It’s been on a while since I’ve posted on here. Mostly because I’ve been focusing all of my creative energy on Catholic Women Run (check it out!). I thought about removing this blog and putting everything I write over on that website. But I regularly have thoughts connected to running and Catholicism that don’t quite fit in there. So here we are. With this blog still here. And a new post to boot!
I came into full communion with the Catholic Church over Easter this year. One of the most beautiful things about the faith for me is the Eucharist. What could be better than receiving the true presence of Our Lord and Savior each and every Sunday (or more)?! Nothing.
Needless to say, I was impatient to receive that sacrament during my months of RCIA. However, training for a marathon at the same time had a big impact on my understanding of the Eucharist, both then and now. Early on, I cried during Mass because I was so thankful. Now, it’s easier to let my mind wander during Mass. And as I was listening to the Catholic Crunch‘s discussion on Catholics who say they don’t “get anything out of Mass”, I thought about running. Of course. Every single point they made I learned because I’m a runner.
So, here are 4 ways that I believe running allowed me to fully understand what this sacrament truly means.
Race day is not the same as training day
And a Catholic conference is not the same as an every day Sunday.
Think about it – both Catholic conferences and races are designed to be exciting. Their purpose is to inspire you, encourage you, which means they’re going to be emotional. That’s not a bad thing! Catholic conferences send you back out into the world to be disciples of Christ. Races leave you wanting more so you’ll sign up for another one right after you finish the first one (and yes, this totally happens to people like me who have caught the running bug).
But would you really want to be at a conference or a race every day for the rest of your life? I would be exhausted. And my body would be unable to handle it. Literally. I just can’t do more than one marathon a year. (Some people can do more – more power to them).
Running is not a feeling
Neither is our Catholic faith. In fact, both Catholicism and running are the essential things that have taught me over the last year that I can’t rely on my feelings if I want to be happy. It sounds contradictory. But it’s not.
Let’s go back to the race day metaphor. If I only wanted to have the high of crossing the finish line, I would never actually sign up for the race. Because the every day normal of training my body to run 26.2 miles does not always “feel” good. In fact, most of the time it’s extremely sore calf muscles, bruised toenails, and blisters. And if I only went on a training run when I “felt” like it…it might happen once a month.
So what about the Catholic conference metaphor? Well, I haven’t been to a Catholic conference yet (feel free to send me some suggestions), but I can imagine I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if I didn’t practice my Catholic faith regularly. I’d have to know a little bit about Catholic practices, how Catholics worship God, the small things that Catholics do that no one else does. Otherwise I’d feel really uncomfortable and out of place. But that means every day, I need to do things that help me understand what it means to be Catholic. Now, I love learning, so I go out and seek information. Some people don’t, and need to. For me, the struggle is doing the things I need to. You know, like going to confession.
Put the work in before
I can’t just show up on race day and expect to finish running 26.2 miles. I could get by without training much for a 5k, a 10k, or even a half marathon. But I would be in serious trouble if I didn’t make the commitment to prepare for a full marathon at least four months in advance. I would get injured. Or I wouldn’t finish at all. Preparation is key.
So why would I be able to come to Mass and expect to feel something? Scratch that feeling word (see point above). Let’s say instead – why would God reveal anything to me at Mass if I wasn’t talking to Him throughout the week? Or even throughout the rest of the day on Sunday?
Sure, God does reveal things to us whether or not we put work in. But for me, that’s usually because He needs to get my attention. Somehow. And speaking loudly to me is the best way to hear Him.
So if I want to “get something” out of Mass, then I need to prepare for it. Go to confession. Read the text before. Reflect on the text before. Pray throughout the week for God to open my heart and mind to what I need to hear. If you want to get something, you need to give something.
Don’t become complacent
But, I also need to think about where I’m at. Before I ran a half marathon, I ran a 5k. Then I ran a half marathon and swore I would never run a full marathon. At the time, I wasn’t ready for a full. I had to run one more half marathon before I took the plunge for a full. Then I swore off relay races. I had to finish another full and two more half marathons before I agreed to run the Bourbon Chase.
The point is – I celebrated every step of the way, no matter how small the race. But I also couldn’t stay at the 5k level forever.
Maybe you don’t make it to Mass every Sunday. Then making it is still something to celebrate, even if you don’t feel anything. But if you’re at the marathon level (I guess that would be going to Mass every week?), then think about what additional thing you can add to your spiritual life to move yourself forward in your faith.
See?! Running prepared me for the sad but real problem of Catholics feeling dissatisfied by the Church because they consider it “boring”. Running made me aware this feeling of “being bored” would happen. From the start of coming into the Church, I could brace myself against any discontent I might have. And whenever I’m receiving the Eucharist with less reverence than I should, I can be aware of it and fix it!