Summer of Health and Fitness Week 2

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The previous week was definitely a challenge for me, as I had to change my exercising strategy. My feet were not up for running at all. Whenever I did a jumping exercise, I felt a sharp pain in the arch of my left foot.

I still made an effort to exercise everyday, in spite of the soreness in my legs. Simone de la Rue’s workout videos have some modified low impact moves that still get the job done. Check out this 25 minute cardio dance workout video and see how well you do.

4th of July was another test for my diet/exercise as I ate some pretty carb-heavy meals (hashbrowns for breakfast and sushi for lunch). I also snacked a lot, so I decided to eat corn for dinner so that I could have room for a nice s’more at the end of the day.

The only time I went over my calorie intake was a couple days ago when I had dinner at Whataburger. But here’s a tip: If you’re going to eat fast food, order small portions. Before I started this diet, I used to eat two large fries at Whataburger, which would add up to over 1000 calories. On Sunday, I ate a junior Whataburger with pickles and ketchup and had a small fry with water. It’s a huge difference, trust me on that.

I haven’t lost any weight since two weeks ago, but my waist to hip ratio has gone down. On top of that, some of my clothes are starting to feel big on me. What I’m doing is making a difference on my body. It’s just gonna take some patience.

Aside from patience, however, one virtue that I felt was prominent this past week was prudence. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every good circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it.

You won’t always be in control of where you go to eat things. You can’t always eat at home or bring food with you. It’s prudent to figure out your best option and not worry if you go over your calorie limit for one day. Just remember to work it all off the next day.

Prudence also applies to exercising. Listen to your body and don’t push it so hard that you feel pain. The best workouts are the ones that make you sweat without hitting a nerve or end with you hitting the floor.

I also had to apply the virtue of prudence in terms of some negative emotions I’ve been feeling. Like a lot of people starting out on a new health and fitness habit, I made the mistake of comparing myself to someone who was a lot more fit and attractive than I will ever, ever be. I was jealous of this person beyond what’s rational or sensible.

The best thing I had to do was not give into the feelings or blast them out in the internet for all to see. I wrote in my journal. I confided in trustworthy friends. I focused on myself. And then I let it all go. It’s a process, obviously, but one I feel will help my emotional well-being.

If you’re starting out on a new health and fitness routine, don’t compare yourself to the model you see on the cover of Sports Illustrated or a fitness magazine. Focus on your own personal goals and be realistic.

It’s going to take time to lose weight or lower your cholesterol or whatever you want to do. The best thing you can do is just stick to what you have planned, no matter how you feel, and take care of yourself emotionally as well as physically. Keep a journal about everything you feel. Find something to be grateful for on a daily basis. Trust me when I say that having the right mentality will make diet and exercising a lot easier.

 

The Imitation of Mary in the 21st Century

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Today is the feast of the birth of Mary. Something I remember from my Catholic school days is something called The Imitation of Mary. It’s an actual book by Thomas A. Kempis, but the idea of imitating Mary is honestly intimidating. She was born without sin and she has so many miracles attributed to her. How the heck are we ordinary, flawed, imperfect humans supposed to be anything like her?

It starts by remembering that aside from being born without sin, Mary was just as human as the rest of us. She felt pain, she felt fear, she felt loss just like the rest of us. She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a cousin. I imagine her as a short and sassy woman who wasn’t picture-perfect in looks, but still beautiful in heart. Once we remember that Mary (and the rest of the saints) are as human as the rest of us, it helps us on the path of relating to her and imitating her.

One way that we can imitate Mary is to practice The 10 Virtues of Mary. This list was written by St. Louis de Montfort. They are as follows:

The 10 Virtues of Mary

  1. Ardent Charity: Letting her love for God be the driving force behind every decision
  2. Profound Humility: Knowing who she is before God, nothing more and nothing less
  3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment
  4. Constant Mental Prayer: Always being aware of God’s presence
  5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost
  6. Divine Wisdom: Always begging for God’s Spirit to guide her
  7. Surpassing Purity: Having a heart immaculately clean and unstained by sin
  8. Angelic Sweetness: Radiating joy and peace to everyone she encountered
  9. Lively Faith: Constantly seeking God’s will and never settling for complacency
  10. Heroic Patience: Always trusting that God was on the move; having more faith in His plans than her own

(Thanks to LifeTeen for introducing me to this list!)

The list seems daunting at first because we struggle with humility and patience. Not all of us see ourselves as sweet or wise or charitable. Being obedient is scary because we’re so used to asking questions about everything and being mortified is equally frightening because we are so used to doing what we want.

But there are real-life examples of people practicing these virtues. They may not have all these virtues, but if we start with imitating one, it takes us that much closer to becoming like a saint. So let’s break down these virtues and see how people of the 21st century can live them.

1. Ardent Charity: Letting our love for God be the driving force behind every decision. 

We may not always make the best decisions for the right reasons. Everyone always seems to have an ulterior motive for their actions, some kind of personal gain. But when we put God first in our decision making, we can give our hearts into our actions freely, even when we don’t stand to gain anything from doing something.

I can’t help but think of Saint John Paul II when I think of this virtue. He was a great example of someone who was driven by love. He lived his life with a great devotion to Jesus and Mary and he showed his love to the world, even to the communists who dictated his homeland and the assassin who shot him. All of his actions were motivated by unconditional love, acting with great justice and mercy. Communism fell thanks to his influence and a whole generation of people are inspired by his actions.

2. Profound Humility: Knowing who we are before God, nothing more and nothing less.

Humility is a balancing act. On the one hand, we can’t be divas and think that we’re special snowflakes entitled to whatever we want just because we want it. On the other hand, we can’t go around acting like emo kids who think that we’re worthless wastes of space. Humility is knowing your own value and understanding that you don’t need anyone else’s approval or love outside of God’s.

There are two instances that come to mind when I think of having humility. A good example from fiction can be seen in the ABC series Agent Carter, in which the titular character goes through many instances of personal humiliation as she tries to clear Howard Stark’s name. She loses her job, her apartment, and almost loses her friends, but manages to save the day in the end. When Agent Thompson ends up taking the credit, she doesn’t speak out against his lie or beg for approval. She says outright: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Another example is found in one of my favorite songs “He Knows My Name” by Francesca Battistelli. In a behind the scenes video, Francesca says that the song came from her struggles of believing what other people think of her, for better and for worse. The song itself tells the story of a person who sees herself as less than perfect, but at the same time, knows that God is calling her to live for Him and marvels in the love that God has for her. The music video shows four women who’ve all had hardships in life and overcame them through God’s help and have turned their lives around for the better.

3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment

You wanna know why Police Lives Matter alongside Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter? Because the true job of a cop, of a soldier, of anyone who works in public service is to be willing to lay down their lives for the ones that they love. The duty of all public servants is to protect and serve everyone, even to those who hate them. Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth is being honored in Houston for the life that he lived. The fact that there hasn’t been any reports of violence in retaliation to his death says a lot about everyone else as well. Like public servants, the people who are honoring Darren Goforth’s death are laying down their desires to seek vengeance. Instead of rioting, the people are rallying, asking the world to “Love Thy Neighbor.” I wish other cities can learn from this.

4. Constant Mental Prayer: Being Aware of God’s Presence

Something I recently learned is that we take the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. It’s not always easy because there are times that we wish God was far away or we don’t feel like he’s there when we need him. But like that infamous Footprints poem, God is there carrying us through the hard times.

Stephen Colbert, who is going to start his stint at late night network comedy tonight, had an interview with GQ Magazine in which he talked about how God was constantly present in his life. He was grateful for the losses that he endured as a child, first by losing his father and brothers in a plane crash and then losing his mother later in life.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. Byher example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.

“It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened,” he said. “But you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

Consider that this is coming from a man who millions of people will soon watch on their televisions every night—if only there were a way to measure the virality of this, which he’ll never say on TV, I imagine, but which, as far as I can tell, he practices every waking minute of his life.

5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost.

There’s something about doing what someone says without asking questions that scares me. It calls to mind a hell that consists of shades of grey, military dictatorships, Big Brother. UGH! No thank you!

The difference between that kind of obedience and following God’s will without counting the cost is that God does allow us to ask questions. In the Annunciation, Mary was initially confused at the angel’s greeting and asked “How can this be? I have known no man.” Gabriel gives Mary an explanation and proof of God’s power. After receiving that explanation, Mary accepts God’s will. If we were in Mary’s place, we’d probably ask more questions, to be honest, but God gives us enough knowledge to help us understand the present because the future is in His hands.

One example of this is from the soon to be Bishop Robert Barron, whose ordination into bishophood takes place today. He posted a video explaining his coat of arms.

One particular thing I love about his coat of arms is the motto he chose: Non nisi te Domine. The motto came from Thomas Aquinas who said this to God after presenting his works on the Eucharist in a private altar. Bishop-Elect Robert Barron said “If you have Christ, then you know what to do with the wealth, pleasure, power, and honor that come your way or you’ll know what to do with the lack of wealth, pleasure, power and honor which is why the one thing you should ask for is Christ himself.” As someone who’s also an Aquinas fangirl, I can’t help but totally agree with him.

Follow me on the next page to learn about how we can practice wisdom, purity, sweetness, faith, and patience in our lives.

The Tale of Three Popes: Pope Francis, Justice, and Temperance

I love Pope Francis. I love Pope Francis so much, I’ve marked my calendar for the day of his visit to the United States. I’m counting down the days until that day comes and still want to go to World Youth Day in Poland.

So far, in the past few years, Pope Francis has shown himself to be a pastoral pope, in the sense that he treats the whole world as a parish. If Pope John Paul II was a pope of fortitude and Pope Benedict was a pope of prudence, Pope Francis is a pope of justice and a man who can inspire us to practice the virtue of temperance.

Justice isn’t always about superheroes and lawyers. According to the Catechism:

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. the just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” (CCC 1807)

Pope Francis chose his name to remember the poor. He visited towns and countries where poverty is prominent. He is open to meeting anyone who asks and doesn’t care what people think. He’s talks about the current issues, but refuses to get political about them, although that might change when he gets an audience with the US Congress. He advocates for peace during times of war, but acknowledges that the danger does exist. He cares for the world and has compassion for everyone.

So what does Pope Francis have to do with temperance? Well, it’s more that we should practice temperance when it comes to him. The major problem with Pope Francis isn’t with the man himself, but with everyone having an extreme opinion of him. The media spins him to be this borderline liberal while conservatives buy into that lie and say that the apocalypse is coming and the Catholic Church is going to become modernized. According to the Catechism:

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. the temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.”  (CCC 1809)

Temperance is usually associated with moderation of food and drink, but in the case of Pope Francis, I think we should exercise temperance of the tongue. We need to master our paranoia and fears of the Catholic Church becoming something it’s not. Most of all, we shouldn’t gossip or start creating conspiracy theories.

I think it’s been a long time since the world had a pope who was so bluntly honest about everything. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict both chose their worlds carefully and thoughtfully. Pope Francis is more of an improv actor, speaking in idioms and off-the-cuff remarks. He’s basically like a bartender: open to serve, a great listener, and honest to a fault.

Whenever I hear the panic of Pope Francis having an audience with someone people consider to be scandalous or “not belonging in society,” I recall the Pharisees judging Jesus for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. I remember that instead of choosing the best and brightest of his society, Jesus picked 12 clueless morons with working-class jobs that always argued with each other. Mostly, I recall the parable of the Good Shepherd.

One part of being pope is that the pope is an example of Christ on Earth. And like Jesus, Pope Francis is reaching out to all the lost sheep of the world as a form of justice. However, this justice is not in the form of punishment or condemnation, but of mercy and compassion in the hopes that they will bring themselves to God and that God will change them.

I hope that we can all practice the virtue of temperance in our lives, especially when it comes to our opinions.

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Lent Day 1: Ash Wednesday

Today, I learned a lesson in patience. I got an e-mail from my Sunday School Supervisors that there would be an Ash Wednesday prayer service just for the kids, so I decided to wait until 7:30 to get my ashes.

The rest of the day proved to be a test of patience. My co-teacher and I were planning on getting pretzels and juice for the kids, but I wanted to be efficient, so I decided to buy the food about an hour before class started.

What did I do between the time I got up and the time I actually had to go to CCE? I spent the day like I normally did, except I fasted. I made a lot of tea. I started reading Thomas A. Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ. (I seriously love that book and I highly recommend it as a Lenten reading.)

In the end, I found that my patience was still tested. My first graders were restless and excited and the prayer service didn’t leave time for snacks and juice. Thankfully, my co-teacher and I decided that we would give the kids snacks after Spring Break.

So like I told my friend: “Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.” And boy did I learn a lesson in that today.

In a way, Lent is a period where our patience is tested constantly. Sometimes it comes in the form of fasting. Sometimes, it comes when you aren’t sure if you can finish that extra prayer or give that spare change to the homeless person on the street. Last year, many Catholics learned patience during the Sede Vacante period between Benedict and Francis. But as last year taught us, there is always something better waiting for us when Lent is over.

Here’s what Fr. Robert Barron has to say about today:

From Fr. Robert Barron:

Judged According to Love

The Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25 the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction, but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need–the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.

Here’s a challenge: Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.

Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.

Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: Belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.

When a man once asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, “Give alms.”

As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.’

And finally, here’s my #ashtag selfie.

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