I have had struggles with health ever since my early 20’s and part of the offshoot was a fluctuating weight and poor fitness. In fact, the weight and fitness issues really go right back to my childhood.
For the past 3 years I have dipped into an online fitness/diet/mindset program which has worked well for me when I’ve stuck to it.
The trick is anything works when you stick to it. There have been many lessons learned along the way, including life principles that are just as valid to a Catholic as they are to anyone just focused on good health – physical, psychological, social, or spiritual. In fact, being Catholic has perhaps made it easier for me to absorb the good ideas I have learned, as the concept of God speaking through all that is good, true and beautiful makes it possible to see the good in secular wisdom as well as spiritual wisdom.
After all, God designed our bodies and minds and finding out more about how they function well does not contradict our calling as Christians, and is in fact greatly in keeping with John Paul 2’s “Theology of the Body” as opposed to a strict Gnostic or Jansenist mindset. Those who would say that the physical is inconsequential and it is only the spirit that matters, should try and stick to a weight loss program for a few years. It definitely has impacts on the spirit that can be very positive.
Conversely, those who would say that all enlightenment comes only through the physical is not accounting for the enormous role that grace plays in our souls. For the physical fitness world it is all about “no pain, no gain”, but the economy of salvation gives so much for such little effort.
Jesus’ great Mercy defies the normal laws that say you don’t get something for nothing. That is what “free gift” means.
Could you imagine the stampede if you were told there was a pill that instantly caused you to lose those unwanted kilos you’ll be piling on with the Christmas binge, and also for magically buff muscles which required no work in the gym to acquire? What if such a spiritual version did exist? What if we could shed all the brokenness and baggage of our flabby spirits and be given the spiritual strength to combat those weak parts of our will that easily give into what we know is bad for our souls? What if we could have an instant ability to pray and commune with God without just being bored and indifferent?
Well, the Church has such a gift in Sacramental Confession (aka Reconciliation). Do you have any idea what a gold mine we have in the Catholic Church? People pay big money for counselling and personal trainers and gym memberships, and I am not knocking that at all as a necessary component of health, but what about spiritual fitness? Unless you are getting fit in that area as well, you will never be a whole human person. What is the point of having a buff 6-pack if you have no meaning in life beyond this life? If you see no purpose beyond a beautiful exterior to the beauty of selfless love and meaningful, lasting relationships?
So, if you have never been to Confession or haven’t been for a long time, here are some tips which may help, just like if you have never been to gym before.
Handy tips for getting most out of your spiritual magic bullet:
- Find a church with confession times available.
For anonymity some prefer the Cathedral in their diocese as it is often less likely you will know the priest you are confessing to. Conversely, some prefer it if they know the priest beforehand. It really doesn’t matter in terms of the grace you will receive, and the priest is only the go-between, sitting in the place of Jesus. Imagine sipping a big kale smoothie through a straw. The grace is the smoothie, and you are the one sipping it. The priest is like the straw. He channels the grace and you couldn’t receive it without his presence, which is where the kale smoothie analogy really falls apart because there are those who would say, “I don’t like straws anyway, I’ll just drink it straight from the cup.” It also falls down as confession is far less painful to swallow than a kale smoothie.
2. Dress appropriately, just like you would if you went to the gym, you need the right attire.
If you don’t own a hair shirt or large hessian sack, you may have some difficulty looking appropriately penitent. I would suggest anything beige or brown, or black in your wardrobe, preferably with a large monk-like hood which can be pulled down over your head. It would also help if this item covered you from head to foot. Dishevelled hair and a sprinkling of ashes can be useful to add to that solemn penitential air.
3. Extra equipment you may find useful
Waterproof mascara.. (explained below)
Another advantage would be tissues. Lots and lots of tissues. Crying is pretty well a certainty when you pour our your soul to God in confession and he heals you from within. So take a big box, just in case the priest is unprepared for the volume of tears and runs out of his own bulk supply which he keeps for such occasions.
4. Examination of Conscience ( like a spiritual training schedule)
This one’s a fantastic help. Most are based on the ten commandments, but the essential idea is that once you start to go regularly, having some sort of outline with questions to prompt you really helps you to draw the grace more fully from this awesome sacrament. Imagine if you were able to have the top personal trainer in the world to meet with as often as you like.. don’t you think you would want to do your homework or be badly shamed by turning up unprepared??
There are heaps of different ones online, like this one with various options according to age or this one which clearly lines up with the 10 commandments. The best one I have used is from the book by John Kane.
5. Follow a regular schedule
The minimum amount of time you would need to allocate for a good spiritual miracle treatment (aka Reconciliation), would be once a month. Go to your calendar now. Mark off each First Saturday of the month with a big R, or cross, or whatever works for you. The First Saturday is a traditional day to observe regular confession and is great to get into the habit of doing as a family. Let those graces flow! Remember, as Mother Teresa said, “God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, just faithful.” This fits with conventional secular fitness programs. The good ones will tell you it’s all about consistency, consistency, consistency. Results don’t happen overnight but over a longer length of time being consistent, faithful and sticking to the plan..
6. Face your excuses and choose to counter them
Don’t listen to the excuses in your head that wants you to avoid this amazing opportunity for spiritual fitness. Go through all the excuses before your scheduled time slot for Confession, and face them with positive solutions.
Don’t like the local priest? Go to a different priest.
Not sure what to do? Print off an outline and take it with you for the first few times.
Too much on a Saturday? Go on a different day of the week.
Don’t see the point? Trust the process and fake it til you make it. Believe me, it may take one, two or ten years, but you will see the point as your spiritual fitness improves and you gain so much more than the effort you have expended.