12 August, Saturday – Faith, Free Weights and Deadlifts

Aug 12 – Memorial for St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Jane married Baron de Chantal. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband’s absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here.” She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ.  Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity.

She founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. The remainder of the saint’s life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. It was firmness and great vigour which prevailed in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive.

– http://www.wf-f.org/StJaneFdeChantal.html

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Deuteronomy 6:4-13

Moses said to the people:
‘Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart. You shall repeat them to your children and say them over to them whether at rest in your house or walking abroad, at your lying down or at your rising; you shall fasten them on your hand as a sign and on your forehead as a circlet; you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

‘When the Lord has brought you into the land which he swore to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that he would give you, with great and prosperous cities not of your building, houses full of good things not furnished by you, wells you did not dig, vineyards and olives you did not plant, when you have eaten these and had your fill, then take care you do not forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must fear the Lord your God, you must serve him, by his name you must swear.’

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Matthew 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus and went down on his knees before him. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘take pity on my son: he is a lunatic and in a wretched state; he is always falling into the fire or into the water. I took him to your disciples and they were unable to cure him.’ ‘Faithless and perverse generation!’ Jesus said in reply ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.’ And when Jesus rebuked it the devil came out of the boy who was cured from that moment.

Then the disciples came privately to Jesus. ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ they asked. He answered, ‘Because you have little faith. I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you.’

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“… if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you”

3 to 4 times a week, I work out with a personal trainer — Spencer. I do this because I hate to exercise. Since I can’t be disciplined on my own, Spencer gets the unenviable job of being my taskmaster. I’ve been training with Spencer for two years now. In that time, he has worked me so much I actually have muscles that are visible. Spencer likes to use words like ‘striation’, ‘trapezius’ and ‘lattissimus dorsi’. We do endless repetitions of drills and dull things like ‘cardio’ which he says are good for me. Despite my lack of motivation, there have been tangible results. I am stronger. And I have more physical endurance. Hills and elevations don’t bother me any more. Neither does lifting my 50lb dog or using my heavy cast-iron skillet. I actually enjoy going on long hikes with my dog now.

Faith is much like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. When I first started physical training, we would do drills with small free weights at low rep counts. I’d take long breaks between sets to catch my breath. We have since worked up to higher rep counts, heavier weights and shorter breaks. Intuitively, it makes sense. You don’t go straight to 100lb deadlifts at the first get go. You have to work your way to it.

The disciples in today’s gospel reading attempted the faith-equivalent of 100lb deadlifts without first doing drills with small ‘faith-free weights’. They might have succeded, but the odds were stacked against them. We are not all possessed of the same ‘faith strength’ as the centurion in Matthew 8:8, whose famous words have been immortalized at mass – “Lord I am not worthy to have you under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed”. Just as a muscle needs exercise to develop strength, our faith needs to be worked on so that when we are truly tested, when life drops us that 100lb challenge, we know what to do with it. Start with the small stuff, converse with God, no detail is too small for Him. Things will happen if you allow Him to help you develop your faith muscle.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: God, you are the god of things both great and small. Watch over us, guide our hearts, give us wisdom to make good decisions, with even the smallest matters in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His watchfulness, for the comfort and assurance of His presence in our daily lives. We give thanks for good health, for family, for friends, for blue skies, green grass and tall trees. For the clean air we breathe, the fresh water we drink, the small things we take for granted that are made possible because of His grace.

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