Are you still at the UCC?

I’ve been asked this question much more recently as June 1st rolled closer. When I began my latest role at the University Catholic Center as a Campus Ministry Intern, it was for a year term (the Diocese is an at-will employer, so the year wasn’t legally binding, but you get the drift).

I’ve re-upped for another year! We’re still looking at funding for 2008-2009 to see if I will have a comrade in office and, then if grants come through, who will fill that role.

if we thought of heaven as a marathon

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

Training to run a marathon is not unlike our training efforts towards our eternal reward in heaven. Each Saturday morning, despite it being my day off of work and there is nothing that I must do, I wake up at 6:30 am to head to the corner of Riverside and South Congress to join with a number of other folks to run.

The first few weeks, we ran little. Two miles the first couple of weeks, then three miles, then a huge jump to five miles. The first week, running two miles, was very difficult, much more than it should have been. I had boast to my friends that I ran cross country in high school and while I was not great at it, I could run three miles a day without a problem.

In addition to that, on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday after work, I go home, change into running clothes and hit the trails, sidewalks or whatever surface I’m going to run on that day. By the time I arrive back home, shower, change into something comfortable, it is already 7:30 or 8 p.m.

At first, this was both hard and fun. Once I walked in the door to my apartment after work, I would jump into my running clothes and sprint to the door. Alas, in the time August, my motiviation has lacked some recently.

Now, last Saturday, we ran 13.4 miles. My finance and I had to cut it short from the planned 15.5 miles because we had appointments all day for wedding vendors, but we did not cut it short because we couldn’t do it. We now think of a five mile run as “short”.

At the same however, the idea of running tonight, tomorrow night or 18 or 21 miles in the upcoming Saturdays is now the last thing I want to do. I’ll do it anyhow, but it is not the top thing of my list.

How is this like heaven and our “training” for it?

Prayer and good words should be key to our training. Developing and enacting a solid prayer routine isn’t easy. Time and patience is needed to develop an attitude and habit of prayer. For example, someone who has not spent any dedicated time in prayer probably shouldn’t attempt to start praying every hour of the Liturgy of the Hours with a rosary between Evening Prayer and Night Prayer. If they made it through a day, they wouldn’t make it through too many more.

We have to always push ourselves to the next step though. The training might start with spending a few minutes in silence, reflecting upon the day. Maybe next, we’ll do that and read a parable of the Gospel each night. Early on, we might add a spiritual director to be our coach. Over time, as we become more comfortable with the level of prayer and the energy it takes, we can step up to our next desired level. If we set ourselves to this goal, soon enough, we’ll find ourselves praying each morning, noon and night complete with daily Mass.

With prayer too, we will find ourselves in moments like I am today with running. Despite that early on exercising our spiritual side and nurturing our desire to explore our relationship with God might have been a little exciting, now it might just seem like a drag. It might feel like that, but we can’t let that dictate our actions. Just like running, once you get out there and stretch your legs, you’d be glad you did.

Heaven is the marathon for which we all strive. Unlike the 26 miles of a running marathon that we can lay out on a course and know the exact route, this marathon route is only known to God and in the inner most depths of our heart. We all must set our sights on finishing the marathon, but we have to train ourselves to be able to find the course, run it well and in the end, keep the faith.

26.2 miles or bust

This morning, after a 7-mile training run, I registered for the 2008 AT&T Austin Marathon! While running a marathon is not a moral imperative, there is a duty to treat our bodies well. They are, after all, in the image of God, given to us through His Creation and temples of the Holy Spirit.

If you want Lent to be prayerful in a different way, join us. 

I’m engaged!

It has been tough not writing on here over the past week. At first, I was thinking too much about proposing to write and then, I didn’t want to write a public article until a few people were notified.
Personally, I’m really excited to begin this next phase of life with a person that I love completely.
The notion of an engagement period, as best as I know, originated in 1215 during the Fourth Lateran Council by Pope Innocent III. Canon 51 of the Council says

Since the prohibition of the conjugal union in the three last degrees has been revoked, we wish that it be strictly observed in the other degrees. Whence, following in the footsteps of our predecessors, we absolutely forbid clandestine marriages; and we forbid also that a priest presume to witness such. Wherefore, extending to other localities generally the particular custom that prevails in some, we decree that when marriages are to be contracted they must be announced publicly in the churches by the priests during a suitable and fixed time, so that if legitimate impediments exist, they may be made known. Let the priests nevertheless investigate whether any impediments exist.

In other words, the original point of the engagement was to allow the public to know of the forthcoming marriage and give them ample time to state any impediments to marriage (one is already married, the couple are too close on the family tree, etc).
Traditionally, banns would be published (or proclaimed) by the parish priest in all impacted parishes (the one of the groom, the bride, and the one in which the marriage would take place) for the three holy days proceeding the rite. This was a further way to help ensure the legitimate status of the wedding, plus a nice way to foster community by helping everyone know of these events in the life of the parish. On the universal level, I know the Council of Trent promoted the use of the banns and in the United States, local councils promoted their use as late as the 1890s. They are now, as we know, not commonly done, but I’m not aware of if this was by decree or general disuse.
So, if anyone has any reason that we cannot be wed, speak up!

Praying is like training for a marathon

At 7:15 am, I will be running 15km as part of the marathon training program that I’m in. In February, I will be running in the AT&T Austin Marathon and since I’ve had never ran more than three miles in my life, I started training.

As I type, the last thing I want to do is wake up and be running at 7:15 am. I’m going to do it, because I know that if I don’t, I am only hurting myself in light of my long term goal–running a marathon. Prayer, in many cases, is the same way. When I wake in the morning, many days I simply do not want to take the time to pray. During the day, I often avoid daily Mass because I just don’t want to. At night, I think about Evening or Night Prayer but more often than not it seems, I opt to go to sleep instead.

Aren’t we just hurting ourselves, in light of our long term goal of eternal salvation, when we fail to pray? Whether it be in times of good health and happiness or when we’re sure that everyone and everything is out to get us, shouldn’t we pray? Prayer is training for the marathon of heaven. How can we be prepared to be in the total presence of God if we can’t spend a few moments alone with Him?

And so, we should pray. Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, a simple Our Father, silence, free-flowing thoughts. Whatever the form, whatever the time, the important part is to actually do it.