The Race for Vocation & Monastic Life

170422_DeaconOrdination_146By Br. Peduru Fonseka, OSB

Only few more days left for the race and I do not feel ready for it at all this year. When Fr. Mike asked me to write an article about training for the race for vocations and how it has helped my spirituality I was little hesitant because I felt like I have not kept up with a regular training for the upcoming 5K. Then as a catholic I was feeling guilty for not fulfilling a request of a priest. So I sat down in front of my computer on this rainy Sunday with the purpose of writing this article.

When I think of running one of the scripture verses that kept popping in to my head is the famous verse from the second letter to the Timothy “I have competed well; I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7).

I wonder if the author of this letter knew anything about running a race. May be he did, may be he did not. Of course he should have, right! I have heard in the ancient days the messengers had to carry news either by foot or on horse back. If you are on your feet and have to bring a message to the king from the battle field, you have to be a fast runner. (At least this was according to the Sri Lankan folklore). But running is not an easy task. Running needs practice, conditioning and proper exercise. All these activities needs a certain level of discipline. First of all a runner has to have a good daily routine. Having a routine is one of my biggest weaknesses when it comes to exercise and running. (Yea, I know, it might be hard to believe for some of you to here these words coming from a monk.) I think we all face the challenge of being true to our daily routines. Trying to balance everything in life can be tough.

170422_DeaconOrdination_155Even in monastic life we hear about balance. One of our previous abbott’s used to tell that monastic life is not about balancing, but finding a rhythm. If we imagine a person in a circus trying to balance plates on sticks it is a very hard task. Imagine trying to do that throughout our whole life. I am sure one will end up with a neck pain and a headache. The key is to find a rhythm in life rather than balancing everything. When we have a rhythm life does not become overwhelming. Having a rhythm is very important for runners. We take one foot in front of the other, the whole body moves, including our heart beating according to a certain rhythm. As we run, our heart beat changes. Rhythm of our whole body is important as a being. We are created in such away that even our bodies have a capability to change it’s rhythm based on the situation. Rhythm is important in our daily lives. Otherwise life can be so challenging and unbearable.

Secondly, running is also a mental act as much as a physical act. As an amateur runner when I first got on to the treadmill I could only run 5 minutes continuously and I had to take a break. The first run was also tough on the limbs. I remember feeling some muscles in my leg and on my back that I never thought ever existed. That first experience was painful. However, as I continued to run, I remember each time I had to tell myself “ok five more minutes” I am going to keep a steady pace, breath and keep going. Pains continued to occur momentarily but they did pass away. little by little I the length of the runs increased and I start enjoying them. However, always the first five minutes of a run was a challenge. I always had to keep mentally motivating myself to keep running.

If running is painful I wonder how painful it would have been for Christ to carry that cross to calvary with lashes on his back and a crown of thorns on his head. How did he do that? He did that of course out of his perfect love. Jesus took one step in front of the other weighed down with the heavy cross. Every time he fell he got up and continued to walk. I wonder what was going in his mind as his physical body was so weak. Did he do the same mental exercise telling him self, few more feet I can do it ? Was it his perfect Love for me, and the whole humanity that kept him moving. I would like to think it was both.

At times, we all feel like we are not ready for this spiritual journey. There are moments we feel like we have failed. However, Jesus’ journey is a reminder that we ought to keep moving on this journey until we see the finish line. So that we can say “I have competed well; I have finished the race” on our own pace with the help of God.