Praising God, with an endorphin rush

The sun creeps out from under the bridge, rising slowly into the sky. Geese drift lazily on the river. Cherry blossoms dip perilously close to the ground.

These have become familiar, welcome sights to me during my semi-daily morning walk/jog on the Cooper River on these spring days.

In the winter months gone by it was a different routine. I would bundle up before heading out to my car in chilling temperatures, drive to my local gym, and enter a musty atmosphere of barbells, elliptical machines and thumping music. “Nothing much to see here,” I think. “Just keep peddling.”

Now with spring’s warm-up, the outdoors are truly great again. Watching the robins fish for worms in the soil, or the squirrels stockpile sustenance into their cheeks, I meditate on a morning prayer:

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being?” (Job 12:7-10)

Indeed, God’s protection is everywhere. While I realize this, I know his protection will only help if I do my part to keep myself spiritually and physically fit in order to accomplish his work and glorify him in all I do.

Fortunately, I know I am not alone on this journey, in these tasks. In the past few months, I have gotten involved with two groups that have combined faith and fitness in their activities.

LifeRunners is a global organization with more than 4,300 runners in different chapters in 50 states and 26 countries, dedicated to putting an end to abortion.

In the Deptford chapter I am a part of, we start the twice-a-month Saturday walk with a prayer before setting off and raising awareness with our blue LifeRunners shirt emblazoned with “Remember the Unborn.” We run, so others may crawl.

I have also found community with members of the South Jersey Frassati Fellowship, which includes young adults in their 20s and 30s, that meets once a week for adoration at Saint John Vianney Church, Infant Jesus Parish, in Deptford.

This fellowship is under the patronage of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, a young man who lived during the early 1900s in Turin, Italy, and is a model for the young Catholic Church today.

When not spending time in front of the Holy Eucharist, he was scaling mountains. When not serving the hungry every afternoon, he was diligently concentrating on his school studies. When not advocating for political causes, he was the life of the party, with an ever-joyful spirit among family and friends.

He died at the age of 24 after contracting polio from the sick he was caring for. His parents didn’t find out about his illness until the day he died. As his grandmother was sick, he didn’t want to take attention away from her needs.

In his way, we adore the Eucharist, but also find time to strengthen our souls in nature. Last weekend, four of our group hiked in Wharton State Forest, near Batsto Village. As we walked near the edge of the Mullica River, its cooling breeze providing refreshment from the warm sun, a small snake slithered past us. After our winding trek through brush, dirt and sand, we ended the night with dinner at a local diner.

In LifeRunners and the Frassati Fellowship, I like to feel the rush of endorphins, and know that I am doing my part to prepare for what God asks of me. At the same time, it’s a good feeling to have like-minded, faithful friends who inspire me, and who I know will hold me accountable and keep me on the right path.

As Saint Paul says in his 12th chapter to the Hebrews, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” With these witnesses, our family and friends, let us “rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.”

Peter G. Sánchez is a staff writer for the Catholic Star Herald.

Categories: As I See It, Columns

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