’t make it?  It took us a couple minutes to get to cross the starting line after the horn sounded, but my wife and I were off. The companionship was nice, we visited and talked and pretty soon we’d passed the six mile mark, in under an hour. After fighting our way through the crowded, slow 11-minute first mile, we were now besting 10 minute miles – we were on pace to finish in less than 2:10. Apart from an ill-advised sip of water at mile 11, which I paid for the last two miles of the race, the run went well. I ran the whole race, and finished with an official time of 2:09:40, a pace of 9:54/mile.

Ryan half finish

Looking back on it this week, I realize it’s been a long road from practically unable to run to finishing a half marathon – but I set a goal and I achieved it. Even in the midst of a two-mile-long stomach ache that kept telling me “you’ve done enough, walk it in from here.”  Throughout the entire process of going from thinking I could run a half marathon, to committing to running, to actually running and completing the half marathon, I had St. Paul’s imagery in 1 Corinthians 9:25 and 2 Timothy 4:7 in mind. There is a correlation between the physical and spiritual disciplines.

I underwent temptation, to quit, to walk, to be satisfied with “good enough” on my runs, just like we all undergo the temptation to be satisfied with where we are in our spiritual race. We pass others in the race and say to ourselves, “at least I’m not like them.” But we can do better. We can push ourselves to do great things. I had my wife beside me in the half marathon, but we all have Christ beside us in our spiritual race.  Running a half marathon is nothing great – my medal will end up in the toy chest and the shirt will one day wear out – but from where I began, it was a long way away. I chose to run to become more active and healthier, but also to win the battle within myself – to push myself farther when tempted to quit and to walk. and when it was over I could truly say, “I have finished the race.”  (2 Tim 4:7).

It took two years for me to finish my first half marathon. Ultimately the real race we all run- to spiritual victory – takes a lifetime. Having found within myself the strength, perseverance and will to run a half marathon, I’m actually looking forward to the next race – try for a better time; maybe a longer run. But I also have a new confidence in myself that I can accomplish things that I only thought possible. With God all things are possible (Matt 19:26, Philippians 4:13) and with him beside me I can conquer the things that try to drag me down in my own spiritual race.  So, I hope in some small way, my long road to a half marathon inspires others to run the race which truly matters and to run it well. Run so as to win.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly… No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

 

“Checking In”

A little over a month ago some of my friends from the seminary gathered in Winona, MN at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary. I was unable to attend the “reunion” but was able to visit one night on the phone with the guys and one mentioned to me how its good, on occasion, to return to the places that formed us. Its like “checking in,” he said. “A good reminder of where we’ve been and how we’ve grown since then.”

One of the reasons I didn’t go to Winona, was because I was due in the Twin Cities at a baptism on August 17th, and it was less than practical to make two trips to southern and central Minnesota in consecutive weeks.

At that baptism, the four authors of this blog gathered around a baptismal font in St. Paul and renewed our own baptismal vows as the Rogerses and Yanteses welcomed their new children into the Church. Since Maggie and I were godparents to Taryn and Paul’s daughter, we had the privilege to gather around the Altar at the end of ceremony. I was standing at the end of the line behind the priest and the Altar. I looked to my right around the Altar and then out at the crowd of friends and family who had gathered celebrate this occasion.

What struck me was though I routinely cite my 18 months as a minor seminarian as very formative in my life, I rarely describe the four months that I spent as a counselor at Catholic Youth Camp in McGregor, MN in the summers of 2003 and 2004 in the same way. Yet there I was on August 17, almost ten years to the day that I left camp for the last time, surrounded by the friends I made at camp, at the baptism of their children.

Of course, there was my wife Maggie, who’s touched my life more than anyone else from the seminary or camp. There were Paul and Aaron – granted I met those two in the seminary, yet I never would have returned to camp in 2004 to work if Paul and Aaron didn’t go. Paul and I would become roommates in our post-seminary life, the three of us would stand up in each other’s weddings and become godparents to each other’s kids. There was John – who I’d worked with the year before and who, like both me and Maggie, had a job lined up that fell through that  summer and camp in 2004 was a last-resort; we’d go on to become roommates too.  There was Taryn, who I’d worked with the year before and would go on to marry my best friend; Emily and Sara – who I’d never met before that summer but married two of my very good friends; there was Stephanie, who I’d met the year before, and become a classmate and close friend at St. Mary’s University; there was Mike’s wife, Hallie, who also worked with John and Taryn and I the summer before; one of John’s good college friends, Joe had married Laura, also a fellow counselor from the summer before, who literally broke my teeth.

There we were – ten years, eleven years for some, removed from a summer (or two) that have touched the rest of our lives. Of course we didn’t know it at that time, and it hadn’t dawned on me until the Baptisms.

I realized that I didn’t need to go to Winona to “check in” and return to the physical location where I was formed – the barometer can be found in my friends, the true good friends (and not just the ones from camp), that have surrounded me for the past decade. Are these the people who can call me out and bring me back to the fold? Are these the people who can challenge me to be better?  Were these the people I wanted around me at my wedding? My children’s baptisms? Are these the people I want around me at my children’s weddings?  Are these the people I hope pray for me at my own funeral, or greet me at the gates of Heaven? Because ultimately thats what the baptism we celebrated in St. Paul, is about. Its about opening the gates of Heave to a new member of the Church –  a community of imperfect sinners trying to help each other get to Heaven.

In the fall of 2004, John and I walked around the Tundra at St. John’s University and talked about the present and the future. John said to me that in the presence of our friends from camp he felt like he was standing on the shoulders of giants. When I looked around the Church of St. Joseph a month ago, I couldn’t help but feel the same.

It was good to check in.

Our Christian Brothers and Sisters in Iraq: What can we do? (part two)

My last post was a couple weeks ago, before ISIS began decapitating Catholic American reporters, before the Christians of Northern Iraq began arming themselves and before the United States began mulling an international coalition to take on ISIS and one prospective ally stated that, sooner or later, ISIS must be defeated on the battlefield.

I mentioned in my last post that merely getting Iraqi Christians out of immediate harm was not enough. More needed to be done. In an interview with Huffington Post, Catholic Relief Service’s director on the ground in Iraq said as much, pointing out the issue now is the long-term, “how do we accompany these populations to help them rebuild?”

main_girdasin

As 21st Century Americans, we tend to have a hands-off approach to these types of crises. Too late to Yugoslavia and Rwanda, “we” “helped” in Kosovo by watching NATO bomb Serbs set on ethnically cleansing Albanians from Kosovo. Yet millions have fled Syria in the fighting there, including children forced to march miles across a desert without anyone to guide them.

I’m not calling for us to take up arms against ISIS, but trying to make people aware. We cannot protect our brothers and sisters in Iraq from those who long to kill them for the creed they profess. Nor can the failed government we propped up and then ditched. But we can protect them within our borders, and the question needs to be, why aren’t we? We have the capacity to resettle and help these people rebuild.

I realize that taking people from their own country to another is a last resort, yet it needs to be considered.  It will take political will and legal changes,  but why can’t we bring our persecuted brothers and sisters here to our shores?

Much has been made of the city of Detroit’s rapid downfall. Abandoned homes and ruined warehouses stand were lives were once lived with promise and businesses thrived. Detroit is also attempting to comeback from the darkness, trying to attract new families and Detroit is home to a large community of Chaldean Catholics from Northern Iraq. There is room for growth in old Detroit and a cultural community already exists, are we unable to help spur growth within Detroit and provide a place where people can rebuild their lives there?

In stark opposition to the vacancies of Detroit is the booming economy and of North Dakota – with 25,000 current job openings and 2% unemployment in the state. Though North Dakota is struggling to develop and maintain the infrastructure necessary for its largest expansion since statehood, there simply aren’t enough people for the jobs in North Dakota. The homogeneous culture here may be the hardest thing to overcome – I visited with a friend yesterday who said, “yeah, but we don’t want those people here.” Seeking long-term laborers, North Dakota hasn’t been too picky about who’s been working here and when it could help alleviate a humanitarian crisis, we should do what we can to open our doors.

I realize political and legal mountains need to be moved, but given our responsibility to these people, we need to start thinking of ways to welcome our homeless and abandoned brothers and sisters here, and soon. If not us, then who?

Pray for the Christians of Iraq.

Nazarene(1)

Our Christian Brothers and Sisters in Iraq: What can we do? (part one)

The news that’s been coming out of Iraq the past few months has gone from bad to worse. If you’re like me, you watch, read, or listen in horror to reports of what is truly a genocide. What’s worse, is that our country has a direct role in the events playing out. Whether you believe we were naive to invade Iraq in 2003 or naive to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, make no mistake: Iraq is a country today that is unable to protect is own citizens. Pope Francis is in dismay over the brutality; his personal envoy to Iraq has called for military protection and assistance to respond to the humanitarian crisis.

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I’ve been following the plight of the Christians in Iraq since the horrific massacre at Our Lady Of Salvation Syriac Catholic church on the eve of All Saints in 2010. The group that walked around that church systematically executing beleivers while a 3-year old toddler lay crying out, “enough, enough” in his parent’s arms is the same one that is purging northern Iraq of our Christian brothers and sisters today.

Our Bishops reminded us two years ago that we still have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq. The airstrikes seem to have provided some relief, enough to evacuate some of the most hard-pressed to refugee camps. But our obligation cannot end once our brothers and sisters are within the fences of a refugee camp. The refugees are saying there is little hope of return to their homes, and a crowded refugee camp is no place to live a life.

But it is a place where we can help immediately.

The Knights of Columbus just announced an Iraq fund this week to help with humanitarian aid.

Aid to the Church in Need has launched an emergency appeal at the urging of Patriarch Sako in Baghdad.

The Chaldean Catholic Eparchy (whose members hail largely form Northern Iraq) of the US has launched its own emergency appeal along with the opportunity to Adopt a Refugee Family in Iraq.

Finally, the Saint Catherine all-girls Academy in Detroit is offering full-ride scholarships to high school girls who have fled Iraq.

These are just a few of the efforts I’ve heard of and, next week, I hope to have heard of more and offer some other ideas. But until then, we must pray for all the victims of the violence in Iraq but especially our fellow Christians who are being persecuted for the simple reason that they believe in Christ.

Nazarene(1)  “N” for “Nazarene”

The USCCB is asking us all to pray for peace in Iraq this Sunday. The prayer offered was written by Patriarch Sako for his flock, who are questioning whether they can remain in Iraq or must flee; they are literally praying for their lives. What are we praying for today? Let’s join them in their prayer and do whatever we can to assist them in their need and bring them hope:

Lord, 
The plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience, 
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.
 
Glory be to you forever.

 

 

A Prairie Grotto

Early this week I was traveling in South Central North Dakota for work when, in between towns, I happened upon a grotto in the middle of the prairie.

Prairie Bells Grotto of the Holy Family

The Prairie Bells Grotto of the Holy Family was built in the early 1990s when a farmer, inspired by the ringing of bells in towns and cities he traveled through on an Italian pilgrimage, decided to build a bell tower on a hilltop on his farm, to ring out the “sacredness of family life” across the prairie. The Bells were purchased from a local church that was closing its doors and the tower was dedicated in 1992.

Pope Saint John Paul II declared 1994 the Year of the Family and, together with his family, the farmer collected rocks from his fields, commissioned an Italian sculptor and built the grotto. Then-Bishop of Bismarck, Most Reverend John Kinney (since retired as Bishop of St. Cloud) blessed the grotto that summer and the place still stands as a place of “peace and renewal.”

I found my short visit there to be peaceful and refreshing – feeling the breeze in the warm sun, listening to the songbirds, and watching rain clouds move across the plains to south. I found myself envious of the Vetter family and their special location, wishing that I too had some small tract of land where I could erect a grotto of my own as a silent, steady witness to the faith.

But then I was drawn back to a line from John Paul II on the plaque commemorating the dedication of the grotto:

Families you must testify to the greatness of the vocation of spouses and parents to all families of today’s world in every place on earth. You must give special witness which you alone can give: families to families.

Pope John Paul II

I was reminded that I am called to be a living witness to the peace and truth that the grotto conveys – the “sacredness of family life.” And in order to do so, I’m called to enter deeper into my family life and build up that sacredness, here and now. Maybe someday I’ll have an opportunity to build a shrine or grotto of my own but until then I’m called to something just as trying as building a grotto and maybe even greater.

Holy Family of Nazareth, pray for us.

Silence…

Choir Director: “What song should we sing for the third hymn during Communion?”

Liturgical Director: “How about silence?”

Choir Director: “Oh, yeah! I Love that song!”

I imagined some conversation of that sort took place about three weeks ago at a not-to-be-named local Catholic Church in town (not our parish).

Its been a fast-paced month of July. In some ways I can’t believe the month is gone already; in other ways, I can’t believe we’ve done as much as we have and its STILL only July.

First there was a three-day work conference in Grand Forks that coincided with the birth of my brother’s second child, also in Grand Forks. Since Grand Forks is only an hour away from my wife’s hometown, she and the kids spent a day back “home” visiting grandparents while i was “working”; since the the hotel my conference was in had a waterpark, we spent time playing there before driving four hours back to my parent’s place in Northern Minnesota. From there, it was more relative-visiting on the Iron Range, followed by a trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior and Duluth on the coldest day in the month of July. In between rainstorms, rapids, cliffs, canals and rollers, the kids all managed to survive with a haggard set of parents who capped the day with visit to one of my wife’s college friends in Duluth before returning to grandma and grandpa’s… The next day consisted of my road trip to the Major League Baseball All Star Game and back in one day. Somewhere between Cloquet, MN and Toivola, MN driving down a deserved county road at 1:20am, I decided I’m getting too old for these kind of road trips…

The next day at my parents was quiet and relaxed, but only in preparation for packing and moving on to my wife’s family’s side of vacation. We journeyed to Park Rapids, MN in time for lunch, a swim at the beach and a pontoon boat ride on Thursday. Then Friday was filled with preparations for a family wedding at the lake, in between tubing, swimming and fishing. On Saturday morning I got to drive to Fargo to pick up Maggie’s grandmother and back to the lake for the wedding.  By the time Sunday morning hit, we were all exhausted and had a 10am check-out time to meet as we packed up 6 adults and 11 children from the rented lake cabin, and my family had a 5 hour drive back home.

We got back home with plenty of time to spare before 6pm Mass at the still-to-remain-unnamed local parish. Yet with unpacking and picking up our dog from some generous friends, we managed to barely make to our pew, or rather, softly padded cushioned seats before the end of the processional. Mass went as you’d expect with 3 overly tired kids attending Mass at a different parish in their town.

And then came Communion, which featured not one…not two…but THREE hymns. The last of which was ironically named Sacred Silence. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the song (what I can remember of it) but in my limited life experiences when you are singing three communion hymns in a church that’s less than 50% full at Mass, you essentially ensure that there is no sacred silence at Mass, or at least during communion. Why do we sing songs about silence instead of partaking in silence? What are we afraid of?

It was disappointing to me because in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of vacation (and it was a good, fun vacation – I’m not complaining) Mass is an opportunity to anchor yourself against the tide of the rush around you. An opportunity to rest in the peace of Christ’s presence but that seems to happen best in silence. When you allow Him to act upon you; to speak to you.

A few months ago Mike had a great post encouraging us to enter into silence during Lent. In the midst of the business of a rapidly waning summer, the advice still rings true. I was reminded of this when my confessor recently told me that what I’m missing is, precisely, silence right now.

I know we’re all busy, but as July fades, we should take a page from today’s feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who’s famous Spiritual Exercises put an emphasis on silence, and find some time to go to adoration, or sit quietly in front of the tabernacle or even make the time to be still in your home and be silent and let Him renew you.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Update: While reading Introduction to Christianity, I came across this money quote from Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger:  “God has spoken. God is word. But this does not entitle us to forget the truth of God’s abiding concealment. Only when we have experienced him as silence may we hope to hear his speech, too, which proceeds in silence.” (emphasis added)

 

Going It Alone

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by our prayers.” –2 Corinthians 1:8-11

It’s no secret that raising kids is difficult work. My wife and I have felt this especially during the last few weeks. Now that our boys are home from the hospital, we have been on a wild ride. When our three-year old and two-year old are healthy and happy, we can balance duties out pretty well. But recently our two-year old developed a fever, and between trying to keep her comfortable, feed our twins, and get some sleep, things got a little out of hand.

Four hours of sleep a night? I can function. But two hours of sleep a night? I’m a drooling, gibbering wreck. When I look ahead to September and going back to teaching for six hours a day, I shudder. How am I going to be a good dad, a good husband, and a good teacher? I wonder. 

Enter this passage from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in which he states it plainly: there were times in his ministry when events transpired that were beyond his ability to control or endure. Now, don’t get me wrong; raising four kids under four is nothing like being jailed or tortured for your faith. However, there are times when I have been so sleep-deprived, worried, and upset about my inability to control events that I have been utterly powerless to do anything except throw up my hands and say, “God, you have to deal with this. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.”

When I’m well-rested, well-fed and have a lot of time on my hands, I hold in my head the idea that I am in complete control. However, the idea that I can function properly or accomplish anything, great or small, on my own, is a fiction. Even when I believe I am operating under my own power, my body, mind, soul, the earth itself, and the laws that govern the universe are being sustained by a loving and interested God. Our God is intensely concerned with His creation. Every moment He chooses to uphold our collective existence. If He chose otherwise, we would cease to be. Since time began, God has been making a moment-by-moment decision to keep this whole grand universe in motion.

This is the strange and beautiful truth that lies in the midst of suffering: when you suffer, the idea that you can “go it alone” in this world is revealed as a lie. This is not to say that suffering itself is an absolute good. Rather, in the absence of a good (whether that’s health, or rest, or freedom), the lack of it reorients us toward it. When you are exhausted, you naturally turn toward rest. When you are persecuted, you naturally desire freedom. As J.R.R. Tolkien so aptly put it in The Silmarillion, evil is not good, but it is “good to have been” because it presents us with the opportunity to turn back toward goodness and the source of good, namely God.

Thus, “I can’t do this on my own” can turn in an instant from a cry of despair into a recognition of our situation. Once that has been established, we are free to choose God: “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope…”

Full-Strength Christianity

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

You’ve probably heard the above quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen many times, but it is such a true and important one that I believe it bears repeating again and again. To be honest, I have not had a great number of conversations with non-Catholics about Catholicism in the recent past, but from the bits and pieces I hear in conversation and in the media, this quote is possibly even more true now than when the Archbishop originally said it. Yes, definitely, there are those who have taken the time to study and learn about the history and theology behind all of the Church’s teachings and have still chosen to believe something different. But the vast majority of those who have left the Church have done so with a deep misconception about their faith. This saddens me so much.

I haven’t thought much about evangelization lately. Perhaps it’s the fact that I barely have time to think at all between diaper changes, meals, whines, and the sheer exhaustion of pregnancy. Then I stumbled across this article from Focus missionary Daniel Paris that lit a fire under me. Now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that fire, but at least it’s there. The article explains how difficult evangelization is in the United States because, in his words, Americans have been “inoculated to Christianity”. They have been fed a weakened version of the truth, either through the media’s portrayal of Christianity or through being taught that to follow Christ means nothing more than to be a good person. He writes, “Who wants to follow all these rules and hold all these unpopular political stances and spend all these hours sitting and kneeling and standing when I could abandon this whole religion thing and still be just as ‘good a person?'” 

So how do we combat the vaccine, the weakened version of Christianity that so many have mistaken for the truth? Paris lists some great starting points at the end of his article, but the main takeaway for me was this: “Jesus Christ was not just a good person. He was the Son of God made man, and he died so that we might live in eternal, loving relationship with Him. It is up to us to respond to this invitation by committing our very lives to Him.” It doesn’t matter what the media says. It doesn’t matter what your friends say. It doesn’t even matter how much sin there is in the Church. In the words of Abigail van Buren, “The Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who died for us. Let’s get out there and give people the full-strength version of Christianity!

Everyday Systems

(Again, my apologies that the blogging has been a bit spotty lately. Our twins came home on June 30 and in my spare time I’m usually catching up on sleep!)

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
–Luke 16:10

If there is one constant obstacle to a healthy spiritual life, it is stress. The steady, grinding pressures of a busy life can drown out the still, small voice of God and sap one’s desire to pray. Looking back on the past several months, I feel it was a constant struggle to turn to God in prayer. While my wife was on bedrest and the lives of our two youngest children were in doubt, I often turned to more worldly things for comfort: television, snacks, etc.

Now that a lot of this stress has passed, replaced by the more mundane, day-to-day stress of parenting newborn twins, I’ve finally found the courage to re-examine some of these bad habits that have crept in. Enter Everyday Systems. The author of this website has a bunch of simple ways to build virtue and eliminate vice in your life. It’s not specifically religious, but I think a lot of his wisdom applies to the spiritual life. Simply put, every day is a battle between the better and worse angels of your nature, and you need to engage in that battle through virtue building. I’ve used the “No S” portion of the site and I think it makes a lot of common sense. It’s not about miracle foods or diet methods that will somehow turn you into a Greek god, but simple habit-building. Don’t each snacks, or sweets, or seconds, except on days that start with S (keeping in mind that S also stands for “special,” like your birthday.)

If you’re interested, check out the forums on that site for testimonials and day-to-day updates from people who are on the program. It’s a great set of virtue-building systems.

 

He Knows What He is About

 “God has created me to do Him some definite service.  He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.  I have my mission, I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.

     I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.  He has not created me for naught.  I shall do good – I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it, if I do but keep his commandments.

     Therefore I will trust Him.  Whatever I am, I can never be thrown away.  If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.

     He does nothing in vain.  He knows what He is about; He may take away my friends.  He may throw me among strangers.  He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me – still He knows what He is about!”

Cardinal John Henry Newman

I heard this meditation today and simply wanted to share it with you. Read it slowly and think about it, there is such depth and beauty here. My favorite line: “He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.” In other words, I am irreplaceable!