By: Anthony Beltrame
Recently I've become aware of a somewhat curious phenomenon which seems to be present in daily life.
Whether it be walking to university, sitting in a restaurant or even waiting at the airport; I've noticed that boredom seems to abound. The modern man has everything easily accessible to him and has never lived more comfortably. From ordering food, to shopping and entertainment, and even friendships and relationships; everything happens at the mere tap of a smartphone screen and yet it seems that we are more bored and unhappy than ever. It's almost as if there are very few things left to strive for, very few things left to sacrifice ourselves for. On the spiritual level this is dangerous. It can lead us to complacency, or even indifference to suffering and sacrifice, and all the while the road to holiness is left untrodden.
Now you may be wondering where I'm going with all this, so it's here I'd like to propose one way we can break this cycle of boredom and in the process give our spiritual lives a boost. I believe that fitness and exercise could be one answer and can be an enormous help to forming well rounded men not only for the priesthood but indeed anyone seeking to live the Christian life authentically. Unlike almost every other aspect of our life, instant gratification and ease of accessibility quickly slips away within the walls of a gym or the line of a field. A person exercising for the first time or even a long-time athlete can attest that growth in strength, speed, agility and endurance doesn't come easy. In fact, it's downright hard and demands nothing less than our best effort and solid consistency. Competence must be strived for, it involves checking our ego at the door, enduring failure over and over again, but above all it means placing our eyes on the prize to overcome present challenges. In short it cannot be achieved without considerable sacrifice. Parallels to the spiritual life are immediately obvious. To live one's vocation faithfully, whether it be the religious life or marriage, considerable sacrifice and willingness are needed to forego immediate comfort for later riches which are good and truly satisfying.
Growing up and now as a seminarian this is something I've experienced firsthand. From my younger years playing football and basketball to more recently when I've taken up calisthenics, I've be able to observe the tangible benefits exercise can offer outside of the purely physical. Team sports can hone our sense of brotherhood and make us less selfish, while individual pursuits can sharpen our resilience, perseverance and ability to sacrifice. Like many things it is possible for us to go too far and turn fitness into an idol which leads us away from true worship of God. This is something we certainly need to be aware of, but all things considered I believe the benefits far outweigh any possible negatives. And so, as we enter this period of lent we might like to consider our own fitness regimes. Perhaps now might be the time to allow exercise to break our patterns of boredom and help us to learn the virtues of sacrifice and perseverance which are so necessary for the spiritual life.
Photos: JC Napoles