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Celebration of Body and Soul View Comments
By B.G. Kelley

Why did you do that?” I asked my wife, Ellie. In a five-mile road race, she slowed up in the last mile,
on purpose, to allow a friend to pass and beat her to the finish line.

“It meant more to her to get there first,” she said. It 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 in order to complete a holistic union with God. Physical play, whether it’s running, playing basketball, biking, rock climbing, swimming or dancing, is tied to the necessity of the human spirit.

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

More importantly, play is an essential nutrient to the soul. Play makes time wonderfully irrelevant, allowing us to escape for a while from temporal and secular struggles that can eat away at our insides like termites—the mortgage, the bills, the workplace, the college tuition, the desecration of the environment, the crime in our cities, the dead ends and busted dreams.

It allows us to escape into our soul, to introspect, to awaken an innocence that often gets lost, or at least misplaced, in becoming an adult. Reflections and introspections during play possess the power to find ways to peel away those things that lead us asunder and keep our life from becoming merely a compendium of pleasure, power, glory and wealth.

Ernest Hemingway wrote: “If order is to be found in a meaningless universe, a man has to impose that order; a way of doing it is through the ritual of sports.”

When I run, there is always a celebration of the body and soul. One reason is this: I run in sacramental environments, where there is a physical and spiritual poetry to my surroundings, where there are mystical signs of nature and where there are God’s gifts to us: tall timbers that are enveloping; a vast river with its crisp currents running; geese—symbol bearers of faith and peace—sidling up that river or munching on grass along the banks; the sun dropping down like a gold coin. The soul can never be empty in these surroundings.

I sometimes feel part cheetah, part Thoreau, part Thomas More. I hear a prayer that keeps getting louder and louder: Curse the darkness and light a candle.

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B.G. Kelley was a two-year starting point guard for Temple University’s basketball team, earning Honorable Mention All-East and Little All-America honors and participating in “March Madness.” His last piece for St. Anthony Messenger, “The Baseball-Faith Connection,” appeared in July 2010.

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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

The Gospel of John the Gospel of Relationship

 
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