Fit for God: Why priests need to stay in shape

Deacons, too, of course!

This gives new meaning to the idea of “exercising your ministry.”

Check out this piece from Chaz Muth at Catholic News Service: 

On a recent hot summer evening, a group of lacrosse players gathered around a fellow athlete on the Gonzaga College High School field before the start of their game.

The 35-year-old man with perspiration beading on his forehead was more than just another player leading them in a prayer. He was a priest.

When Father Mark Ivany finished the blessing and lifted his right hand in the air in the sign of the cross, he shouted out to the other players to give it their all. They ran to their assigned positions on the field to await the coach’s whistle, signaling the game’s beginning.

Father Ivany isn’t officially the team’s chaplain. In fact, this is not an official team, but a group of students, alumni and friends who gather throughout the summer for recreational sports.

“I’m not really a gym kind of guy, but it’s important to me to stay in shape, so this is one of the ways I get exercise,” said the pastor of Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Washington.

The other players didn’t cut Father Ivany any slack during the game, but the dark-haired priest with the toned physique and megawatt smile was swift as any of the young athletes, and just as aggressive as he threw the ball to score one for his team.

This kind of activity is more than just recreation for the priest, who was an All-American lacrosse player at Massachusetts’ Merrimack College in 2000.

“Physical fitness and the priesthood have a lot in common,” Father Ivany told Catholic News Service. “The healthier I am, the longer I can be a priest in service here on this earth.

“I love being a priest, so I’d like to do it as actively and as engaged as possible. So, staying healthy and eating well and staying in good shape I think is going to add to my service as a priest.”

The rising rate of obesity among all Americans is not lost on church leaders or the priests themselves.

Msgr. Rick Hilgartner, executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noted that modern technology and transportation advances have helped create a more sedentary life for humans in the past century, and that includes priests.

A testament to a different lifestyle of a bygone era can be found in stories about Cardinal James Gibbons — Baltimore’s archbishop from 1877 until his death in 1921. When he was a young priest, he would use a rowboat to cross the Baltimore Harbor to say Mass for the prisoners at Fort McHenry, Msgr. Hilgartner said.

Read the rest.  And check out the excellent video on this subject below.  Then, hit the gym!

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