Saint Paul’s exhortation, “Run so as to win,” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24) resonates deeply within my heart as I reflect on the completion of my second marathon this October – a grueling 26.2-mile endeavor. This marathon journey closely mirrored the ascent described in the Isaiah 2: “Come, let us climb the mountain of the Lord.” While my inaugural marathon took place in Philadelphia last year, this year’s challenge unfolded in the hilly terrain of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Running a marathon is a profound metaphor for the voyage of life and the progression of one’s spiritual journey as a missionary disciple. In traversing 26.2 miles, you learn invaluable lessons about yourself and your connection with Jesus.
The question arises: How does one train for a marathon, nurture relationships with family and friends, and dedicate effort to performing a full-time job with excellence? The answer, I’ve found, lies in the grace of God and the practice of daily prayer. Through the total surrender of seeking only His will, life became simple for me. I gave my best in each moment and left the rest to Him.
Along with a training regimen of two to three short runs during the week and a long run every Saturday, I maintained, not without falling, the disciplines of discipleship: prayer, virtue, and self-gift. In turn, I received the gift of being surrounded by selfless cheerleaders to support and encourage me. My husband stood tall as my most dedicated supporter, offering nutritional guidance and comforting reassurance during moments of self-doubt and bouts with low sodium. His dedication to martial arts and a regular gym routine served as a model of consistency and commitment. He also spent time with me in the silent morning hours in prayer and presence. Friends sacrificed our time together to support my hours of training. This provided for me unwavering encouragement from near and far. Equally, my colleagues at work played a pivotal role by expressing their support, checking in on my progress, and offering words of affirmation. Our team-approach helps us to focus more effectively on our responsibilities to our high schools and schools of special education. The love and support of those around me spur me on.
In the intricate dance of running and life, the principle of finishing what you start and making the most of it emerges as a guiding beacon. This journey teaches us that, with the grace of God, we are capable of juggling multiple goals and accomplishing great feats. It’s essential to remain open to opportunities and be prepared to seize them when they arise, savoring the sense of progress after enduring weeks of setbacks.
In marathon training, we confront hyper-extended muscles, the grind of sluggish runs when our legs feel like jelly, and the unrelenting early morning alarm buzzers on Saturdays. Runners, in solidarity, understand the challenges of our sport and the necessity of each other’s support. This solidarity is not only a hallmark of running but also a life principle. It is one that we practice with our loved ones, strangers in the market, and anyone whom God places in our path. We share and support, offering our understanding of God’s word, our experiences of living His word, and our personal testimonies of how Jesus Christ has brought profound blessings into our lives, even after life’s setbacks. We call upon the Holy Spirit to empower us with love, passion, determination, and surrender.
A sense of true joy and relief fills us when we accompany others on their journeys, witnessing as they come to know Jesus and share the remarkable ways. He has transformed their lives, even in the challenge of running 26.2 miles.
In our Catholic schools, we employ similar training by pursuing best practices, recruiting and retaining exceptional educators, and maintaining academic rigor, all while placing our Lord at the center of our mission. There are moments in education when we may feel like we’ve stretched ourselves to the limit, when we move slowly under the weight of exhaustion, and when the demands of our work seem overwhelming. Much like a marathon, these are the times when we question our resolve. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit, refills us with love, passion, determination, and surrender. The Holy Spirit reminds us that God’s goodness prevails in our schools, in our lives, and in every challenging situation we face.
Running a marathon and navigating life’s trials serve as tests of our virtues. We set our pace with the grace of God, keeping our sights fixed on the eternal finish line, where we are met with open arms by all the angels and saints, welcomed into the embrace of God the Father. We finish the race victoriously every time we run with Jesus by our side, leaving us with the certainty that we’ll run another marathon.
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