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  • Sarah Raad

Exercise

I grow strong through Christ. For He is in me, and I am in Him.

Old Woman Saying Grace, Known as 'The Prayer without End' (Nicolaes Maes)

Though I do not look very fat – I am terribly unfit. I hate exercising and I always have hated it simply because I find it incredibly boring. And to aggravate matters, though I am diligent and hardworking in every other aspect of my life, I am the most dreadfully lazy person in the world where exercise is concerned. I often look at celebrities who brag about enjoying their daily hours-long workouts and think to myself, “Surely that is a lie. Who could ever enjoy that? I would never do that for all the beauty in the world…”


Sadly for me though, I have recently been told that I need to get into shape in preparation for some major surgery that I will have to have in the coming months. Apparently, being relatively fit will mean that my recovery will be less complicated and so I am advised to start working on that right now…


Now, this may sound like a very simple and easy piece of advice for most people, but for me, it has been a laughable challenge because I really do not enjoy exercising.


So, the only way I knew how to approach the task was to make sure it became part of my daily routine.


One of my strategies, is to get that exercise finished with first thing in the morning so that I cannot make excuses about why I could not quite find the time to get around to fitting that exercise into my day. And the exercise that I do is pretty basic. It is just a walk to a small park near my home and a couple of laps around the oval there and then a short walk back home.


I have been fitting this walk into my day first thing in the morning with my three children in tow… We spend about half an hour in the morning walking around before we start our home schooling for the day. To be honest, it has been a very good thing for the four of us, because we have found that this time has helped us to relax and get out, starting our day in a positive way, during this latest COVID-19 lockdown.


But this walking – it appears – is not quite enough for me. The other day I spoke to one of my surgeons and she told me that a simple walk is not enough if I am not a little bit uncomfortable on that walk. Really what she needs from me is to get a bit puffed out and a bit sweaty.

It seems that the more I push, the more I am required to push!


I have been reflecting on this over the last few weeks – for there is not great deal of difference between my efforts to become physically fit and my efforts to pray.


In both regards, I am very weak – physically and spiritually – and I need routine and I need help. It is as difficult – perhaps more so – for me to pray as it is for me to exercise.

I find that having a routine in place for my prayers is as important as having a routine in place for exercise.

And the thing about routines – and about exercise in general – is that once you get into a routine, everything becomes just a little bit easier. The very first time I tried to work out, everything hurt, and I was not very good at what I was doing. But the most important thing was to try my best. It is not so important that I was successful – just that I got started. And so, on the first day, I just aimed to start moving, and then on the second I pushed myself to continue. On the third and the fourth days I just kept going and by the end of the second week, I was pretty much in routine and felt that it would not be the end of the world to start pushing myself a little harder…


Not much difference between this approach and prayer really.


The routine is so important. Right at the beginning of my conversion, I started with a few prayers first thing in the morning – a silent muttered sleepy good morning to my Beloved. After all, Saint John Vianney said, “We must take great care never to do anything before having said our morning prayers... The Devil once declared that if he could have the first moment of the day, he was sure of all the rest.” And, I think Saint John had a point. And in any case, right at the beginning, that is all I could manage.


But I suspect that the same idea about the Evil One applies to God as well – only magnified because God is true magnificence! For when I give God my first moments of the day, He helps me with all the rest.


Have you ever noticed the ads on your internet browsers and Facebook page? They pop up like magic for things that you have previously searched for. This is a way to make sure that people are being shown advertisements for things they are more likely to buy…


Well, it is the same with prayer. Once you start to pray more, you see more opportunities for prayer both formally through prayers like the Mass or Rosary or Divine Mercy and informally, through the prayers prayed through our thoughts, words and deeds.


Things that once attracted me in my life before, are now distasteful and they cause me to feel ashamed. For with this routine and this exercise, I grow stronger – not with my own strength – just as muscles are not strengthened alone but as part of the whole body. I grow stronger through the Grace of Christ. For He is in me, and I am in Him…


And that is surely the greatest miracle of love in all the world…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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