“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you? . . . Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
I was a little overwhelmed on Saturday afternoon when I looked at my schedule for the coming week. I use iCal because I like to see the week in front of me on my MacBook. As I stared at the screen the week was filled with green, the color I use for all events and appointments related to my ministry. Yes, priests work the other six days of the week too!
Truthfully, I wasn’t concerned about how I’d get quality prayer in; an advantage of being in the seminary is that there are scheduled times of prayer each day and the priests in the house join the seminarians during these times. I was, however, concerned about how I’d get my exercise in. You see, I believe that to live a holy life we need to take care of our souls and our bodies.
St. Paul says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that we should glorify Him in our bodies. We must, then, take care of our temples. We need to pray, but we also need to exercise and eat healthy.
So far this week I’ve managed to exercise almost everyday, but it has been a battle. I’ve had to be proactive in squeezing in a run or some strength training. I do this because I know that God wants me to be healthy. I also enjoy reaping the benefits of exercise: my mood is better, I have more energy, and I’m more mentally focused which actually helps me to pray better. Also, exercise enhances my sense of well-being, and I believe that God wants us to have a healthy sense of self.
We’re all at different levels, but each of us can make time a few days during the week to do basic exercise. You don’t need to train for a marathon, but you do need to take care of your temple.
My routine is simple. It’s not necessary to spend a ton of money to stay in shape. I don’t have a gym membership. I try to run three or four days a week, and on days that I don’t run I do simple strength training in my living room. I have a few sets of dumbbells that I use for shoulder press and curls, I use a chair or my coffee table for tricep bends, and I do pushups and sit ups. I do a few sets of each exercise. It takes me about 30 minutes. Some weeks I only exercise three or four days, but it’s better than nothing.
As for eating, I just try to cut out the junk. Believe me, I’m not perfect! But I try to be prudent. Three meals a day with a midmorning fruit and a mid-afternoon yogurt. Again, it’s simple. We don’t need to rush out and buy a bunch of books on how to be healthy. It’s mostly common sense.
There’s a spirituality to exercise and eating healthy as well. It helps us to grow in self-mastery because when we exercise we are choosing to rise above the pull of our emotions and passions which will inevitably rebel against the good of taking care of our bodies. In other words, it’s easier for us to take a nap than it is to go out for a run.
I also find that exercise can be a time of prayer. If I’m struggling up a hill during a run I can offer up my struggle to the Lord for a particular intention; if I’m fighting to do one more pushup I can think of Jesus carrying His cross up Calvary. If He did it out of love for me, I can do one more pushup out of love for Him. And sometimes I like to listen to contemporary Christian music on my iPod.
When it comes to diet, saying “no” to ourselves is a way to do penance, mortifying our appetites so that they don’t rule us. We can say “no” to that piece of cake and offer it up for a particular intention. We can then choose to make the healthier choice of a piece of fruit. This small action translates into our daily lives when we must say “no” to other temptations and “yes” to the Lord.
So what are you waiting for? Start small. Take a 30 minute walk three or four days a week. Start doing some pushups and sit ups. Eat healthy. We are temples of the Lord, so let’s make sure we take good care of the temple.
Feel free to share how you stay healthy and how it helps you spiritually.