The Franciscan workout

“What is impossible for men is possible for God.” Luke 18:27 (Moffatt)

It’s not a New Years resolution, I swear.

After my last appointment in the medically waged War on Cholesterol, my physician revealed that the campaign on the Triglyceride Front was stalling. He ordered me to deploy the dreaded Weapon of Mass Repulsion known as exercise.

Exercise and I have not been good friends, and we have not even been on speaking terms for months. I ran cross country and track in high school, and though I loved races, I hated practice runs. I thought those gung-ho people who loved to run were just a tad oxygen-deprived.

With no way around it, I finally did what I should have done a long time ago and ask God for help. I decided that I would read a devotional passage or prayer before leaving, and I would meditate on it as I walked/ran using the Couch to 5K program. I’m calling it a running meditation (eat your heart out, Thich Nhat Hanh).

I didn’t expect that St. Francis would chip in to help.

Two of my cats followed me on my first lap around the block. What struck me about this is that: (1) My cats never go further than the yards adjacent to my house, and (2) They are not dogs. I don’t know if they were there for encouragement, a distraction, or if they were just alarmed to see me walking and running around the block. Whatever their feline motivations, it put a smile on my face.

Much of the focus on the Franciscan theology is on his attention to poverty, and rightly so. But his friendship with animals cannot be overlooked. It represents the supremacy of compassion in his life, something we all can aspire to.

They say that serial killers start with animals. I believe that the principle works in reverse, too. I like to call my cats and the other pets that I encounter “my friend” when I pet them. Not only does it elevate my compassion for them, but that compassion carries over into my interactions with humans.

I also took my workout to be an encouraging sign of another variety. Just yesterday, I began the process of discernment to determine whether to pursue a vocation as a Secular Franciscan.

Note post: The Episcopals have addressed the exercise-as-spirituality concept through the establishment of a wellness program known as CREDO. Check out this Episcopal News Service article, which includes an interview with an intense 73-year-old priest who does triathlons.

3 thoughts on “The Franciscan workout

  1. God bless my dog, who gets me to walk around the neighborhood a couple times a week even when I have to bundle up to do it! My cats don’t do much to get me moving — quite the opposite, in my household my husband and I can use “cat on lap” as an excuse to get out of all sorts of chores.

    I love what you said about the “opposite” of serial killing beginning with animals also being true. I certainly do find myself judging another’s heart based on the way s/he interacts with animals, who are often voiceless and vulnerable. One of the reasons I fell for my husband was the ease with which he interacted with my cats; and when I saw my dad gently coax his and my mom’s newly adopted puppy into the kennel for the night a few weeks ago, I knew why she fell for him, too.

    Good luck on your exercise goals. I hope you continue to find it meditative. I listen to audiobooks while I walk and find I get a lot more “reading” done that way — sometimes it’s even spiritual!

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