Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ready to Run

Yesterday I got back from my run and felt sick. It was my own fault. I hadn't eaten anything that day besides an apple for breakfast and when Vivy stopped by KKG 11 right before lunch and asked me if I wanted to go for a lunch-time run, I pushed up my run by 3 hours and set off in the snow towards the gym, even though my stomach was gurgling for food.

I pushed myself hard. I hadn't been entirely consistent with my workout this week, so I have a tendency to go harder because I know I can. My competitiveness manifests itself in many different forms, and running is one them. I race people even without them knowing sometimes, and this includes in the gym, when I'm running on the treadmill like a hamster. Like a karma cleansing exercise, I ran until I knew I had emptied my body. Afterwards, I stretched my legs and arms, twisting my torso, ignoring the bad feelings bubbling in my stomach, keeping my body moving as Vivy finished up too and then we headed back.

Back at Kappa, I rinsed, ate the best, most delicious post-run meal (salmon, pasta, tomatoes), drank cups upon cups of water, and popped two aspirins. I was going to read but still felt sick and did something I haven't done since Christmas break: I watched a movie. I got into my bed and watched Without Limits, a movie about Steve Prefontaine (thus, quite appropriate to watch after running). It's definitely in my top 10 favorite movies.

I mention it not only because it's a great movie, but because there is a scene where Steve asks Mary, his future girlfriend, if she is Catholic. She says she is, plenty of people are. No, Steve says, lots of people say they are. But you actually are, I can tell. Mary doesn't know how to take this, but Steve clarifies by saying it's a good thing. He says, "It's the hardest thing in the world to believe in something, if you do it's a miracle."

Going to a school like Hillsdale, where most of the people here are some sect of Christianity and one of the biggest student organizations is Students for Life, I think it is sometimes easy to believe in God. The fellowship here is amazing and very supportive. I know how much my faith in God has been strengthened and my Catholic faith reaffirmed. This is a cloistered environment, though. God is a priority here. Religious beliefs matter. Elsewhere? Eh. Even at religiously-affiliated high schools and colleges, I know too many people leaving and not knowing basic tenets of their faith, let alone acting as a witness.

When I was in NYC, I met three CN girls who were also Catholic. We had really great conversations, many of which discussed our faith and how it affects our lives. Another girl came into our conversation and, though she was also cradle Catholic, she clearly had no clue what she was talking about, although she had many opinions. She thought the Church was stagnant and not creative enough. She didn't understand why we said the Nicene Creed at every mass, why it was necessary to publicly reaffirm what we believe. She was a Libertarian; she therefore equated the Church to the State. She didn't agree with me that it's good that people go to mass every week, even if they don't feel like it, that faith isn't a feeling, the possibility of final grace, et cetera.

I enjoyed talking to her, I really did. I enjoy witnessing for the faith, because it pushes me to know the Church even better and, ergo, know Jesus better. Every person we meet is a different facet of God. Everyone we meet is somehow searching for Him. The important thing to remember in these discussions that the ultimate focus is to discover Truth, not prove our own point. As a Catholic, we are especially humbled by the fact that we accept the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and therefore, our personal opinion does not trump the teachings of the Church.

Oprah just had Dominican nuns from Mary, Mother of the Eucharist convent in Ann Arbor on her show. I went on a retreat there almost a year ago, and it was an amazing experience. They are so on fire for the Lord. It was funny hearing the way Oprah and Lisa Ling asked them questions and described what they did. It's important to remember that religious people are fallen too, but have chosen to dedicate themselves to God. When Lisa asked the postulates about sex, I thought it was hilarious because that's such a minuscule part of one's decision to become a nun. When you're that in love with God, you want to give yourself to Him wholly, which means no sex with anyone. It's part of one's self-sacrifice to God when one is not married, even though American culture may not see it as such.

Then again, not all religious are as faithful. I follow a blog of a priest who has many good things to say, but recently baffled me with his public admission that he is pro-choice (discussion was on the Tim Tebow ad controversy, not the amazing witnessing). I do not think a person can be pro-choice and Catholic because God's law says 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' quite clearly. I am fully on board that the State should not be dictating a lot of things, but we as Americans are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Besides, if the State isn't allowed to tell a woman what she can do with her body, we should start opening up discussions for the legalization of prostitution. (St. Thomas Aquinas was for it, actually! See his 'Summa Theologica' for his reasons why. Absolutely fascinating argument.)

I find it so incredibly wimpy for people in positions of influence to espouse the laws of God and then saying they are personally against it. I had an ethics teacher in high school who was like this. She said the Church is against abortion and birth control, but she is not. How is that proper witnesses for the faith? How is that leading by example?

CCC: "In the moral order, [the Church] bears a mission distinct from that of political authorities: the Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good because they are ordered to the sovereign good, our ultimate end. She strives to inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic relationships."

Maybe Prefontaine had a point. Maybe it is a miracle people believe in anything. This world is horrible and depraved and fallen. People are losing their faith in God because men do acts of evil, and then people wonder why God didn't intercede. I see God as the ultimate Libertarian: he lets people have free will. They may voluntarily associate with Him if they want. He continues to play a role in their life, but he doesn't dictate so. He does have rules, though, if you do voluntarily associate: you have to follow His laws, His 10 commandments. If you don't follow it, that's your choice, but if you do, salvation in Heaven is waiting.

When I run, I find joy in each stride. When I hurt, I remember He suffered more than I could possibly imagine. People, even people at Hillsdale, have tried to belittle my beliefs and weaken my Catholicism, but they miss the point. I'm not defending something I created in my head but passed down to me, something universal and oftentimes bigger than human understanding. There is a mystery to God's glory and love only He knows and can perceive. I am merely one leading others to the steam.

This semester has already shown me so many things about people, about my future vocation(s), about God, and it's only February. Less than a month till my 22nd birthday! I can only imagine what else will be known, be it possible jobs or otherwise. My friend Tom came back to campus two days ago and we briefly discussed the difficulties of being Catholic and American. I do think it is possible, despite Tom's misgivings (he is living in D.C. right now, that could have something to do with it). I think it's a challenge worth honoring and worth pursuing. I am not ready to graduate, but I am ready to start contributing more to American social thought. I think this country needs more of a Christian conscience, and I'm ready to run with it, with a smile on my face and giving the glory to Him most deserving.

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