Fit for Eternal Life?

Jack LaLanne

Yesterday fitness guru Jack LaLanne died at the age of 96 in California. He committed himself to healthy living early in life, and he persevered in that lifestyle until the day he died.

LaLanne hosted the longest running fitness show in television history, and he skillfully developed and marketed a range of products, from health foods and juice machines to exercise books and fitness spas.

Of course what most people remember are his incredible feats of strength, which seemed part Schwarzenegger and part Houdini. The guy once did well over 1,000 pushups in 23 minutes.

At the age of 60, LaLanne swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf, while handcuffed, shackled and towing a boat!

But why all this talk about Jack LaLanne on a blog about vocations?  It’s because LaLanne knew what it meant to have a “plan of life.” He had one, and he stuck to it to a remarkable degree. Even more, he received the natural benefits of his orderly, disciplined life, as he enjoyed a long, healthy life on this earth.

Yet, even LaLanne’s earthly life had to come to an end, and we pray that he may now rest in peace.

We may be working on a LaLanne-like (say that five times fast) “plan of life” as we feebly try to lose a few pounds and get in shape in fulfillment of our New Year’s resolutions.

But even more, how is our “plan of life” from a spiritual perspective? How is our life ordered? Are our priorities straight? Is prayer, family, work, and recreation balanced appropriately? Am I reading books or viewing programs of a spiritual or at least edifying nature? Do I receive guidance from my pastor, spiritual advisor, or perhaps trusted friends?

Am I as committed to my spiritual plan of life as LaLanne was to his dietary and exercise regimen?

Jack LaLanne once said that we wouldn’t give our dog a cigarette and donut for breakfast, so why should these harmful things be part of our daily routine? Similarly, if we know certain activities aren’t good for us spiritually (and that’s what matters most, after all!), why do we allow them to become part of our lives?

I was that chubby kid in front of the TV trying to do the various exercises that Jack LaLanne was teaching his viewers. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but he did help instill an appreciation for exercise that has been integrated into my adult life.

May we who are committed to the Lord and His Church encourage others to do their “spiritual exercises” and to develop a plan of life, so that all that we do is ordered to our ultimate Good.

Vocations Are Habit-Forming!

Religious habits are making something of a comeback these days. Check out this recent article entitled, “Younger Catholic Women Get into the Habit,” which discusses how the Nashville Dominicans have been able to attract new members under the age of 30.

They were also featured last December in this NPR story, which connected their traditional habit to their appeal to young women today.

Similarly, last week the online edition of Catholic San Francisco published “‘Oprah nuns,’ a fast-growing teaching order, expanding to California.” This piece, profiling the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, also highlights the significance of the religious habit in the new wave of religious vocations.

The religious habit is a topic to which we will return often in this blog. Today, I would like to share this brief reflection on the religious habit from Sr. Maria Pacis of the Dominican Sisters of Mary:

“Each day, as I don the Dominican habit, I am struck by the symbolism associated with each part of the habit. Each piece has ‘attached’ to it a virtue in which I daily strive to grow: charity; purity of heart, mind, and intention; obedience; perseverence; and finally devotion to Jesus, Mary, and St. Dominic. It is an ever-present reminder to me and to my dear Sisters that we are all Brides of Christ.” 

Sister’s uplifting comments bring to mind St. Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:10-17 of the holy attire that all Christians must put on as they prepare for spiritual  battle.

Marching Orders

Go to the Sisters of Life website.
Sisters of Life at the annual March for Life, Washington, D.C.

Next week marks the 38th anniversary of the notorious Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional “right” to abortion. Christians throughout the land are busily preparing for various pro-life events to mark the occasion. Of course the “granddaddy” of these events is the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.

Proclaiming the “Gospel of Life” in word and action is an integral part of being Catholic. Not surprisingly, then, consecrated men and women have been at the forefront of the pro-life movement. This includes everything from persevering prayer in the cloister to eduational ministries to prayerful witness at abortion clinics to helping women in challenging pregnancies. And so much more.

A shining example of this pro-life focus is the Sisters of Life. They were just founded in 1991 by John Cardinal O’Connor of New York as a contemplative/active community of women religious. As their name suggests, pro-life activity is an essential part of their charism. They even take a special fourth vow to “protect and enhance the sacredness of human life.”

For the Sisters of Life’s schedule for this coming week, click here.

In addition, the Catholic Key Blog of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph posted today a timely pro-life article by Bishop Robert W. Finn, who also currently serves as IRL president. It’s entitled “March for Life: Culmination of Many Efforts to Support and Protect Human Life.” Read it here.

Why “Undivided Heart”?

Go to the free online Study Guide to Vita Consecrata.In the coming months, we will periodically return to the name of this blog, as the desire to love God with “an undivided heart” is at the core of a religious vocation.

Today, let’s simply examine two passages from Vita Consecrata (“Consecrated Life”), the 1995 apostolic exhortation of Pope John Paul II that magnificently sets forth the beauty and depth of loving God with an undivided heart:

First, from section one:

“In every age there have been men and women who, obedient to the Father’s call and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, in order to devote themselves to him with an ‘undivided’ heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:34). Like the Apostles, they too have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put themselves, as he did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters. In this way, through the many charisms of spiritual and apostolic life bestowed on them by the Holy Spirit, they have helped to make the mystery and mission of the Church shine forth, and in doing so have contributed to the renewal of society.

Later, from section 21:

The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love ‘poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom. 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren.

Praise God for the call to love and serve Him with an undivided heart!

IRL’s New Blog

About the USCCB.With this post, the Institute on Religious Life (IRL) launches its new blog, entitled “An Undivided Heart.” If you’re looking for news, commentary, or resources on vocations–especially vocations to the consecrated life–you’ve come to the right place. Welcome!

One of the five pastoral priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at this time is the promotion of priestly and religious vocations. In furtherance of this priority, the USCCB has created the For Your Vocation website, which is nicely done and contains a wealth of useful resources.

One recent post at the For Your Vocation website is “Top 10 for 2011”: a helpful listing of ten highly recommended vocation sites. While all the sites listed in this top ten have obvious merit, a few deserve special mention here:

First, I was happy to see the new Vocation Boom site at the head of the list. It’s the work of Catholic Answers’ Jerry Usher, and For Your Vocation justifiably calls it the “best new resource on Priesthood.”

Second, it was great that the website of the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville (aka the Nashville Dominicans) made the list. The Nashville Dominicans are affiliates of the IRL, and their site was singled out for its beauty and depth.

Last but not least, it was gratifying to see that the IRL’s website also made the top ten, because of (a) “its diverse resources for vocation discernment,” and (b) “its valuable links to religious communities.”

We are grateful for this recognition of the IRL, and now with this daily blog we hope to only enhance our service to the Church and especially to all who turn to us, desiring to love Our Lord with an undivided heart.

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