Word On Fire contributor Jared Zimmerer has been a noncompetitive body builder and power lifter for more than a decade. What this has given him — besides muscles — is great spiritual insight in the practice of discipline, the sanctity of the body, and the idea that it takes much more than physical strength to achieve fitness goals. He explains today.
In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a discourse entitled, Emile, or On Education. The treatise was meant to deeply explain the natures of both education and man’s ability to learn. Within its pages one finds the political and philosophical ideals of the individuality of each human person when weighed with society as a whole. In a brief but very powerful way, Rousseau explained that physical education as something that is just as important as moral formation. This was the beginning of a movement later titled as Muscular Christianity. A movement which lasted explicitly up until the early 1900’s and then implicitly within sports to today, as seen by athletes and coaches alike in the examples of Tim Tebow or Tony Dungy. In large part the movement began based upon the use of St. Paul’s athletic allegories: “…Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we van imperishable….” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27) The theological and philosophical depth of physical training as an avenue for both moral formation and the proper understanding of discipleship is as vast as the amount of individuals involved in sports.
St. Paul understood with deep admiration the role of sports, and sports metaphors, in the life of a disciple of Christ. Think about it in terms of a mirror image. There are many similarities and a deep cohesiveness in the reality of what discipleship asks for in comparison to what sports and athletics asks for. The foundational theme of sports and athletics is discipline, without discipline, chaos ensues and championships are out of the question. The root word of both disciple and discipline comes from the Latin disciplina, meaning teaching or learning. In disciplining ourselves we become stronger disciples, learning what we are capable of in the moral order. Athletics is based upon the same principal within the physical realm. It seems to me that the discipline earned in athletics would both enhance and enrich our discipline needed to be a suitable disciple of Christ. Athletics and sports teach more than just sportsmanship, a vastly important aspect of physical education, it also can impart to us the virtues of discipleship...
One of the great signs that a new evangelization is emerging in the Church is discerned in the dedication of the Catholic laity to the mission to proclaim and teach the Faith. Examples of this dynamism are numerous, and the efforts of the laity to build up and sustain Christ's Body are clearly having an effect. Many Catholic lay evangelists employ traditional forms of witness to the Faith, speaking one-on-one about the life changing power of the Gospel as it is lived in relation to the Church. Others lay evangelists have mastered the use of contemporary media.
Jared Zimmerer is using a barbell.
Well, he is doing more than just lifting weights. He has written a new book entitled "The Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights". The book is an expression of his own commitment to claim for Christ and the Church a place in the culture of physical fitness and sports.
Father Steve recently asked Jared about his mission and his apostolate to enhance both the physical and spiritual strength of Catholics so that they might better serve the Kingdom...
* BE SURE TO READ TO THE BOTTOM FOR A CHANCE TO WIN JARED'S BOOK! *
Father Steve examines the Church’s practice of abstinence and fasting as a means to support the demands of our mission in Christ. This article is a first in a series of reflections offered by the Word on Fire staff in regards to the Lenten practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.
A few months ago, my good friend Ben Wellenbach, who is an athletic trainer extraordinaire, challenged me to clean up my diet. Now, here’s the thing about that—I am not someone who would be inclined (at least at this point in my life) to diet so as to lose weight. I exercise regularly and do so (I would like to think) with the ferocity of a trained athlete. For me, physical training is as integral to one’s capacity to serve the Church’s mission as a priest as is fidelity to the promises of the priestly state of life, intellectual curiosity, and dedication to the practices of prayer. Ben invited me to change my diet because he observed that what training I did accomplish would remain at a status quo level until I modified my diet.
Anyone who has ever met me knows that there is something amusing about Ben’s recommendation: my favorite foods are oatmeal and broccoli (eaten separately of course). I am not a gourmand, and I eat mostly for energy or to take away the hungry feeling rather than to indulge in pleasure of savory treats. You won’t find me loading up on desserts at the Old Country Buffet. The amount of processed foods I was eating at the time of Ben’s recommendation would probably be, for most folks, considered austere.
What precisely would I have to change? Ben’s recommendations basically had me sacrificing the oatmeal and eating more of the broccoli. The other adjustments were minor. He had me eating foods that God made and that were prepared with as little creaturely intervention as possible.
After nine weeks I dropped almost 20 pounds.
But I didn’t get skinny or weak. In fact, the evidence of any weight loss was mostly in my waist and nowhere else. In terms of athletic performance, I got stronger, and in terms of the rest of my life’s endeavors, I became more focused. Basically, what Ben mostly asked of me was to abstain from foods that I preferred to eat, not foods that were necessary for survival, or even from things that were tasty. There was no real fasting, but I did discover that on the occasion when I just couldn’t get to the office without first having breakfast, my capacity to endure a lack of food did not send me into a tailspin. The change in diet compelled my metabolism to become more efficient and to deal better with having less. The positive effect far outweighed any feeling of deprivation...