Liturgical Running

I’ve been on a female Catholic podcast kick lately. They’re perfect for my runs, especially the longer ones. And since I’ve been dreaming up how running could fit into a ministry for Catholic women, listening to these podcasts inspires me and gives me great ideas.

There is one podcast I listen to that doesn’t fit into the “female Catholic” category. It’s called The Liturgy Guys. It’s just what it sounds like…three guys talking about liturgy. What it is, what it means, how to do it, etc.

It’s super relevant to my admittedly laser-focused thoughts right now, though. Because there is definitely a way to turn running into more than just physical exercise. Dare I say…running could be liturgical?

Hear me out.

There is a gap between us and God. We are not in perfect union with His will. Our goal is to make ourselves as perfect as we can be, but we will fail. Jesus is there to bridge the gap, of course. He’s the only one who can. Yet even knowing we will never achieve perfection, we don’t stop trying to get better. And that’s where liturgy come in.

As the liturgy guys explain in the first episode of the podcast, liturgy is an exercise in uniting us to God the Father. Liturgy is practical in that it transforms us. By going through the habits in the sacramental liturgy, we are literally training ourselves for heaven. We will know how to live in heaven because we’ve been learning the language, going through the motions, and generally conforming ourselves to that venue right here on earth.

This is why rules and regulations are necessary in the Church. I used to think the Catholic Church had too much red tape. Now, when I feel myself disagreeing with something, I instead ask God to open my heart and mind to discovering why that rule might be there. (For example, a few days ago I prayed for God to help me learn about why women can’t be priests in the Catholic Church. God has definitely been answering that prayer. Stay tuned for another blog post on that.)

Because here’s the truth. If you want to achieve perfection, there need to be restrictions.

I think running is what made my mind shift and become more receptive to Catholic teachings. Because if I want to run 26.2 miles, I can’t just do whatever I want. There is a training plan I have to follow. I didn’t follow it very well on my last marathon…and I felt horrible. Well, more horrible than I would have felt if I had trained correctly.

I used to say I wasn’t a runner. It took me a while to say I was. Probably not until after my third half marathon, actually. But now I have been transformed by it. My habits are different, my thought processes are different, my muscles and bones are different. Now I would definitely say that I am a runner.

In the same way, going to Mass every Sunday transforms me. I’ve also started going in the middle of the week, as well. That has sped up my transformation. I am surrounding myself by other Catholic women and their ministries and devotions. This turns my gaze toward God even more. I would definitely say that I am a Catholic woman.

Liturgy isn’t easy work. It’s not just coming to church on Sunday and sitting through the Mass, twiddling your thumbs and focused on the rest of your day. In order to achieve perfect action, there’s a lot of sacrifice. Jesus, the perfect example, gave the ultimate sacrifice. In the Mass, we celebrate Jesus’s surrender, as well as His resurrection. This teaches us that if we give ourselves over to God, with all of the sins within us, He will give us back something better – a sanctified self.

Similarly, running isn’t showing up on race day and being able to cross the finish line without a hitch. It takes a lot of work to run a race, and it takes a lot of work to achieve perfect action. The more you do it, though, the better you become. If you run every day, a little bit more every time, then you can reach 26.2 miles.

There’s sacrifice involved in running, too. The hardest part about running is often lacing up your shoes and starting. Because it’s not always fun, it doesn’t always feel good, and it takes away time you could be doing something else. But it makes you healthier. I may feel grumpy before I run, or even when I’m running, but I have never regretted it.

The Church is sacramental. That means we can encounter God through earthly things that reveal heavenly things.

How do I want to be transformed? I want to go to participate in all of the sacraments of the Church, of course. But I also want to run.

-Johnna

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