Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What is Spiritual Fitness?

Catholicism has not necessarily transformed my life as much as it has guided me and formed me into the man I am today and aspire to be tomorrow, spiritually.   CrossFit is in the process of guiding me and forming me into the man I aspire to be tomorrow, physically (I have only been involved in it for four months)  What is CrossFit?  It is a strength and conditioning program built on constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity. It's not about losing pounds or inches.  It's not about being just healthy.  It's about being "fit."

What is fitness?  If you ask five different people you'd probably get five different answers.   In October, 2002, Coach Greg Glassman, founder of CrossFit, posted an article in the CrossFit journal in which he tries to answer that question, "What is Fitness."   Coach Glassman writes in 100 words the guide to world class fitness.  Simply:

  • Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. 
  • Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. 
  • Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. 
  • Regularly learn and play new sports.
To say that I've bought into the CrossFit program would be an understatement.  For the first time in my life, I love to go work out.  In four months, I've lost twenty pounds.   It's become a family event.  My wife and kids have been going to the police academy (KCPD CrossFit--a non-profit CrossFit affiliate) and been working out with me.  It's been great, but just like you cannot focus on one thing too much in CrossFit, you also cannot focus simply on your physical being.  You have to focus on your spiritual side too.   This brought me to the thought, "what is spiritual fitness" and the comparisons to Coach Glassman's article came to mind.

The first comparison was in CrossFit's first fitness standard.  Coach recognizes ten general physical skills:  cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy.  Coach states that, "a regimen develops fitness to the extent that it improves each of these ten skills.

In Catholicism, we believe that we are each given each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom,  understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the lord.   Just like the ten general physical skills, we should always try to develop these seven gifts.

How do we do this?  In CrossFit, the ten physical skills are developed by playing sports, weightlifting, gymnastics, metabolic conditioning and nutrition.   There are portions of the spiritual life that compare to each of these physical areas of development.

Sports is "the applications of fitness in a fantastic atmosphere of competition and mastery" and can be compared to "living the Christian life."  St Francis of Assisi has been attributed with the quote, "Preach the gospel always.  If necessary, use words."   We are supposed to LIVE the gospel, not just talk about it.

Weightlifting can be compared to study, whether it is theological study or Bible study.   Whenever I've tried to read or learn about God, I have felt like I've done some heavy lifting.  Sometimes it is because what I've learned is "heavy" or mind blowing and other times it's because my brain hurts as if I have a stack of 45 pound plates on it.

I compare gymnastics to the interior life--or the prayer life.  That's because I see these gymnasts doing things  like flips, hand stands, or feats of skill on the rings or parallette bars and it blows my mind.   I want so badly to be able to do that and I believe, that some how, I could---but not anytime soon.  In the same way, I see these people with great prayer lives who act as if God is their best friend.  I want to be like that too.  I so badly to be able to break into conversation with God as easily as my best friend---but I don't see it happening anytime soon and not without a lot of practice.

In the physical fitness world, cardiovascular activity is looked upon as the one thing that you need.  Often, it's looked upon as the only thing needed in order to "get fit."  In the spiritual world, it seems like some believe that "social justice" is all they need to do to get closer to God.  Social Justice is very important.  We are called upon to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit them imprisoned and to bury the dead.   But, it seems to me like many people think that all they need to do is to be "good people."   They may do something in the social justice arena but then live an immoral life.

Finally, one of the most important things we need to be fit is nutrition.  You can work out seven days a week but if you eat a #3 extra value meal from McDonald's daily or if your diet is filled with pizza and ice cream then you are not going to see the progress you hope for.  You need a healthy balanced diet.  Like wise, in Catholicism, what we eat is very important.   Jesus gave us the Eucharist--his body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine in order that we may be nourished and fed.    Being able to attend mass, the source and summit of our faith, every Sunday is the most important thing we can do every week.   Without the Eucharist things are much made much more difficult.

A Christian may expect to make some progress in the spiritual life if he only concentrates on one of these items just as a runner may expect to make gains in endurance and stamina.  But, they will only grow weaker in other areas just as that runner won't become strong and powerful.  It's like a puzzle.  We need all of the pieces--the Eucharist, social justice, interior life, study and living the Christian life if we expect to succeed.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Imagining Heaven and Hell

A few weeks ago, I was reading a passage from the gospel of Matthew where the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death (that's why they were Sadd U Cee), were trying to trick Jesus and asked Him about a woman who's husband passes away and remarries.  That husband also dies and she remarries again.  This happens seven times.  The Sadducees ask Jesus who's wife will she be at the resurrection.   Jesus simply explains in Heaven there is no marriage (insert your own jokes here)   But, if you think about it---there is no need for marriage in Heaven.  After all, He gave us marriage for several reasons.

One, is to help each other get to Heaven.  As a husband, my life's biggest task is to help my wife get to Heaven and her's is to help me get to there also.  The second reason for marriage is the love we give each other which results in children to populate the Earth.  Finally, marriage is a reflection of the Holy Trinity.  I give all of my love to Abby and she, in return, gives all of her love to me.  The result of our love is the aforementioned children.  In the Trinity, God the Father pours out all of His love to God the Son who, in return pours out all of his love back to God the Father.  The result of such a perfect love is another person--God in the Holy Spirit.    So, in Heaven, there really is no need for marriage.  We have gotten each other to Heaven (hopefully--she has the more difficult task ahead of her).  There is no need to repopulate the Earth.  And there is no need for a reflection of God because He is right there in front of us.

This is kind of problematic for me because it makes me wonder what Heaven will be like.  My wife is a part of me.  I don't want to imagine a time when she isn't a part of me, when she isn't my wife, when she isn't MRS. Jamie McAdams.  So what will Heaven be like if she isn't my spouse.

What do you do in Heaven.   I'm sorry, but I would think that singing Holy, Holy, Holy with all the angels and all of the other saints would get boring after a bit.  But, in Heaven you are outside of time and space.   I won't have my phone---who will I text?  What would a constant state of euphoria be like?  I can't imagine.

Will there be sadness in Heaven or will being in the presence of God and feeling His love over come any feelings of sadness??  Possibly.  That's difficult from me to imagine because I'm sure there will be some loved one or friend who isn't there with me.  Wouldn't I be sad if I knew that they weren't in Heaven too?

What about Hell?  I think Hell is severely underestimated.  I've heard people joke about going to Hell as if it's some sort of playground where you get to do everything that is considered wrong an immoral on Earth.  As if it's just a great big party.

But think of it this way.  Hell is an absence of God.  It's actually a mercy for those people who do not want to live God's way.    For them, to be in the presence of God and to feel God's love that intensely would be too painful.  So, they get to go where they are in the absence of God.  But, if God is love and they are absent from God then that must mean that they are absent from love.   I don't imagine it's a party.  I imagine the lowest, saddest and loneliest period of life and imagine that feeling multiplied two times, ten times, a hundred times or more.   And then, to imagine that that is where I would be for eternity with no hope of ever being happy again.  That does not sound like a party

I cannot imagine what Heaven is like.  I cannot wrap my head around the feeling of happiness that must be there.  I can start to imagine what Hell may be like and that, well, it scares the Hell out of me.

So, Lord, give me the grace to do your will, avoid sin and keep the Devil away from me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Defending Marriage

Last week President Obama came out in support of "gay marriage."   Newsweek championed him as the "First Gay President."  I have to admit that I'm a little confused.   I'm confused as to why President Obama supporting gay marriage is a surprise.  Did anyone really believe that he was against it?  I'm confused as to why people who believe homosexuality as wrong are branded as bigots.  If we are supposed to be all open minded, why don't people question why they believe homosexuality is wrong instead of lumping them in a broad catagory?  Or are they afraid of what the reasoning may be?  Finally,  I'm a little confused as to where I stand on the whole question of "gay marriage."  Will the world fall apart if homosexuals are allowed to marry?

Don't get me wrong---I fully understand and believe the Catholic Church's teaching that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman and that partaking in a homosexual act is a sin.   That being said, I think that marriage has been bastardized almost beyond all recognition by heterosexuals and by Christians.    I feel like marriage has not been defended for what it is for too long and I wonder if, as a society, we are capable of looking at it for what it is supposed to be.   How are we supposed to look at marriage as sacred when weddings, which are supposed to be holy, sacred moments are trashed by drive up wedding chapels or "bridezillas?"    How are we supposed to look at marriage as a sacred bond that no human can break when the divorce rate is at 50% and accepted in many protestant denominations?

That being said, how can homosexuality be thought of as wrong when sex, which is supposed to be a beautiful act between a husband and a wife showing that they love each other so much that they will give each other their all and accept the child that comes from that act of love when sex before marriage is widely accepted or when even sex between a husband and wife is tarnished to a act where one spouse uses the other for their own pleasure and does not accept the child that may result from that act?

Yes, I believe that engaging in homosexual acts is a mortal sin.  I also believe that it is a mortal sin to have sex outside of marriage--either before marriage or with another person while married.   I believe that contracepted sex inside or outside of marriage is a mortal sin.   I also believe that marriage to another after a divorce is a mortal sin.   These are not easy teachings of the church, especially in today's society.   And because it's a difficult teaching, I think we, as Christians, have turned a blind eye to it and now sex before marriage, contraception and divorce are acceptable in today's society.  If those grave acts are acceptable, when why are we shocked to find that "gay marriage" is the next step?

Why should we take a step against "gay marriage?"  Because, the family unit---the unit of husband, wife and children are supposed to be the basic foundation of our society.  Our society is in disrepair and we have a responsibility to stop stepping aside and defend our beliefs.    We have to defend marriage by saying that sex outside of marriage is wrong, by saying contraception is wrong, and by saying that divorce is wrong just as loud as we are saying that "gay marriage" is wrong.

Some say that we should just let others live their lives and not force our beliefs on others.  I'm sure what I'm saying will anger many people.  I'm sure some will call me names.   But we have a responsibility to spread the gospel and part of that is to preach the truth in love so that others may see truth and choose to live in a way pleasing to God.   I think that to say keep quiet is the more hateful thing.