Skip Navigation Links
Catholic News
Special Reports
Google Plus
RSS Feeds

Every Day Catholic - January 2012

Every Day Catholic uses an engaging and practical approach to help readers confidently apply Christian values to their everyday decisions. Great for group or individual study, and FREE online discussion guides are available for each issue. Get more information and order here.

I want to order print copies of this Everyday Catholic.
Bulk discounts available!

I want to order a 12-month bulk subscription to hand out in my parish or classroom.

Exercise, Sports and Spirituality: Celebrating Body and Soul
By: B. G. Kelley

“Why’d you do that?” I asked my wife, Ellie. In a five-mile race, she’d slowed in the last mile, allowing a friend to beat her to the finish.

“It meant more to her to get there first,” she said. Ellie’s response brought to mind a saying of Trappist monk Matthew Kelty: “To see God in all things you have only to play...with an unselfish heart.”

Wholesome spirituality must include the body to help us move toward a holistic union with God. Physical play, whether running, playing basketball, biking, rock climbing, swimming or dancing, is tied to the human spirit.

If we put physical play and exercise in a spiritual dimension, it will help us accept absolute concepts—winning and losing, discipline, hard work—and understand life better. It will reveal character and grace; enlist intelligence and challenge; and teach respect for limits and laws. Author and philosopher Albert Camus said, “Sport is where I had my only lessons in ethics.”

Play nourishes the soul, making time wonderfully irrelevant, allowing us to escape from temporal and secular struggles—bills, workplace stress, desecration of the environment and crime.

Play allows us to escape into our souls, reflect and awaken innocence that often gets lost in becoming adults. It helps us keep our lives from becoming merely about pleasure, power, glory and wealth.
My running is a celebration of body and soul. I run in sacramental environments, where tall timbers, vast rivers, geese or the sun dropping like a gold coin bring both physical and spiritual poetry to my surroundings.

Embracing the journey
The physical-spiritual journey is intentional and purposeful from start to finish. It will not go adrift, subject to the whims of luck or chance.

One autumn day long ago, I looked for my name on the locker room door at my high school. It wasn’t there. I’d failed to make the basketball team.

Father Walter Conway noticed my dejected look when I shuffled into Latin class. “What’s wrong, son?” he asked. “I got cut from the basketball team,” I said. He pulled me aside, saying, “Son, you’re going to have to accept suffering and challenge as part of the search for fulfillment. Accept the suffering, then accept the challenge and pray that God will show you the way to do something that will earn you a spot on the team next year.” Those words stuck in my psyche like a first kiss sticks to your lips.

I came to a decision: I would fuse the physical and the spiritual. While running four miles a day, I prayed to be as prepared as possible, so that by the following fall, when basketball tryouts came around, I’d be both in superior physical condition and in good shape spiritually. I worked on my ball-handling and shooting as well.

I ran in Fairmount Park, a piece of paradise in the city of Philadelphia. The autumn leaves along the Schuylkill River had turned to carrot orange, saffron gold and scarlet red. The sun shimmered on the water. The air was crisp as celery. God provided this refuge for me. I even ran in the winter there, when it was so cold that icicles formed on my eyebrows. (I guess that was part of the suffering!)
When springtime arrived, so did blossoming cherry trees, gentle breezes coming off the water, and the rhythmic slicing of scullers’ oars, keeping time with my rhythms of prayer.

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

Summer came with its intense heat. (Again, the suffering!) But I kept reflecting on my Latin teacher’s words: “Accept suffering and challenge as part of the search for fulfillment.”

In autumn, I once again stood before the locker room door, reading the names of those who’d made the basketball team. My name was there! I’d arrived at my physical and spiritual destination, and the journey was as important as the arrival.

My physical-spiritual journey continued: I became a starter and exceeded my dreams by earning All-League honors and leading our division in scoring. More importantly—at least to my pop—basketball led to a college scholarship.

Making a spiritual connection
It’s not easy to sit down and write. Or perhaps the sitting down is easy, and the writing is hard. I was having trouble coming up with ideas for this essay—writer’s block. I needed to free myself, feel a sense of abandonment and do something physical to unlock myself mentally.

So I headed for Valley Green, an outdoor monastery that can silence the ticking of the clock and block out the irrelevant things that spin around us. It’s where I came when my parents died, to
release my sorrow, talk to them, commune with God and ask God to brace me for life without them. The sacramental solitude and peace I find there is a physical prayer.

This day I wanted to be released from the curse of the blank page.

I ran and was able to work out ideas that pounded life into words for this essay. I sprinted back to my car, where I keep a pad and pen for just such revelations, and scrawled down my ideas.

Becoming complete
Know this: Physical exercise is not simply an investment in one’s health. Sure, it enriches muscle strength, bone density and brain stimulus—those parts of the body that steadily tend to decline as we age. But also know this: Physical play and exercise can help us stay connected to God and the world. This can lead to a physical and spiritual ripening rather than a rotting.

What Murray Bodo, O.F.M., wrote in The Way of St. Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone rings true: “I am a whole person, and until I love my body as much as my soul, I will not be a truly complete human being.”

Imprimatur was granted for this article, “Exercise, Sports and Spirituality—Celebrating Body and Soul,” by B.G. Kelley, from Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 9-27-11.

B. G. Kelley has written magazine articles, a book of poetry and a network TV film. A longer version of this article appeared in the July 2011 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.

Making Connections

■ Where do play, exercise and sports fit into your life?

■ How faithful are you to staying or becoming physically fit? How might tying prayer into this effort help you grow physically and spiritually?

■ What can you do to better integrate body and soul?

Movie Moments

Rocky Balboa
By: Frank Frost

When Rocky Balboa was released in 2006, it was promoted with special attention to the “Christian” market. Writer-director, Sylvester Stallone, said the movie was a metaphor for the redemption he experienced in his own life. Whether this helped the marketing is an open question, but it’s fair to say that the movie itself exemplifies the way sports can play a spiritual role in one’s life.

A promotional tagline for Rocky Balboa reads, “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” And that pretty much sums up the story of Rocky 30 years after his first incredible victory that made movie history.

Rocky’s life didn’t turn out to be happy-ever-after. He’s taken some spiritual body blows. He’s lost his wife, Adrian (the movie opens and closes at her graveside), and his son resents and avoids him. But when promoters persuade Rocky to participate in an “exhibition” match with the current world champion, he discovers a road to redemption not only for himself, but also for his son, Bobby; his sidekick, Paulie; and for new friends, “Little Marie” and her son.

Rocky has major obstacles to overcome, but now they’re as much psychological as physical. He needs first to face his own fears. Marie encourages him, saying, “The last thing to age is your heart.”

He must face his son Bobby’s objections. He’s talking as much to himself as his son when he says “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place….But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.”

In the end, he’s able to take hard hits and keep going, knowing that whatever the outcome of the fight, he’s a winner. In that is a spiritual victory.

Next time you watch Rocky Balboa, ASK YOURSELF:

■ What do you make of the prayer Rocky’s buddy recites before the fight: “It is not by strength, not by might, but by his spirit we have already claimed victory in our Lord Jesus Christ”?

■ Marie tells Rocky, “Fighters fight.” How much of Rocky’s challenge is a matter of identity? Is that a challenge I relate to?

■ Rocky can’t do it alone. How does the support of Paulie, Bobby and Marie help him? And help them?

Putting Shoes on the Gospel

Colleen Van Tiem
By: Joan McKamey

While most people exercise for physical health, some turn to exercise for emotional and spiritual healing. Always active, Colleen Van Tiem tells Every Day Catholic, “Running has always been a means to keep in shape—I feel physically better and healthy when running. Exercise forces me to get outside of whatever else is going on and focus on what’s happening within. It gives me a chance to have a conversation with God—whether I’m happy, sad, frustrated or confused.” She had completed her first half-marathon the week before her boyfriend, Dan Haubert, committed suicide in 2009.

Colleen, now a physical therapist living in Michigan, and Dan met as students at the University of Dayton. Although they never ran together, Colleen says, “He’d started running in the months before he died and got up to eight miles.” She adds, “Dan’s charisma and imagination were fantastic. He was passionate about his ideas and those of others. He was real and honest. Dan could talk to anyone and be absolutely sincere. He was hilarious and had an ingenious quick wit. Dan was a dreamer.” After his death, Colleen found it natural to turn to running as a way to heal and to remember and honor Dan.

“On the night of Dan’s funeral, Anna Young, a UD alum, mentioned she’d be running the Disney marathon in 13 weeks. She suggested that Adam Rathge, another UD alum, and I join her—it would give us a goal and a method of coping. That night, Adam and I pinky swore to run to remember Dan. Others pledged to support us. After we realized how helpful training and spending marathon weekend together in Florida were, we knew we needed to do it again.

“Our blog ( started as a way for us runners to keep in touch during training. It turned into much more as I recognized what a huge outlet it is. After getting lots of e-mails and thousands of page views, we realized the blog is helping not only us, but many other people, heal.” It’s also used to organize runs and fundraisers. Money raised helps support a scholarship in Dan’s name.

“Organizing these runs has given me tangible goals and improved focus. It has provided a connection to keep Dan’s memory alive. Participating has kept me on track. When I fall off my running schedule, I quickly become frustrated with myself; lose patience with others; lose creativity, focus and memory; and make unhealthy choices. Exercise has been part of a path to healing. Any form of exercise helps me cope with the slumps and the abrupt turns—it helps me find patience for myself.

“My faith has been a stable foundation through this and the other trials I’ve been through. I’ve asked quite a few “whys” of God—knowing there isn’t a clear answer, but I still ask. On the days it’s hard to believe God is there on my side, exercise helps to keep me grounded.”

Passing On the Faith

Body and Soul Connection
By: Jeanne Hunt

Q. I have trouble finding time for exercise. How can I make exercise a priority—and a prayer?
A. First, we have to admit to ourselves that no time is optimal. In fact, we can think of hundreds of things that are more fun than pushing ourselves out the door to exercise. I have three recommendations for getting yourself in gear: Pick an exercise time that fits your lifestyle and be faithful to it. First thing in the morning works best for me even if it means getting up earlier. Read the Gospel of the day before you begin and choose one phrase that attracts you. As you work out, reflect on those words. Finally, get out those rosary beads and learn how to pray the beads to the rhythm of your steps or reps.
Q. Pope John Paul II called us to be stewards of our bodies. What steps are essential in doing that?
A. Pope John Paul II stayed fit all of his life, so he’s great body coach. He would tell us to see our bodies as gifts in our care. Our attitude toward our bodies is important. What we put into them can bring life or destroy it, so eat healthy foods and avoid chemicals, trans fats and sugars. Learn to have fun with physical activity: Hiking, swimming, skiing and walking in the park were all favorites of the late pope. While you can’t have his medical team, you can make sure to see your own team of medical experts regularly. Last, but not least, get your sleep. Six to eight hours of rest is needed to keep well. In fact, John Paul II wasn’t above an occasional afternoon nap.

Q. My children spend too much time watching television and playing video games. What family exercises could we participate in?
A. Now is the time for tough love. There must be time each day when television and video games are off limits. This should not be negotiable. In my family, there was no television or video games until 6:00 p.m., and homework needed to be finished first.

After school, allow your child to get outside and exercise with or without you. Physical activities for the family might include hiking, rowing, swimming, tennis, handball, skating or biking. Decide as a family what looks like fun and plan at least one physical activity per week.


Body Prayer
By: Jeanne Hunt

(for praying alone or with others)

Pour a small amount of fragrant oil over cotton balls in a small bowl. Please the bowl of cotton balls, a Bible and a lighted candle on a prayer table.

“Bless the Lord” from Taizé (or other chant hymn)

Beloved Lord, we acknowledge the gift of life that flows through our bodies. The rhythm of our hearts, the warmth of our hands and the sparkle in our eyes are all gifts from you. Give us the wisdom and grace to be gentle stewards and good caretakers of these precious gifts. Amen.

Romans 12:1
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Divine Creator, we give you everything we see, hear, smell and touch. We want to use all that we are to become your presence in the world. So we lift up our wonderful bodies as gifts you have given us. Help us to use them to honor you and your Kingdom. Amen.

You are each invited to come forward, dip your finger in the oil and make the Sign of the Cross on your palm as a sign of reverence for your body and as a pledge to care for and honor it.
(As the participants come forward, play quiet music.)

May God bless and keep us in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

When the Church Was Young
Be inspired and challenged by the lives and insights of the Church's early, important teachers.
Newly released in audio!
One of Merton's most enduring and popular works, now in audio!
Learn about the saints of America: missionaries, martyrs, bishops, heiresses, nuns, and natives who gave their lives to build our Church and our country.
New Seeds of Contemplation
One of the best-loved books by one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time!
Catholics, Wake Up!
“A total spiritual knockout!” – Fr. Donald Calloway

St. John Paul II
“…let us always give priority to the human person and his fundamental rights.” St. John Paul II
For the one to be baptized, godparents represent the Christian Catholic community, the Church.
You have the heart and soul of a child of God, no matter how long you've been around.
World Mission Sunday
The Church in North America sprang from the blood of martyrs such as this missionary and his companions.
St. Luke
Author of two books of the New Testament, this Evangelist’s primary audience was Gentile Christians like himself.

Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic

An Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2014