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Why exercise, Why pray?

Fr. John had promised Susan that he would stop by their house early this week and he arrived today around 6pm. Susan welcomed him with a big smile and then went back in the kitchen to get dinner ready.
Her husband Chuck was lying on the couch watching TV. Chuck does not come often to Mass so Fr. John was happy to have a few minutes with him in such a relax atmosphere. Because Chuck did look very relax, lying there with his left hand in a bag of potato chips and holding a beer in his right one. Chuck is a good guy but he must have felt guilty because he pushed the chips away and said: "I don't know, Fr., but I'm having problems with this health and fitness thing. It's jut not working for me. Maybe you wonder why I'm eating chips in front of the TV before dinner but I work hard all day, and when I come home I need to relax and have a beer and they say it's better not to drink on an empty stomach, isn't it?"
Fr. John smiled. He is an old priest and a good listener and people love to confide in him. He did ask Chuck if he got around exercising sometimes. Chuck answered: "I try, I swear I try, but I can't go to the gym during the week because I never get out of work on time and I can't go on the week-end because there are so many errands to run. And the truth is, I'm not the "structured" type, I can't join a class, I'm much more the "spur-of-the-moment" guy, you know what I mean? That's just how I am, that's my personality".

Why Diet?

"Well, son, then you just need to find a good diet and it will help you get started on the road to a leaner and stronger you".

"Oh! Don't talk to me about dieting, I have tried, I swear I did, and it's not working either. My metabolism is different anyhow. And there is just no way I am going to count calories, I mean I've got enough stress going on in my life, I've got to balance the mortgage and the bills and the kids school tuitions, I am barely able to keep up with my email and you want me to count how many calories there are in each potato chip on my plate? I'll be frank with you, it is just not going to happen."
Fr. tried one more angle: "What about watching what you eat, it's all a question of quantity and quality. I know your wife is not only a good cook but is conscientious about her family eating healthy and light".
"You are right about that, Fr., but I must admit that, when I'm at work, I just eat whatever is within grabbing distance". Fr. looked at the little bag of chips and did not say anything.
Chuck added, smiling slyly: "You know what I need? I should get one of those machines that exercise your muscles while you sleep, that would be the answer, don't you think so? "
Fr. John laughed and told him he was crazy! But then he leaned over and asked him: "Seriously, Chuck, when was a time in your life where you felt healthy and strong? When was it when you felt fit and full of energy? Was it in College? Or even before as a child?"
Chuck's eyes seemed to dream a bit and he said that when he was in High School, playing sports with his friends, he felt great! Those were the days. He had lots of energy, he was always running here and there, doing stuff, and he was happy.
Fr. John told him: "Hold on to that image of yourself, active and happy, and make the decision to change your life-style now, not only because you will be happier, not only because you will feel better, but do it for your wife, for your kids, they all love you. Whether you join a club or buy a stationary bike to put right here in front of the TV or whether you start running with your son, you can do it. It is a question of taking that very first step and then another one. Chuck, I know you can do it".
Chuck was thoughtful for a while and did not say anything. They both sat there quietly.

Why not pray?

Then Chuck put his beer down and turned toward Fr. John again and said: "Since we are having such an honest talk, you know, Fr., I've got to tell you something, I'm having problems with my faith. I mean, it's just not working for me, so why do you think that is?"
Fr. John asked him: "Do you pray?"
Chuck's arms went up: "I try, I swear I try! But I just don't have time, I get home late during the week, I'm running errands on the week-end, I'm taking care of my family, I can't seem to find the time".
"Well, son, it seems to me that I just don't see you often in Church on Sunday either".
"I know, I know, but Sunday morning is just not a convenient time for me. Plus I told you, I'm the spontaneous kind of guy!"
"Do you read Scriptures? Do you even read any book or magazine related to the faith?"
"I'm sorry Fr. but that's just not me. I can't concentrate like that, I'm a doer, I am not a contemplative, that's for sure". And with a laugh, he added: "Maybe what I need is to find one of those religious tapes that you can listen to while you sleep, maybe that would work for me! Fr. John, don't look at me like that, it was a joke!"
"I do remember when I was in 3rd Grade how I loved to go to church with my parents, I loved the singing and the smell of incense, I loved being part of a large group. It was both intimidating and exciting and I loved the sense of peace and the feeling of joy that we seemed to carry with us for a little while."Then he added "Well, the truth is now I'm too old and too blasé to change. I can't start to exercise now and I can't seem to pray."

Do exercises and prayers make you feel better and stronger?
How could you know unless you try...

Fr. John did not agree. He reminded him of a neighbor, Paul, who had a heart attack a year ago and who had open heart surgery and then turned his life around completely and, with the support and prayers of his family, was now in much better shape, at 65 years old, than he had ever been in his life and was also a much friendlier guy.
Chuck said: "Maybe that's what I need, a heart attack" and looked deflated. But then he perked up and said: "I have an idea, what I really need is an apparition. That would jumpstart my faith life, don't you think so? And anyhow, if God really cared about me, why doesn't he send me a big sign?"
Fr. John got up and went to the kitchen to check on Susan and, picking up a couple of toys on the way and straightening them up, he said: "I don't think you would see the big sign any more than you can see the little ones now"…
Chuck turned the TV off and staid there, pensively looking out in the yard where he could see his kids playing softball. A very good smell of baked lasagna was coming out of the kitchen and he could hear Fr. John helping Susan set-up the table in the dining room. A sense of peace went over him. He had enjoyed his exchange with Fr., even if he had not turned out to be as funny as he first thought he would be. It left him feeling baffled in some ways. But thinking about it, he also realized that it left him feeling good and it put him in a good mood. He had a sense of hope, a sense that change is possible after all and, in some intangible and mysterious ways, he felt that change was right around the corner. He was enjoying it and basking in it for a few minutes. And he thought to himself that the truth was that he had a good family and a good home and he sure was thankful to God for that.

Copyright ©September2007 Michele Szekely

Exercise your body, feed your soul, listen to your heart and pray.
Manage well and use often that invisible, mysterious and beneficent power !

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