Saturday, December 14, 2013

This Holiday Season Consider a Sporting & Spiritual Challenge

I'm sure it would take little effort to research what percentage of Americans resolve to exercise more often, implement a fitness regime, join a sports team or club, and more in the upcoming year. But when I read about "The 22 Days of Fitness" underway at my gym, I wondered how many of us commit to an athletic program during the holiday season. 
The goal of the 22 days of fitness is to encourage you to continue to exercise the days leading up to Christmas and create the habits that will set you in the right direction for the New Year. We will be posting workouts on the 6th floor and on the website for you to do daily at home or at the gym beginning December 2nd- December 23rd. The workouts will be from 3 minutes to 15 minutes and will also vary each day.   
I'll speak for myself—I appreciate the license to indulge a little in yuletide cheer, knowing all too well I will pay for it sooner rather than later. But, the seasonal challenge piqued my interest (and the fact that 22—the double deuce— happens to be my favorite/lucky number didn't hurt either)

While some radio pronouncements claim the average American gains from 7-10 pounds, I read in the "Ask Rochelle" column of The Olympian that "Several studies suggest that an annual 1-2 pound gain per person is about average during the holiday season. A couple of pounds may not seem like much but don't jump for second helpings yet. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, most people don't lose the added weight during the year. If left unchecked, that's a whopping 10-20 extra pounds over a 10-year period! Yikes!"
I will undertake the challenge. I fully anticipate failing...
I know when I have a strong fitness regime in place, I feel better physically, mentally, emotionally even spiritually. I make better decisions, especially about what I eat. Food is fuel; I hope to never take food and water for granted. 22 Days of Fitness might translate to 22 Days of health, nutrition and more.

With one eye on 22-Days of Fitness and another on the "No Sugar Challenge" for six weeks in 2014, I was excited to see a parish in the Archdiocese of San Francisco was offering its own seasonal challenge for the faithful: The 40 Day Advent Challenge.
 It is "a daily program of scriptural readings that began Nov. 15 and ends Christmas Eve. The challenge was conceived by Orthodox priest Father John Peck as a soul-nourishing, Christ-focused antidote to the commercial whirlwind promoted by the media every Christmas.  
The simple yet ambitious program has been adopted in recent years by many congregations and parishes. It caught the attention of the St. Anselm parish council, who introduced it to the parish last month. The program has been undertaken by about 50 parishioners. 
The beauty of the program is that it is a daily time out from the secular preoccupations of Christmas and an opportunity to focus daily on the meaning of the season, said parish coordinator Ann Roggenbuck. 
To call the program a challenge is no hype: The 40 daily readings, which take participants through the New Testament in a deliberate but non-sequential path, are an admittedly ambitious undertaking for parishioners. Some, like the Barbagelatas, read together in their home. Others who are able to meet as a group and are interested in discussion of the passages meet on Tuesday nights at the parish hall. 
In the same way that the 22 Days of Fitness aims to inculcate new habits, the 40 Days of Advent does that and much more. I asked my students what they thought of this practice and their first response was "that's a big commitment." Eventually, we named its merits and why it's a fitting way to prepare for Christmas.
“Advent gives us time to anticipate Christmas and that makes it more special,” said St. Anselm School 8th grader Domenica Barbagelata, seated with her brothers Lorenzo and Antonio and their mother Elena. 
Christmas celebrates the birth—the nativity—of Jesus. Birthdays are fun to celebrate, but they have much more meaning when we know and love the birthday boy or girl. Reading the New Testament, or Christian Scriptures can only familiarize a person with the life of Jesus.

To grow in knowledge of our Lord, to reflect with self and others on how He lived, what he experienced, and how He loved is certainly what this season is about. It might take time and discipline to enter into the space to listen to the story of His life, but cultivating relationships is no different.

Liturgy is Greek for "celebration." I can only imagine after 40 days or learning about our Lord would make Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist on Christmas Day (at Mass) what it aims to be.

I think Jesus would like this cake...have a slice before the No Sugar Challenge...
What will your spiritual or sports challenge be in this holy season? If it's something you undertake, I'd like to hear the results. One of my friends who undertook the "No Sugar Challenge" said he "couldn't keep the weight off." That is an incredible problem to have! Another friend said she gained weight. Hmm....for me, I can't imagine NOT eating sugar. We'll see....that's post-Christmas and in the New Year.

For those who undergo the spiritual challenge, the goal at noted by Catholic San Francisco is to build “a small faith community walking together for four weeks toward Christmas and drawing closer to God individually and collectively. Hopefully we will bring a slightly new person to the crib on Christmas Day.” Another parent wanted their children to see that Christmas isn't all about them. It's not about what presents you get. 

The gift of faith is the best gift one can get. It's one that is beyond price. And ultimately, it is about you. Happy Holidays!  

Photo Credits
No Sugar Challenge
Birthday Cake
Advent Family

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