Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Razor Shall Touch His Head

              Today's first reading is a remembrance of the Old Testament tragic hero, Samson. It's interesting that the Church places this birth story during our preparation in the season of Advent. If you have read my book, you would know that Samson is one of my favorite biblical characters as his story teaches us much about the beauty and also the possible downfall of being a bodybuilder. As many might know who Samson ended up becoming, many forget who he was in the beginning of his life.

"The boy grew up and the LORD blessed him;
the Spirit of the LORD stirred him."
- Judges13: 24-25

              Samson was a precursor of the deliverer of God's chosen people. As a warrior, he was unstoppable. His strength was sufficient enough to break the jaw of a lion. Before he truly understood what his mission was to be, he kept this killing of a lion a secret. This alludes to the fact that he began as a humble servant of the Lord, and the Lord smiled upon him with continual inhuman strength. Samson was raised to be a good Jewish man. I am reminded of the story of Superman, coming from a humble home, not knowing his purpose or the reason for his powers, he heeds the call to become something great, something 'super'. Samson, just like Superman, I am sure had times where he wished to just fit in and be one of the normal people, but God had other plans and in order to follow the will of God a man must humbly accept his position, either as leader, father or priest.

              Samson personally took out 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Needless to say, this Herculean character was blessed in abundance from a God who loved him. Unfortunately, pride got the best of our hero. Samson began to believe that he was the source of his strength and not God. In doing this, God removed his hedge of protection and the enemies of the chosen people were able to take Samson's strength away. Through the sinful acts of lust and pride Samson was no longer the He-man that God created him to be. Samson became the self-absorbed egoist who, though he still claimed to be manly, allowed a women (who was from the race of the enemy) to lead him around as a 'puppy-like' servant. When Samson's eyes veered away from pleasing God, it ultimately led to his destruction.  He was the bodybuilder of the Old Testament, and in saying this his story acts as a reminder to us who love growing in strength that we must never forget where that strength comes from. There is much to learn from Samson and I highly recommend reading the book of Judges to hear the amazing feats of manliness and strength, yet also weakness and concupiscence.

             It is also worthy to note that the Gospel today reflects on the announcement of the conception of John the Baptist. Zechariah, John's father, doubted the abilities of God. His intellectual pride loomed over his punishment of muteness. In both of our biblical instances a neglection of duty and a disbelief in the overarching power of the Creator, caused men to fall and thus are justly punished. Men were created to be great, to be leaders and Samson's story works perfectly for our Advent season, I believe especially for men, to prepare our hearts, to humbly accept the will of the Father, and to embrace the incarnation of Christ as the new Hero of mankind.

Friday, December 14, 2012

St. John of the Cross and Fitness

             What can a saint like John of the Cross teach a bodybuilder? How can we thoroughly apply his teachings to our daily acts of fitness? John of the Cross was a profound thinker, poet and man. His writings have influenced the Church to such a degree that he was deemed Doctor of the Church in 1926. While most of his writings and poetry are focused purely on the state of the soul there is much for an athlete to learn from him. A quote, while rather lengthy, from his prolific work The Ascent of Mt. Carmel, reaches into the soul of what the new Catholic movement in the fitness world is all about. Before I delve into what I mean here, I will let you read it:

"For they think that it suffices to deny themselves worldly things without annihilating and purifying themselves of spiritual attachment. Wherefore it comes to pass that, when there presents itself to them any of this solid and perfect spirituality, consisting in the annihilation of all sweetness in God, in aridity, distaste and trial, which is the true spiritual cross, and the detachment of the spiritual poverty of Christ, they flee from it as from death, and seek only sweetness and delectable communion with God. This is not self-denial and detachment of spirit, but spiritual gluttony. Herein, spiritually, they become enemies of the Cross of Christ; for true spirituality seeks for God’s sake that which is distasteful rather than that which is delectable; and inclines itself rather to suffering than to consolation; and desires to go without all blessings for God’s sake rather than to possess them; and to endure aridity and afflictions rather than to enjoy sweet communications, knowing that this is to follow Christ and to deny oneself, and that the other is perchance to seek oneself in God, which is clean contrary to love."

            Here St. John of the Cross is explaining in explicit detail how a person can create crosses for himself, while good in itself, yet forget to detach himself from the want for spiritual supplication or spiritual attachment. He writes eloquently on that fact that the 'true spiritual cross' of authentic spiritual aridity, a gift from God, is that which truly unites us the the crucified Christ. Seeking only the 'sweetness and delectable communion with God' is, as he says, 'spiritual gluttony'. This applies so perfectly with the new fitness evangelization of today. While many might know that working out and eating right are good in and of themselves, it is not only to bring our bodies to perfection but train our wills to desire suffering and detachment. Though there will always be joy in the act of bodybuilding there must also be a spiritual search for pleasing God. Without this search the act of bodybuilding is only surface deep and thus unacceptable in the path of perfection.

         St. John of the Cross is calling us to a depth which few have tread. A depth of no desire for consolation or feelings of any kind. Almost inviting the 'Dark Night of the Soul' from God in order to love Him ever more. The fitness culture and the individual embracing it can take this ideal and apply it to his time in the weight room. While we voluntarily suffer for the greater mission of saving souls, we can also cry out to God and pray that we do not become selfish in desiring only the emotional comforts from the sweet and delectable fire of Love. We must desire that while always knowing through faith that God loves us, he will give and take those comforts as He pleases. It is in the act of surrendering our wills that we come to fruition in suffering for Christ. While regular workouts, refraining from sweets, eating for function rather than joy, and pushing through hard goals are all noble and sure ways to serve Christ, we must not miss the bigger picture of surrendering our wills, our actions, our very joys and sorrows to the will of God. This passage is not to downplay the salvific acts of mortification, rather it is to keep the soul operative away from the danger of performing those mortifcations solely for the pleasure we receive in the solaces of God.

        The deeper point of lifting weights and exercising is not to only build a fit instrument for the glory of God and to be used by God but instead is to search, without succor or relief, how to best find true union with the crucified Christ. Next time you are lifting, praise God for His goodness and mercy and let Him know that no matter what feelings of reprise or dryness we may feel the mission will continue. Pray for the grace that what we learn in the weight room will teach us to have the grit to move toward the end goal when the going gets tough. It is akin to lifting on a regular basis yet never seeing real progress but knowing that in the end, this dry period of no muscle growth will lead to bigger and better things. St. John of the Cross was a soulbuilder unlike most any other I have ever read. His insightfulness and talent of writing can bring a bodybuilder to the true heart of the fitness movement, that being Christ Himself.

Our Lady of Good Health, Pray for us!

Check out this video of Fr. Robert Barron and Fr. Steve Grunow about St. John of the Cross at his tomb on today's Word of Fire blog:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vain Irony

                     I have been a bodybuilder for well over 11 years now. In my time of falling more deeply in love with the whole aspect of muscle growth, the pain, the diet, even writing a book about it, I have come to realize that there is a major sector within our Catholic Faith who still only view this as vanity and nothing less. Viewing the fitness culture from the outside I can rightly agree with said arguments, but knowing what I know and have discovered about the heart and beauty of what the lifestyle offers I must heartily disagree with anyone who claims that vanity is the only outcome. One odd irony is that if I were to ask most individuals if it is vanity for a professional (or high school for that matter) athlete to consistently work on their physiques and to properly order their diets most would answer: Of course not. Yet when a layperson (an athlete not in competition) works hard to bring their physique to its pinnacle it is viewed as either daft or a waste of time. Why is that? Is it because competing athletes have a more tangible purpose for their focus? Or is it because we live in such a competitive culture that we see the end goal of winning worth it all?

                    St. Ignatius of Loyola considered his fellow Jesuits as athletes for Christ. Striving for perfection in themselves in order to effectively spread the Word of God. As human beings we have one purpose in this world: to know, love and serve God. Is it vanity to want to serve him with a well-oiled machine? From the statements of many who believe the fitness and bodybuilding culture are purely vain trappings, it can be deduced that there is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the fitness culture. By using the judgments attached to 'muscelheads' one could even go so far as to say that reading a book would be vanity. Both reading and lifting are actions for the betterment of the individual, yet muscle growth is not seen in that light.  In recognizing our physical weaknesses we also recognize our spiritual weaknesses. As long as the focus of the exercising individual is on the Light of Christ and not the limelight of admirers, bodybuilding can give that which the world hates, i.e. self-knowledge and self-control. Two virtues which surely do not bring about vanity but just the opposite, humility. Hard work and dedication to having a body fit for our purpose consistently creates an atmosphere of humility unlike much else.

                    I recently read an article about the link between young men quitting the vice of smoking through the therapeutic nature of exercise. The boys who exercised surpassed all the other groups in improvement. The virtuous nature of lifting weights helped these young men move past their vice. So, is it still vain when the regular use of physical activity can help us grow past our struggles? I think not. Though vanity might be a struggle for many in the mainstream of bodybuilding, this stamp should not be connected with the sport or the culture, but the individuals representing it. What is in crucial need today is men and women of The Church stepping up and becoming that representing individual. This way when those who doubt the virtuous aspect of the fitness culture no longer see the egomaniac but instead the face of Christ Himself. What the fitness culture offers is vast new territories for The Church to evangelize. So, the incorrect notion that it is a lost cause of vanity should be repealed with divine, reckless abandon.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Boldness

              We live in a world where more often than not, people are afraid. Whether it be fear of failure, of standing out, of being truly different or of their own shadows, most men and women today have a very tough time going against the grain of society. While many 'individualists' known for numerous tattoos or piercings claim the title of bold, new or different, they look the same as everyone else trying to be 'individualistc'. True boldness and individuality is not found in embracing or retracting from fear, instead it is found in accepting its presence but not allowing it to take effect. The famous quote of Edmund Burke, the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, explains the dire necessity of boldness in the face of evil and in times like ours, evils' gristly face is no longer hiding, thus the need for bold men of virtue. Such boldness, such strength of heart, can be discovered and excavated in the gym.

              The gym offers a world where each goal and each repetition is only as good as the exertion of energy of which you put forth. If you don't have a mind ready and willing to push through whatever difficulty you may have, then growth is simply not an option. That ability to regularly challenge yourself and to push past any possible hardships creates boldness. Because if you are in a daily routine of either denying yourself something (sweets) or putting more weight on your back (quite literally), you are training not only your body, but your mind and soul as well to see these as simply part of life. So, daily creating a more and more bold spirit will expunge any fear of standing out. Compared to the fear of not getting back up or possibly dropping weight on yourself, standing in front of others and boldly proclaiming truth will be easier. Holding onto something as small as fear of judging eyes will seem obtuse and unreasonable because the end goal is worth so much more than the shrinking unknown.

            In order to become a successful evangelist, boldness is an indispensable virtue. It takes grit to stand in defiance of spiritual tyranny and secular humanism. Learning and training to fight our own weaknesses, growing authentic spiritual muscles, allows for a man to see things for what they are, obstacles meant to be overcome. The greatest saints in history were BOLD. The New Evangelization is going to take men with enough sand to hold their own in a room of pagans and heretics. The gym is where that sand can be found and grown. In my time as a weightlifter, fear of standing out has slowly dissipated. If you or someone you know is having a hard time being the face of Christ in a broken world, perhaps The Iron is the solution through which the Holy Spirit will work its wonders.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Symphony of Iron

           Music has the innate ability to create emotional reactions within the human soul and heart. The beauty of a symphony, the adrenaline rush of a rock song, the contemplative prism of Gregorian Chant, can awaken feelings unlike much else. Our Creator has blessed us with the natural appreciation of such beauty and the ability to create music seems most curiously part of who we are. During the Liturgy of the Mass music is meant to bring us closer to God and contemplating His sacred mysteries. Art and architecture are also excellent means of which humankind 'sub-creates' (borrowing from J.R.R. Tolkien) a vision of God Himself through human means. We see the ever-famous ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, Regensburg Cathedral in Germany or statues like Michelangelo's David and know, to our very core, that this piece or that pillar leads to the transcendent.

           While the discussion of which type of music, art and architecture better draws our soul to the Divine will be an everlasting conversation until death do us part, what is rarely spoken of is what else in this world draws us towards the Divine in such a way. What other acts of 'sub-creation' can we take part in to order ourselves and those we come in contact with to appreciate the good, true and beautiful? Though many might scoff at such a lofty idea the answer for the 'New Asceticist' would quite obviously be THE IRON. Being as we are literally temples of the Holy Spirit, we embody all of the good and beautiful one finds within music, art and architecture and The Iron is the place in which we chip off our defects, correct and tighten any loose chords, and build an intrument worthy of Christ Himself. The Iron and the work it entails exudes motion for the sake of betterment and growth.

           Just as a violinist tunes his violin for the optimum sound quality, we musclemen strive to tune our bodies for the mission of Christ. The divine quality held within the arts, i.e. grace, longing, and beauty are magnified in the gym for those Ironheads who appreciate dedication to physical willpower. The angelic tones of metal on metal and the occasional grunts from exertion remind the participants that this is a place of hard work and manliness, two virtues of God Himself. Our eyes gleam of longing and hope, longing to succeed and to please Christ in our lifting and hope that we will one day fulfill our own mission we are preparing our bodies for. The architectural design of our human bodies allows for possible improvement, could this be a desire from our Creator? To improve for the sake of God Himself? The weight room is full of possibilities. When training for a higher purpose and a mission those possibilities are fully realized. Just as Muhammad Ali used to 'sing that sweet chin music' in the ring, we play a symphony for our Lord when we train to serve Him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Humility

           To the untrained eye, weight lifters, bodybuilders and martial artists contrive a muscle-bound, gleaming view into a psyche leaning toward the barbaric. Glorifying large muscles and the ability to move heavy objects may seem odd and absurd to most. Concluding that egoism and pride are the only possible outcome and driving force, the outside culture looks through the glass of the gym and purely sees the contrived images of men trying to become gods. What is not seen is that deep yearning for growth, not just muscularly, but internally as well. The magazines and mainstream fitness culture does not reveal the depth of character that occurs in the weight room. True dying to self, of which happens often when hitting the weights, consistently grabs man by his throat and reminds him of his humanity and his call to respect the virtue of humility.

        Humility is a tough cookie to swallow at times. Our pride and ego gets in the way and we truly believe that we can fix our problems. Whether it be through politics, talking (yet never saying anything) or striving for financial success we try our hardest to become an object of admiration. The only true test of proper humility is in carrying a cross. The difficulties we face in life may seem impossible, or worse, mortal, yet each and every time we approach one we come out of the struggle with more zeal, passion and life changing grace. This is where the weight room can become a place of trial. Where we realize that we are not superman and that we do, in fact, contain weakness which can only be overcome by recognizing and working on them. There is a confidence in the humility that grows when you lower the weight and realize you just may not finish the rep. You are putting your life, pride and body on the line every time you work out. Humility can only be improved upon through practice. While we are given opportunities every single day to tell ourselves that we are not God, the Iron solidifies that exact principle.
       Through the example of Christ our King, we should take seriously the call to become like innocent children. To become the least in order to become great. If true greatness is in your retinue of fitness goals then realizing the constant battle for humility can be exponentially expounded through focusing on what is happening to you spiritually when you lift. If you go into the gym with the attitude of an ego-maniac, the weights will sure enough smack you around and put you in your proper place. I have seen men, specifically at the large gyms, who walk around as if their sweat is worth more than gold, yet their workouts are lazy and they are more interested in people watching. True growth cannot occur if you are in your own way. Notice and come to terms with where you are at physically, which requires a humbling of your ego, and the sky will be the limit in terms of growth. Even in set-backs, the epitome of physical humility, the humble keep moving, they pick up where they left off and keep striving for that respectful modesty of which the Iron demands.  

"The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices. He is also afraid when we are humble and good." St. Anthony of the Desert

Friday, October 19, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Virtuous Anger

Imagine yourself in a squat rack. You have the plates loaded up, the lifting belt tight around your waist, you shake your head a few times and think of the rage boiling up inside you. It isn't rage at a person or anything in particular, it's a rage from within, an anger flowing from your warrior heart. You then make the sign of the Cross, that insignia feared by Satan himself, and step up to place the bar on your shoulders. You then lift it off the rack and get ready for war. Then after lowering your body to the squatted position your realize, I'm not going back up! What do you do? Do you give up and drop the weight? Do you whine like a little child? Or do you recall that anger, deep within your soul, and remind yourself that this is no day to fail?

What is it about anger that might actually be useful? Being that anger is one of the seven deadly sins it's very interesting to note that it can also become a virtue. We are a people blessed with emotions from a Creator, Who Himself is full of emotion. To block or inhibit those emotions can actually be considered sinful. If someone was to murder your mother and you did not have the emotion of anger within you, either you are missing something psychological, or you are in a sinful state. This isn't to say that anger is an emotion which should be fed, instead what is meant is that as long as anger is properly ordered it can drive the soul towards the Divine. The Iron offers what little else in the created world can, a tangible place where channeled and focused anger can drive results.

            Once again, I do not wish to give credence to the anger of which the world suffers. The anger written in many thrash metal songs is more of a selfish anger, for example, a girl left me, my life makes no sense, I feel lost, etc. This anger is driven from the underworld and leads away from Christ. Virtuous anger, that delectable emotion Jesus used to drive out blasphemers, is instead a selfless emotion. For example, anger at where our country is headed, anger at our own sins and weaknesses, anger that Satan and his minions feel that they can tempt us when our heart and soul belongs to Christ. Peter Kreeft’s Back to Virtue states it in this way “God himself has anger…according to his own word. And to be like God is not sinful. Therefore anger is not by itself sinful."

          It was a holy anger which drove today's saints, Isaac Jogues and John de Brebeuf, to risk their lives converting and evangelizing. The anger that Satan still has a hold on this world will drive a man to do marvelous and wondrous deeds. Uniting that intensity with the focus of Christ crucified leads to a fresh and praiseworthy holiness. Men in particular have a tendency to have a temper, if that temper is directed accordingly with the Gospels, the Holy Spirit will have a tool worth using. The Iron can act as an academia of sorts to teach men, young and old, to rightly order that anger to produce results, instead of demolition. So, next time you are in the squat rack remember where that rage is coming from and direct it towards growth.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Endurance

          Near the end of St. Paul's extraordinary life he gave these words: 'I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.' (2 Tim. 4:7) The message of which deigns the virtue of endurance. Earlier in the same chapter St. Paul also states, 'be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient' (2 Tim. 4:2) which resonates quite well with the world of bodybuilding and strength gaining. In a world where 90% of those wishing to grow healthier quit their routine or diet within 2 weeks, endurance of body will surely educate us on the endurance of the soul.

          The battle to be a faithful Catholic is a daily renunciation of our own wills in order to better understand and unite them with the omniscient will of God, our Father. Due to original sin and the very real and human aspect of concupiscence, our natural tendency to break the laws of God, our wills are too weak to withstand the temptations of the world without the unending grace of a loving Creator. For those struggling with particular sins of greed, anger, sloth, lust or just about any other thoroughly ingrained aspect of our selfish, secularist culture, a solid swap across the back of the head from the Iron might be just what the doctor ordered. The Iron can act as a tangible creed, vowing to never surrender whatever life might throw at you. On the battlefield of sweat there is no middle ground, either you endure and keep moving or you lose.

        Holy endurance demands that the soul continue the fight, or as St. Paul selected the race, with a smile and resolve worthy of heaven. The continual struggle to keep your conscience, and more importantly your soul, gleaming with grace will not accept cowardice. 'For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.'  (2 Tim. 1:7) In the weight room that same spirit of power and love is what keeps us moving. Some days we might wake up and think, 'Why continue? Isn't this all for naught?' but it is the redeeming value of endurance which ignites the fire within us to keep hitting the weights, and to eat tuna and broccoli yet again. That fire, unquenchable in it's journey, is the Most Holy Spirit reminding you that, 'You are a created, loved human being and YOUR LIFE HAS VALUE! Keep moving, keep striving for perfection to honor your Creator!'

      In times of peril it is endurance which wins each battle and ultimately leads to a victorious war. In the weight room it is endurance to complete each set, rep after rep, day after day, which leads to better health, a more ascetic spirituality and the wherewithal to face the challenges in life like a soldier.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Iron Philosophy: Intensity


This is to be the first post of what I am calling 'Iron Philosophy'. Why call it that you might ask. Well in my experience the 'Iron' or the unforgiving steel which can smack you around teaches us much about life, and if philosophy is the discovery of a meaning in life then the Iron has a few lessons to offer. Thus these postings will be considered an academy of muscle.

           Revelation 3:16 tells us that, "Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth." What this says to me is that if you live without passion, without a goal or purpose worth dying for, you are unworthy of the Body of believers. For a human body to vomit there must be an organism or bacteria within which the body is forced to reject, causing nausea and the act of 'puking'. So, in other words, Revelation is stating that a soul without intensity, whether for good or evil, is incapable of working with and for the rest of the body. I say 'for good or evil' because Christ can work with those who are his enemies, he would just need to steer the passion in the correct direction, as seen in the conversion of Saul to St. Paul. Flim-flamsiness or weakness of heart is seen as worse than direct evil. So what can the Iron teach us about living, breathing and dying intensely?

         Anyone who has put their body weight on a steel bar and lifted it directly over his face and then lowered it down onto his chest (bench press) might be able to tell you a thing or two about intensity. Without a passion for what is going on in the weight room there are two options, quitting or getting hurt, neither of which I suggest. It takes a moment of rage to be able to move that kind of weight several times. That rage comes from the heart of the person lifting. Whether it evolves from stress, anger or happiness being in the presence of such intensity is enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The beauty of the Iron is that it creates a momentary focusing of all your problems and gives it a safe and healthy environment to express itself. Intensity will automatically flow from a situation of life or death.

         At the heart of intensity lies desire. Whether it be a desire for physical strength or holiness it takes hunger to reach the upper limits of human intensity. The saints have all had intensity, expressed individually through their own characteristics and interests, but don't kid yourself and think that jolly Ole' Nick or St. Teresa of Avila weren't intense. The many martyrs of our Faith donned intensity as an everyday need. For many it took years of inflaming that passion with the never-ending love of God to withstand the tortures of evil. Intensity of soul is likened to putting 1,000 pounds on your back and squatting down, it may sound more like insanity to most but to those in the grimy battle of growing in strength, this feat is something to be revered. Saving souls and spreading the Gospel takes this kind of intensity. 

         History remembers those who lived life to the fullest and the Iron can teach us, like a Socrates to the Catholic Church's Thomas Aquinas, about creating and keeping that God-given heart of a lion within all of us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Muscular Catholicism: Strong Arm of The Church

           In the past year or two I have had the incredible opportunity to meet some of the most amazing men in the Catholic world today. All with their own talents and passions but two things unite every single one of us, that being the love of the unforgiving, unrelenting, beautiful Iron and the all-encompassing, ever-loving, masculine Catholic Church. Though many might misunderstand the world of sweat and muscle, these men have an unspoken bond, a cohesive vision of what it means to desire perfection. Crying out to those within and out of The Church to appreciate their health while never pointing finger at those who don't. Creating a motivational arm of our Faith in which those God brings into their lives extract the passion to live life to the fullest. These men are not afraid of their masculinity, instead they embrace it with divine, reckless abandon. They see their time in the weight room as a just and rightful extension of their ever growing knowledge of our Lord and a deepening of their spiritual lives. These men veritably want to be the superheroes they grew up watching, the heroes whose might and muscles were as large and strong as their characters. 

           One of the most interesting aspects of our visits was how quickly a deep friendship grew. One of the beauties of our Catholic Faith is that it unites those from different backgrounds into one, common people, never leaving their culture or interests behind but intertwining the truths of The Faith within their own selves. So I know that a large factor in these growing friendships was due to our love of Christ and His Church. Though I must admit that I have met many others who are just as devout yet the authentic coalition didn't delve as deeply. When diving into the difference of these new acquaintances and many of the others that I have met I realized that between our love of Catholicism and our love of the Iron there was an instant esteem and respect for one another on a level that usually takes men years to create. I firmly believe that our union of blood, sweat and tears for Christ and the bodies He granted us with, allowed for instantaneous harmony of wills. We all understand what internal warfare is and love the truly Catholic ideals of sacrifice, devotion and dedication. The harsh conditions of calloused hands and sore muscles united us as brothers in warfare. Each of them with their own talents, backgrounds, and stories yet the passion for health and fitness united us eternally.

         My friend Kevin Vost, whom I have never had face-to-face time with but have had several conversations over the phone and e-mail, is a Mensa society, ex-atheist, with a passion for The Church, philosophy, the power of the mind and deep theological thought. When I asked him if he would be willing to write a foreword for my book he barely hesitated and the rest is history. He has had first hand experience with the great Mike Mentzer and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about the human body and its capacities. An inspiring renaissance man of today, Kevin has been spreading the message of fitness for many years.

         Fr.  Rafael Capo, who I had the pleasure of working out with, is a Piarist priest dedicated to the Hispanic mission through the Southeast Pastoral Institute (SEPI). He is a lifetime bodybuilder and trains with some of the men competing on stage in Miami. Our long conversation was riddled with the beauty of training and why the message of faith and fitness must grow in the Catholic world. Willing and able to talk theology with anyone, his massive presence alone generates respect by those in the gym. Built like the Hulk but profoundly gentle in nature I am convinced that his witness effects many.  

         Fr. Steve Grunow of Word on Fire Ministries, a man after Christ's own heart, is a devoted fitness guru convinced that physical exercise can change lives. He and I competed in a historical death match in the guise of pull-ups and chin-ups, soon to be viewed by the masses thanks to the amazing team over at Word on Fire. Speaking with him and being blessed with a private Mass in his hotel room impacted me deeply. His profound wisdom and deep holiness has made him into a St. Bernard of Clairvaux for the 21st century.

        Lastly, my most recent acquaintance was Matt Gordon, a self-supporting Benedictine Oblate Hermit. Also known as Brother Donkey, a name chosen for laughs and seriousness, he is a man among men. He has a history of professional wrestling from which the fire and passion can be seen gleaming in his eyes as we discussed many topics, ranging from good literature to Thomas Aquinas to the many different martial arts around the world. Benedictine in spirit and personality but a hardcore crusader at heart, Matt personifies grace and strength.  

       Thanks to Divine Providence I was blessed and honored to be associated with these men. They are inspiring and motivating, each with their own talents and gifts but one congealed passion. A passion for Truth and strength. These men have sacrifice for breakfast and dedication for dinner.

Who motivates you to hit the gym and to grow in your relationship with Christ? 
Leave a comment below with your answer.
- A winner will be chosen at random for a free, signed copy of my book 'The Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights'