The next talk was given by Brian Patrick, a radio host based in Cincinnati, and it as titled “Transformation”. Patrick was filling in for Danny Abramowicz, a former NFLer who could not make it to the conference because of a family emergency. Again, I’ll share some of the points I took down.
- The minute we open ourselves to the grace of God, God’s grace comes pouing in.
- The transformation begins within ourselves.
- Contemporary culture has seemed to lose the sense of good and evil.
- Ephesians 6:12 - For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
- We need to become spiritual tough guys. What makes us men are our spiritual, mental, social beings as well as our spiritual life.
- We need a spiritual regimen that makes us spiritual tough guys.
- As the men of our Church, we need to man up and be the spiritual leaders in our families, our Church, and our communities.
- The Spiritual Workout:
- 1) Stretching in prayer: Prayer is our first calling and our highest calling. Prayer is the raising of our hearts and minds to God.
- 2) Running away from sin and running towards God: Even Christ was tempted. We need to be quiet, to be still and know He is God.
- 3) Going to and receiving the Sacraments: Especially in the case of Reconciliation, we don’t have to live with our sins because we are forgiven.
Now, there are many transformations in our lives whether that comes from the mundane and daily decisions to go for a run or exercise, thus transforming into a healthier person, or the profound and life-altering transformations that have us accept Christ or accept our own vocations. It is easy to see the fruits of our labours in a physical transformation months later or an intellectual transformation when we receive our scholastic evaluations. It is not always apparent to see how we are positively transformed in our spirituality. Patrick did make a great point, however, in tying the need for spiritual transformation to our existence as souls.
As he quoted Ephesians 6:12, Patrick enforced the idea of keeping spiritually tough. Just as we must train ourselves to be strong if we are athletes or to be physically fit if we desire better health, we must take hold of spiritual regimens to strengthen our spirituality. Man is both body and soul; one suffers if the other is not healthy. So it is up to us as men, whose typical portrayals include being brave leaders, tough guys, and inspiring patriarchs, to be strong in our faith. We cannot hope to stand against the very demonic powers that tempted Christ (Luke 4) uless we, ourselves, are strong in the faith.
I found the talk fitting because it appealed to me, not only as a man, but as someone starting a fitness program. I’ve been out of shape for a long time but the last two weeks have been liberating in the sense of understanding that these gains will not be instantaneous; I have to work hard for them, build up a foundation, and then stand stronger upon that foundation. As a result, I’ve come to enjoy running. I’ve come to see that I’m starting to return to the flexibility I had when I played hockey often. I’ve come to understand that building strength will not be without its pains.
So in the very same way, the three points of Patrick’s spiritual workout are things that I hope to appreciate. Just as stretching might be thought of as unnecessary to build strength or stamina, it proves to be central if we don’t want to hurt ourselves or lose the gains we make. Prayer can often be overlooked, as it has been for me, but it is central to our existence as Catholics. We have to persevere in prayer so that we do not get hurt in the snares of the world or lose the gains we make in Christ. A little prayer everyday is a great start. And from there, running to God in our temptation mirrors running to strengthen our cardiovascular systems. If we turn to Christ when we are weak, then we are strengthened through Him. When we succumb to our sins that sets us back a couple of steps but never completely apart. Much in the same way, the only thing that prevents us from taking up new programs to build ourselves up is ourselves.
Finally, to receive the Sacraments is to build up our own spirituality and faith just as receiving wisdom and knowledge to make strength gains is. Both are freely and widely available. Both are beneficial to us. Both require us to come forth, to make the decision ourselves, to receive them. To receive Reconciliation often is to strengthen our faiths, to build up our resolve and to make that decision not to sin if we take the Act of Contrition seriously. To receive the Eucharist, Christ Himself, is to be in such a state of grace and communion with the Church. Both build us up as Catholics and surely both can only point to a greater faithfulness and love of God.
(October 29 for October 3, 2012)