Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nutrition and Sin

In August, I went on a 30 day "Paleo" challenge in order for me to trim down, lose weight, and help my physical performance at the gym.  Eating "Paleo" is basically eating the way our caveman ancestors ate before the agricultural age.  I cut out all grains and bread, dairy and legumes.  Basically, I ate "lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugars and kept intake to levels that support exercise but not body fat."   I did pretty well.  I ate Paleo 90% of the time and 93% of my meals were healthy with only 5% of them being "cheat meals."  I lost 10.5 pounds, 2.1% body fat and improved my performance a little.

One thing that struck me while going through this 30 day challenge was how "dieting" and avoiding sin have a lot in common.

1) Sin and junk food is attractive.  By junk food--I'm referring not just to sweets, cakes and fast food.  I'm referring to all of the foods I cut out--breads, dairies and legumes as well as sugars.   When you are so used to eating those foods, your body craves them and the mind has to be stronger just as the soul has to be stronger than the body to avoid sin.  Your body will try to convince you that having those cheese sticks or those donuts won't hurt you that much just like it will tell the soul that sinful things such as gossip or skipping mass aren't so bad.   It takes a strong will to over come that thought and push it aside.

2) In order to succeed, you have to avoid temptation--You have to avoid those places where you may fail on your meal plan in order to succeed.  For instance--I can't expect to eat clean and to go an Italian or Mexican restaurant.  There is just no way I am going to avoid breads or dairy there.  Sonic or Steak n Shake?? Forget about it!  In the same way, we may need to avoid going to the bars with the boys or staying away from those people who like to gossip and tear other people down.  All of those places may be fun but they don't help you succeed.

3) We have to prepare---The only way I could have succeeded with Paleo is by preparing.  Several days a week, I'd prepare meals and put them in Tupperware to tide me over for a few days.  That way, when I left for work, it only took me a few minutes to prepare my lunch.  Likewise, in the spiritual life--we have to prepare and be on the defense so we don't sin.  We do this through prayer--by cultivating a relationship with God and by frequenting the sacraments such as the Eucharist and confession.

4) It's never too late to start over--There are times we will fail.  There are times we may succumb to that Cold Stone Creamery and be a total glutton (which is a sin in itself)   But just because we've failed once doesn't mean we have to continue to fail.   Eating clean is just a meal away just as being sin free is as easy as going to the confessional.

5) Both are life changing events--Earlier, I called eating Paleo as a diet. It's not.  It is a life style change.   Sure, I did a 30 day challenge to see if I could do it---but to continue to enjoy those successes, I have to continue and make it a part of my life.  Like wise---avoiding sin is a life style.   It's something we have to do daily because being in a state of mortal sin is just a sin away.

One difference between nutrition and sin is that with nutrition an occasional "cheat meal" is okay.  In many circles, it is even encouraged   When it comes to sin, "cheating" is never acceptable.  When you sin, you are causing a break in your relationship with God and that is never okay.    A double cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup, pickles, mayo, fries and a great big double chocoate fudge shake from Steak and Shake---ohhhhh, that's delicious!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Orthodox Priests

Why is it that when people think of orthodox priests they think of grumpy old men who are joyless and don't want you to have any fun in life?  People tend to visualize some curmudgeon who will rather condemn you to eternal hell fire than crack a smile.    I'd like to challenge that stereotype and propose that conservative, orthodox priests are fun people who, although can be blunt, are happy, cheerful people.

Now, a little disclaimer, I have to admit that I really don't know a whole lot of priests.   I grew up Catholic but for most of the 1990's I was Catholic in name only.  It was a rare occurrence that I was in mass much less go to confession and never went to adoration.  So really--I was pretty typical.   And since my "reversion" in 1999, most of the priests I've gotten to know well have been via the internet.   But, the ones I've gotten to know well are ones that I would consider conservative or orthodox, although they may just claim to be "Catholic."

These are priests who I would like to spend time with.  They are priests that I could sit around and share a beer with while discussing theology or while talking baseball.  They are priests who unashamed of wearing the Roman collar.   There is a priest who works on a college campus who I've become good friends with.  We've gone to a St. Louis Cardinal game and he's counseled me through difficult times.   There is a priest I know from the blogosphere who enjoys bike riding and getting ready for the zombie apocalypse.  I wouldn't be surprised if he was carrying a Glock under his cassock.    When I go visit my mom, I enjoy it when she invites her parish priest over so we can sit and chat.  

These are priests who live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment life.  They are men who struggle with trying to figure out what God wants but aren't afraid to trust in the church for guidance.  They are joyful because they allow God to work through them.  For instance, the priest of a nearby parish is uberconservative---he has gotten rid of extraordianry ministers for the most part and wants to put in alter rails---but I not only see Jesus in him but I feel the love of Jesus radiating from him.

I wonder if it's because they know they are leading souls to Heaven by being strict and by being honest instead of just telling people what they want to hear.   I enjoy the honesty.  I appreciate the example that the chains of sin can be broken.   I like the reminder that we all must strive for holiness and that we can still have fun in life while working striving to be like Jesus.