Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Beyond Resolution

I don't, as a rule, believe in making New Year's Resolutions, principally because I think we condition ourselves to forget about them once the year gets a little tattered around the edges. I do believe in looking backward over the last year and asking, "How can this year be better than last?" This way, you make a conscious decision to work the whole year on the project in question. For myself, that project is my weight.

Contrary to some who have commented here, I do think that weight and waistline say something about one's spiritual life. Granted, you can have a glandular condition or some other physiological explanation for higher than normal body mass, but quite frankly, that is an evasion. Americans are amazing consumers -- we far outstrip other countries in what we use and produce. Quoting now from the Universal Doctor, St. Thomas, we read in the Summa Theologica:
[G]luttony denotes inordinate concupiscence in eating. Now two things are to be considered in eating, namely the food we eat, and the eating thereof. Accordingly, the inordinate concupiscence may be considered in two ways. First, with regard to the food consumed: and thus, as regards the substance or species of food a man seeks "sumptuous"--i.e. costly food; as regards its quality, he seeks food prepared too nicely--i.e. "daintily"; and as regards quantity, he
exceeds by eating "too much." Secondly, the inordinate concupiscence is considered as to the consumption of food: either because one forestalls the proper time for eating, which is to eat "hastily," or one fails to observe the due manner of eating, by eating "greedily."

Then we could look to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives for this capital sin:
Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose or
also be linked to the capital sins which Christian experience distinguished following St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. They are called "capital" because they engender other sins, other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia(#1866).

So while we should not assume that someone's obesity is the cause of moral fault, it is equally imprudent to assume that your obesity ISN'T caused by moral fault. Even if you are waif-like, you too might be a glutton based upon what St. Thomas mentions above on the topic. It is easy, especially with the existence of instant food, to live to eat, rather than eating to live. Further, it seems to me that gluttony, which is not the worse sin, by a long shot, can run counter to a spirit of mortification and proper stewardship.

This is the lowdown on me. I am 6'4" tall, large frame (due to drawing strongly on the Germano-Celtic-Welsh genetic heritage I received -- Go, Dead White European Male Hegemony!), and weigh probably in excess of 350 lbs. My family suffers vascular problems, and given that I have a large heart, physically speaking (looking at other posts recently, one can exclude me from the virtue of magnanimamy, but that's an issue for Spiritual Direction), I am probably running the risk of Congestive Heart Failure somewhere down the line. The life of a priest is pretty darn sedentary, so add another strike in the negative column. Something has to be done.

The plan for 2005 is to 100 lbs. lighter by this time next year, January 12, 2006. I intended to do this through spiritual combat against my vices, calorie reduction and diversification of food group, and circuit training at the university's gym. I am also going to keep track of various measurement, e.g. waist, circumferance of upper arm, to offset any distortion in actual weight lost figures that might arise from gains made in muscle mass.

To keep me honest and to provide feedback, thanks to Techmonkey Buddy Steph's assistance and participation, a new blog is being launched. Its name is The Blogger Healthy Living Challenge. I know that Fr. H is looking to tone up, Techmonkey Dave wants to get down, and other commentors are interested in getting on board. Email me at the address above and I will forward the request to Techmonkey Buddy Steph. Please include your goals, how you are going to lose the weight, and what spiritual mortifications, if any, you are going to incorporate into your program. My first official "weigh-in" post will go up on February 1. After that date, or around there, we will close invitations. If you are interested, get with us. I might feature pictures of progress, but rest assured, they won't be anything like "Priests Gone Wild." Probably, just a sideways and front on shot for comparison's sake. An anticipated benefit of this is it will give me an excuse to wear my cassock more after my size 54 pants stop fitting properly.

With all this said, however, I affirm for everyone who reads this that I believe firmly that my life and its terminus are in the hands of God. When He determines that my life is done, it's done. But, since God also created me to be a loving co-operator in the plan of Salvation He is working out with and through me, I know to remain this heavy is to play Russian Roulette with the gifts of life, grace, and vocation, He in His mercy has bestowed on me. To acclerate, potentially, my death is disrespectful of God and disrepectful to the people of the Archdiocese that I serve and will serve in the future.

Please pray for me and for everyone else who participates in this spiritual challenge.

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