Listen to Mike & Ron on Catholic Radio!

<strong>GRN Alive Radio Show</strong>Mike and I were extremely honored to be on the GRN Alive radio show which is hosted by our fellow Brother in Christ, Dave Palmer.

During the show we talk about how, and why, we started Intentional Encounter before exploring our mission and what we hope to accomplish.  Dave also asked Ron about his battle with sports addiction!

It’s a short 11 minute interview so please check it out!  And please share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from living a more intentional life!

By the way, if you ever wondered what we look like… Ron is closest to the window in the light blue shirt and Mike is the handsome looking dude in the grey shirt!

Click the play button below to hear the interview. You can also download a copy of the audio file by clicking here.

Protect and Serve: Loving as Christ Loves the Church

Protect & ServeIt’s the middle of the night… I’m suddenly woken to the sound of glass shattering and wood splintering. My heart begins to race as I grab my sidearm from the nightstand. My eyes quickly begin to adjust due to the shot of adrenaline.

I console my panicked wife that everything will be ok as I rush out of our bedroom door and scan left down the hall. I notice immediately that the doors to our kids’ rooms are still shut.

I begin to scan right and break the corner leading into the living room. There stands a masked man holding his weapon. With swift and precise force, I dispatch the assailant in order to protect my family from someone who had come to do them harm and take what was not his.

For the past ten years this drama and various other versions have played through my head. This had become my expectation of what it meant to live out the masculine attribute of being a protector. I felt somehow that in order to fulfill this longing to protect, I would have to battle an aggressor, someone willing to harm my family.

As a police officer, I’ve responded to incidents which upon arrival to a disturbance call I was greeted by the shrieking screams of a female calling for help and the booming sound of a man unleashing his wrath on her.

I immediately responded by breaching the door in order to protect the weak and bring justice to the aggressor. You would think with my idea of what a protector was, these incidents would have been the pinnacle of my masculinity. Finally, the ability to fulfill my role as protector. But this was not the feeling I had at all… I only responded to a need, dutifully.

The reality is that most of us will never be faced with such Hollywood type scenarios. So is this role of protector a fleeting myth? How are we called to protect our wives and our families? It’s become apparent to me that we are indeed made to protect our bride, but it must start by protecting her from ourselves.

We’re called to protect her from the guy with disordered passions who can’t say no to the next beer, or the game, or the click of the mouse. Until we men do battle with our passions that have run amuck, we can never truly protect our wives or children because they’ll feel that their safety is at risk with the man whose desires dominate his decisions.

By becoming intentional about breaking the habits that pester us and surrendering to the divine help of Christ, we can gradually become the protectors that we’re all called to be. Just as self-discipline is critical for the soldier or police officer to perform their duties, it’s just as critical for every man to have an interior life that’s steeped in self-mastery.

We must reflect on our habits and honestly assess where we’re too lax or too rigid in our lives. Are we disposed to laziness? Or on the other side of the coin, are we too rigid? Do we tend towards workaholism? Other times we can tend towards laxity and fall to lust or lean towards puritanism and maintain a distorted view of the body which can lead to a resentment of women.

To all of these interior battles, Christ provides the tactics that ensure success. We are to take on His dispositions and see the world as He sees it; these views are called the virtues.

So rather than laziness or workaholism, Christ shows us that we’re called to be diligent. Instead of being chained to lust or prudishness, Christ demonstrates our call to a life of chastity.

Protector; we know that this attribute of masculinity is stamped right into our bodies, we’re all called to lay our lives down for the other. Through the continual training and ordering of our passions, we can begin to taste true freedom which allows us to provide protection for our brides.  And as she senses you growing in freedom to love her the way Christ loves the Church: totally, freely, faithfully and fruitfully she’ll open up and allow herself to be loved by her true man, her protector.

Intentional Supplementation: Protein, Creatine, and More!

Intentional SupplementationIf you hope to lose weight, gain strength, and eventually maintain a healthy lifestyle you must be intentional about the things you put into your body.

And, while working out and exercising is an extremely important part of the equation what we put into our bodies is far more critical.

Now, for me, I’ve gravitated towards a Paleo diet, which basically calls for lots of grass-fed meat, fresh veggies, and good fats like avocado and coconut oil. I also try to eat some starchy carbs like sweet potatoes in the evening to help fuel my morning workouts. Eating carbs later in the day also helps me sleep better.

But, with all of this said, I also consume some high quality supplements since even clean, organic, food is not always grown in nutrient dense soil. And even though I try to eat clean in restaurants you can be sure these foods aren’t of the highest quality.

So, what I’d like to do in this article is share a few of the supplements I personally take. As we’ve said many times before… please don’t think you need to copy everything Mike and I say and do… but, if you’re interested in experimenting with supplementation this article can help you get started.

Protein Powder

proteinBased on my body weight and activity level I aim to consume around 140 grams of protein each day. And, to be sure, I do my best to get most of this from things like wild caught salmon, grass-fed beef, and grass-fed chicken.

Now, one 8-ounce chicken breast contains around 54 grams of protein so over the course of a day it’s possible to get to 140 grams… but, to ensure I do, I almost always consume at least one protein shake which contains around 20 grams of whey protein.

I love the Dr. Axe brand… particularly the vanilla flavor. There are definitely cheaper options out there but, as with most things, I really do believe you get what you pay for and the Dr. Axe brand is organic and tastes fantastic.

I normally add some frozen organic blackberries to make it cold and give it a little zing. I also use water to mix it all up but I suppose you could use milk but I don’t drink much milk so water works best for me.

Creatine

optimum-micronized-creatine-powderThe next supplement I have begun to take daily is creatine. The research shows that creatine can increase strength while also increasing muscle mass.

Creatine is primarily stored in our muscles and we can get it naturally from things like red meat. But, like many things, our bodies can benefit from additional supplementation.

When you supplement creatine your body creates additional ATP… often called the body’s energy currency.

Simply put, additional creatine can help you squeeze out a few extra pull-ups or push-ups, which makes you stronger!

Creatine is also known to help muscles store more water, which can aid muscle growth.

Now, to be sure, there are LOTS of choices when it comes to creatine. After lots of research I’ve started to take Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder. It dissolves well and is tasteless.

You can “load up” when you first start taking creatine… but I simply take 1 teaspoon per day in my protein shake. Since I have some fruit in my shake my insulin levels increase a bit which helps shuttle the creatine into my muscles. Some use grape juice to take creatine but I prefer my protein shake method.

Vitamin D3 & K2

vitamin dOK, the next supplement I’d like to share is Vitamin D3 and K2. Make no mistake… the best way to “produce” vitamin D is from the sun. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get to spend as much time in the sun as we’d like… especially during the winter months so additional supplementation is important.

And, as it turns out, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the US… studies have shown the average to be around 42%!

Thanks to my amazing wife, who was healthy long before me, we’ve been taking this Vitamin D3/K2 supplement for some time. Research has shown that vitamin D3 and K2 work very well together since they’re “fat-soluble.” And since this particular brand has both we’re all set!

Fermented Cod Liver Oil

cod liver oilFinally, my family also supplements with Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Now, before your gag reflexes go crazy please know we take this in capsule form so it’s super easy to take.

Simply put, fermented cod liver oil is extremely high in Omega-3s which are so important when dealing with things like insulin resistance.

My wife’s favorite blogger (I like her to!) Katie (aka Wellness Mama) wrote up a terrific article on the benefits of FCLO so be sure to check that out if you want to learn more.

What About You?

I’ve also taken a probiotic in the past to help improve my “gut health” but I’m not currently taking this today which is why I didn’t include it above… but some folks swear by them especially if you’ve needed to take antibiotics or other medications.  Yes, antibiotics kill the bad stuff… but they also kill lots of good bacteria which is where probiotics can help.

I’d be curious to hear about the supplements you take… and why you take them.  Feel free to comment below since others will likely benefit from your experience as well!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

What in the WOD?

What in the WODIn the Intentional Wellness eBook you may have come across some strange acronyms that you weren’t familiar with. You may have even wondered if this is some military jargon? The funny sounding acronyms, which are usually used to describe different workout schemes and patterns, are derived from the CrossFit world.

I designed the work out plan using my experience and knowledge as a CrossFit instructor, so a lot of the verbiage used comes from Greg Glassman’s CrossFit programming. I wanted to provide you with some of the common terms you will come across and provide a key so that we are all on the same sheet of music.

For starters, CrossFit is defined as constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity.

While this basic model was used for the Intentional Wellness eBook and other workouts which will be available soon, I’m aiming to throttle back on the traditional CrossFit approach so that everyone can incrementally and intentionally increase their individual fitness capacity without having to throw up after a workout in order to feel like you accomplished something.

As you scroll to find out what’s coming up next in your workout program, here is a key that you can reference of some commonly used terms.

Fitness Term Key

  • AMRAP: As Many Rounds (sometimes Reps) as Possible
  • BS: Back squat
  • BW (or BWT): Body weight
  • CFT: CrossFit Total – consisting of max squat, press, and deadlift.
  • CLN: Clean
  • C&J: Clean and jerk
  • C2: Concept II rowing machine
  • DL: Deadlift
  • FS: Front squat
  • HSPU: Hand stand push up. Kick up into a handstand (use wall for balance, if needed) bend arms until nose touches floor and push back up.
  • HSQ: Hang squat (clean or snatch). Start with bar “at the hang,” about knee height. Initiate pull. As the bar rises drop into a full squat and catch the bar in the racked position. From there, rise to a standing position
  • KB: Kettlebell
  • KTE: Knees to elbows.
  • ME: Maximum Effort
  • MetCon: Metabolic Conditioning workout
  • MU: Muscle ups. Hanging from rings you do a combination pull-up and dip so you end in an upright support.
  • OHS: Overhead squat. Full-depth squat performed while arms are locked out in a wide grip press position above (and usually behind) the head.
  • PC: Power clean
  • Pd: Pood, weight measure for kettlebells
  • PR: Personal record
  • PP: Push press
  • PSN: Power snatch
  • PU: Pull-ups, or possibly push ups depending on the context
  • Rep: Repetition. One performance of an exercise.
  • Round: A number of repetitions, e.g., 3 rounds of 10 reps, also known as a set.
  • Rx’d; as Rx’d: As prescribed; as written.
  • RM: Repetition maximum. Your 1RM is your max lift for one rep. Your 10 RM is the most you can lift 10 times.
  • SDHP: Sumo deadlift high pull
  • T2B: Toes to Bar. Hang from bar. Bending only at waist raise your toes to touch the bar, slowly lower them and repeat.
  • TGU: Turkish get-up
  • WOD: Workout of the day
  • YBF: You’ll Be Fine (liberally applied in spray form)

Hopefully this quick reference will help you get started on your intentional wellness plan and beyond. If you haven’t already, download your free Wellness Plan by filling out the form below this article!

The True Story of My Sports Addiction

sports addictionWhen I started the 90-day Exodus program this past Ash Wednesday I knew there would be challenges. I mean cold showers? Not easy. No alcohol? Not easy. No Internet unless it’s work related? Not easy.

And while there have been many other challenges I most definitely felt tension a few weeks ago on opening day of Major League Baseball.

Opening Day is Today?

Now, believe it or not, I didn’t even know when opening day was and only learned my beloved Texas Rangers were kicking their season off when a colleague of mine mentioned it. I’ve been that “disconnected” from the sports scene.

Again, I definitely felt some anxiety when I learned that the first pitch was about to be thrown around 3:05 PM. In fact, to deal with this anxiety I decided to visit our Lord in the quiet of my beautiful parish for a Holy Hour.

And, as I sat in that quiet, extremely peaceful, church visiting our Lord I began to ponder the way I had approached sports in the past.

You see, coming clean, I’ve had a serious problem many men reading this may be able to relate to. And to explain allow me to set the scene from last year’s baseball season.

Read Daddy, Read!

It’s around 7:30 PM and I have one kid on my lap and two more beside me and we’re reading books. A lot of books! Oh, and first pitch of the Rangers game was at 7:05 PM so the game is well underway.

Now, my cell phone is strategically placed (screen down of course) on the arm of the couch I’m sitting in. And, as I finish a book I turn the phone over, unlock it, and hit refresh in order to see what’s happened since I last checked 3 minutes ago.

And, sadly, I’m not exaggerating at all. In fact, if it was a “really” important game I may even check during the middle of the book! How sad is that?

Once we were done reading books I’d then rush us through some evening prayers before kissing the kids and rushing down to the TV to assume the position. Wait, I forgot the wine. I’d definitely grab some wine and maybe some junk food if I could find any.

And, Lord have mercy, if any of my kids got out of bed they were sure to meet my wrath!

So, there I was… a fat… extremely lazy man drinking wine and eating junk food while watching the Texas Rangers play baseball until possibly midnight when it was a West Coast game.

There’s no doubt about it… I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with sports. And, unfortunately, one of the sports I love is baseball, which has 162 stinking games in their season!

Is Baseball Evil?

So, this brings us to an obvious question.  Is baseball, in and of itself, evil? The answer, of course, is no. It’s not evil. Just like college football or basketball or any other sport isn’t evil.

But, what happened to me, and seems to have happened to many men I know is that we’ve placed sports on such a high pedestal our prayer and family life suffers.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would never, ever, miss Mass for a game. But I would most definitely rush – or even skip – prayer time if a game was calling my name.

And I would most definitely sacrifice family time for sports. Sure, I’d read the books… but I wasn’t really there. I was more interested in a damn baseball game and, to be honest, it ticks me right off thinking about it.

I mean what sort of man places more importance on a stupid baseball or college football game than his own kids? I’ll tell you… me. I did. For many, many, many years.

It’s a New Day

But, thanks be to God, as a result of clearing out all of the distractions this world throws at us these past 70+ days I’ve come to realize how disordered my life has been in so many ways.

And, while we’re still sorting out the details of what our Exodus group plans to do on day 91 (and beyond) one thing is for sure… I plan to do everything in my power to never, ever, allow things like sports to come before my faith, family, work, and friends.

And, even better, my Exodus brothers know how badly I’ve struggled in this area of my life and they’re prepared to hold me accountable as I am them for the crosses they carried into this battle.

What About You?

So, what about you? Do you have an unhealthy habit of placing too much importance on your favorite sports team?

Here’s one way to assess… if you added up the time you focused on your weekly spiritual life (prayer, reading scripture, attending Mass, etc.) would it be greater than the time you invested in sports (watching games, listening to games, reading news articles, etc.) that same week?

Now, if after this assessment you come to realize you have a problem – like I did – please don’t despair. You can change. But you most likely can’t do it alone. Only God can deliver you so you must bring this problem to Him in prayer. And if you have a spiritual advisor bring it to them as well.

And, make no mistake my dear brothers in Christ, if you really want to accelerate the process seek out 3 other men and start your own Exodus group. You won’t regret it.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups.

How Will Your Child Know God?

How Will Your Child Know God

And Behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).

Due to the work of Jesus Christ, our redeemer, the curtain that kept us from unity with God has been forever torn in two. When the soldier thrust his lance into the side of our Lord blood and water flowed out, the curtain was torn open, and we all were given access to His Most Sacred Heart.

Recently while our family was gathering in the kitchen to prepare for dinner, my 10-year-old son said, “I don’t think Jesus looked like that on the Cross.”

Having caught my attention, I asked him what he thought He looked like. “I think he’s got big muscles and a hairy chest.”  I had to pause for a moment before I could respond… he was describing me!

I gathered my thoughts and explained that indeed sometimes sacred art misses the mark of who they are trying to convey. I told him that I thought he was right, Jesus was a very strong man, and wasn’t the skinny figure often depicted on so many crucifixes. He was a carpenter for crying out loud… he had to have had big calloused hands and broad shoulders from carrying heavy lumber to do his work.

I also gave him a glimpse into the strength that Jesus must have had to carry a 110lb wood beam up hill to Golgotha after being beaten within an inch of His life and going without food or water for hours.

When I began to reflect how my son had described the way Jesus looked on the cross, it became a palpable reality that I am the face of God to him. Fathers in particular have a crucial and distinct role to convey to our children something of who God is. Our children’s first and longest lasting impression of who God is lies in the hands of their father.

Most of us can relate to this truth if we contemplate how our dad’s came off to us growing up and then dig into our image of God at that time. The two almost always mirror each other. We may have viewed God, or perhaps still do, as cold, distant, or harsh. This is not who God is, but if we don’t allow Him to tell us who He is through Scripture and the Eucharist then we tend to construct our own image of who He is through our past experiences.

Just as we were all given access to God the Father through the Most Sacred Heart of His Son, our children are given access to Jesus through us… their dads.

This is a great responsibility, too big for any one of us to handle. It’s crucial that we run to Jesus so we can come to know Him, and allow Him to pour His divine life into each of us in order that we share it with others… especially our children. There’s no better place to encounter the lover of your soul than in the Eucharist.

So, I challenge each of you to consider your image of Jesus. Does this image coincide with what’s been revealed to us through Scripture? What image of God are you giving your son(s) or daughter(s)? Would He appear distant, annoyed, put off… or is He joyful, interested, and merciful?

We need to become like Jesus. So go to Him in the Blessed Sacrament and spend time there asking how we fall short of conveying Him to our children.

Make time this week to encounter Him in a holy hour. Become intentional about what’s important to you. Go to Mass and receive His divine life which He desperately wants to share with you. Allow Him to show you who He is!

Man is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, [and he] cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self (Gaudium et Spes 24).

Ron’s Fitness Update: After 4 Months

By Ron PereiraWorkout 1On December 11, 2015 I began my physical journey towards better health. You can see workout #1 in the image above… 10 push-ups, crunches, and air squats.

A week or so before this image was taken I had asked Mike if he’d program some workouts for me… realizing I was in horrible shape. And by horrible I mean to say I could barely do 20 push-ups.

Mike was kind enough to help me out as he created what eventually morphed into the 40-day Intentional Wellness workout plan that can be downloaded for free by completing the form at the bottom of this article.

Now, 4 months later, I’m happy to report I’ve come a long, long way! Recently, at a Troop 5 of St. George campout I managed to do 59 push-ups during our “how many push-ups can you do in 1 minute contest!”

Of course I came in second place… Intentional Encounter’s own Mike Short did 65! But, hey, if you would have told me I’d be able to do 59 push-ups in 1 minute back in December I would have laughed in your face!

So what I want to do in this article is share a few of my experiences. What’s been great? What’s been hard? And what my goals are moving forward.

My Approach

I’ve now settled into a 5 day per week workout plan. I rest on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s and do some sort of CrossFit workout on the other days.  I’m also slowly converting my barn into a gym so the commute is awesome! Mike’s loaned me a bunch of his old equipment, which has been great!

In the beginning Mike programmed mostly body weight workouts that really helped me build a solid foundation. He then slowly introduced things like 400-meter runs, pull-ups, kettle bell swings, and most recently dead lifts into my workouts.

Here’s what I’ve done the last two workouts.

  • 12 Minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible):

What I’ve Struggled With

So what’s been hard? That’s easy to answer. Jump roping!

Luckily, Mike’s been coaching me up and showing me what I’ve been doing wrong and while I’m still not great at it… I’m getting better.

The running has also been hard for me… especially since it’s always worked into some multi-round workout where I’m also doing things like squats and kettle bell swings.

For example, a recent workout had me doing the following:

What’s Been Great?

This is also easy… several of my kids have started to work out with me every morning! They wake up on their own and are ready to go hard. It’s been awesome to see them putting in so much effort… and hearing them cheer me on during my workouts has been fantastic!

I’ve had them focused on body weight workouts with some running worked in.  Here’s what my kiddos (age 13, 11, 9, and 7) did this morning:

And, for me, I’ve loved all the push-ups and have enjoyed getting better at pull-ups. I still have a long way to go… but I’m getting there.

My Goals for Next 45 Days

My goals, as it relates to working out, are to improve at jumping rope and, God willing, be able to begin double unders later this summer! But, yeah, I have a ways to go there.

I also want to get stronger at pull-ups and get decent at kipping pull-ups.

But, to be sure, I’m in no hurry and look forward to many years of functional workouts!

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Cheers!

By Mike Short

cheersDo you ever wonder why you can’t get rid of that fat around your gut… your beer belly?  This may seem obvious, but it could be the beer you drink.

Alcohol has a unique process when it enters our bodies which can increase the likelihood of accumulating fat, especially in our midsection. Personally, I believe alcohol has its place and certainly can be a fun way to celebrate special occasions like Solemnities and special feast days, but all too often we let it become a self-medicating tool to deal with stress or anxiety. In addition, from a health perspective, alcohol can make it really hard to drop those pounds we all want to part ways with so that we can look and feel better.

How it Works

Here’s how it works. When alcohol enters our bodies it is split into two categories, fat and acetate [1]. The fat is taken into the bloodstream and is stored, while the acetate can’t be stored but has to be used as the primary energy source. The body doesn’t metabolize the acetate like normal protein, carbohydrates and fats that are in our food, so it shuts those off and only runs on the acetate. Guess what happens to the protein, carbs and fat that were digesting before you threw down your first beer? You got it, right to the beer belly. Due to the excess good energy (protein, carbs and fat) not being burned they get converted to fat and stored right in that spare tire.

Drinking alcohol also gives people a case of the munchies. As we get in a relaxed mood from our favorite IPA or glass of wine, it becomes much easier to indulge in unhealthy snack foods. The more we drink, the more we tend to eat. Alcohol also causes the brain to release the powerful hormone called dopamine, which is the pleasure and addiction hormone, so it often results in a physiological desire to continue to eat and drink more [2].

The hormone called cortisol is also released when we drink alcohol which is known to cause the body to break down muscle. The effect of increased cortisol in the body decreases the hormone testosterone which it turns out, helps the body to burn fat. So you are simultaneously burning less fat and breaking down muscle!

What would Jesus drink?

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Recently while listening to a homily by Bishop Robert Barron, The First of the Signs, he preached on a familiar story from the Gospel of John, the miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana.

During the story, while Jesus and Mary are at a wedding feast, which in the Jewish culture would last several days, Mary points out to Jesus a culturally embarrassing faux paw. Mary tells Jesus “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus responds to Mary and refers to her as “Woman”. This language used by Jesus harkens the word used in Genesis to describe Eve. In this way, Jesus is referring to Mary in a particular context in which she represents the whole human race.

Bishop Barron goes on to describe how this story has deep meaning on multiple levels, so when Mary says that they are out of wine, she is not only speaking on the practical level, but she is also communicating on the deeper symbolic and spiritual level. Mary is referring to a great lack in the heart of the whole human race.

On this spiritual level Barron describes how “wine in the bible is a symbol of the exuberance and intoxication of the divine life. When God is in us we are lifted up, rendered joyful, transfigured, our minds and our hearts are renewed.”

Think of how the effect of good wine has on us “the intoxicating and uplifting effect.” This can be seen as an image of the power of the divine life operating in us. So we can see how Christ can replenish our lack with the divine life.

Seeing wine and spirits from this perspective can help us to see how God draws us to himself in all things. He wants to communicate his divine plan through his creation, but we all too often become infatuated with the gift, and forget the giver. We tend to seek the temporary joy that an intoxicating drink may provide for our own pleasure rather than allowing it to point us towards the divine life which promises true and everlasting joy.

While having a drink or two can be enjoyable, it’s helpful to understand how it effects our bodies and our goals of self-mastery, but perhaps it is more beneficial to contemplate the deeper meaning of what we are all truly seeking in that intoxicating and joyful state that good wine can provide…a share in the divine life!

[1] https://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/article-archive/how-alcohol-makes-you-fat/

[2] http://www.naturalnews.com/035319_alcohol_body_fat_calories.html#

Magnifying the Lord: To Jesus Through Mary

magnifying the lordEarlier this morning I was following my normal morning routine that consists of some spiritual reading before my kids wake up and we all charge out to the barn for our morning workout.

Specifically, I found myself reading the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel.  This brought me to a sentence I’ve read, and heard, many times.

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” Luke 1:46-48 RSV-CE.

Again, we’ve all likely heard these beautiful words from the “Canticle of Mary” many times before. But, as I sat in my pitch-black living room, reading these words from my iPhone screen, one particular phrase caught my attention: My soul magnifies the Lord.

Specifically, the word that really stopped me in my tracks, for whatever reason, was “magnifies.”

Now, the full canticle is also referred to as the “Magnificat” since the Latin version of this text uses the verb magnificat, which, literally translated, means magnifies.

What Does It Mean to Magnify the Lord?

The question I pondered, and continue to ponder, is quite simple: What does it mean to magnify the Lord?  And, more specifically, how does our Lady’s soul magnify the Lord?

Well, during my research for this article I came across a beautifully written response to this same question:

So how does Mary “magnify” the Lord? Mary magnifies Him in a similar way as a magnifying glass enlarges and allows us to see whatever we are looking at even better! The magnifying glass doesn’t change the object we are looking at, but enables us to see better all that the object is.

Mary “magnifies” the Lord because God is seen by us as even greater than we may have imagined. He is able to enclose His Infinite Son within the womb of His little human creature. He is so loving that He stoops toward this poor young girl in Nazareth and makes her the Mother of God. What a wonder!

The whole hymn of Mary goes on to praise God for all that He has done. She sings for joy knowing that Jesus is the Promised One Who will redeem us. He Who is mighty has done great things for her! Holy is His Name.

So, while there are likely far more articulate theological explanations available, it would seem accurate to say that our Blessed Mother is, in fact, able to help us better see and experience our Lord if we’d only let her.

Put another way, Mary’s soul, if we choose to look through it, will indeed magnify the Lord.

Do We Magnify the Lord?

And while sacred scripture is clear about Mary’s role in this magnification process… what about us?

Do our souls magnify the Lord? Do people see, and experience, our Lord in a more profound way as a result of the way they see us living our lives and interacting with them?

Perhaps this is something we can all take to prayer in the coming days.  In fact, I’m quite confident our Lady would be interested in hearing from us on this very topic.

Bad Translations

Finally, some bible translations, including the USCCB version, swap the word magnifies with proclaims.  Some Protestant translations use the word praises.

Unfortunately, it would seem, these latter translations are less than ideal. My good friend, and fellow Troops of St. George Brother in Christ, Dr. Taylor Marshall wrote an excellent article on this very topic where he breaks down the Greek… so if you’re into that sort of thing I’d encourage you to check it out.

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!

Three Keys to Fitness: Squat, Squat and Squat some more!

CrossFit Squat

“There is a compelling tendency among novices… to quickly move past the fundamentals” – Greg Glassman, CrossFit Founder and CEO.

Most of us have experienced this tendency in one way or another in our lives. We begin to learn about something that interests us and we want to push past the tedious work of ingraining the fundamentals and get to the good stuff.

We want to crush a golf ball 300 yards down the fairway before we know how to grip the club, we want to hunt the biggest game on an African safari before we know what our natural point of aim is on our rifle.

It’s a tendency in which we all struggle. In our eagerness to lose weight, get fit, and feel better, we are prone to do what we’re naturally inclined to… skip to the good stuff. After all, we can all remember how much we used to be able to bench, or how quickly we could smoke a mile, or crank out push-ups like they were nothing.

Once we decide to become intentional about our health, those lingering memories drive us to bounce back to those conditions, even when our body says otherwise.

I want to share the importance of pumping the breaks a little and concentrate on the fundamentals so you can build a strong foundation of movement for the future. Fundamentals are essential. Success, in all aspects of life, is achieved through sacrifice and great attention to detail.

As such, I’d like to focus on the squat, the fundamental human movement that God intended for sitting and picking objects off of the ground. There are several key components to a good squat that I’d like to introduce so that you can take them back with you to work on.

While it’s a fundamental movement our bodies were created to do, we all have limitations which we must work through to overcome. These limitations won’t be directly addressed in this article, but when you see what the key components are, your limitations may jump out at you and make themselves easily identifiable.

Here’s what an optimum squat should look like:

Set Up:

  • Heels set at shoulder width apart
  • Full extension of the hips and knees
  • Weight in your heels
  • Keep your chest up, brace your abdominal muscles in order to maintain a neutral spine
  • Lift your hands out and up as you descend

Performance:

  • Butt travels back and down
  • Bottom of the squat is when the hip crease is below the top of the knee cap
  • Knees should stay in line with your feet
  • Neutral head position
  • Return to full hip and knee extension to complete the movement (stand tall)

An important step is drilling this movement each time you workout and find something to improve on each time.

One squat drill that I perform daily is to begin the squat about 8-10 inches away from a wall that you’re facing. As you perform the squat hang out at the bottom for 5-10 seconds and get your sense of balance and build confidence in holding a strong position.

After performing 2-3 slow reps from this distance, I inch closer to the wall until my toes are almost touching the wall. This drill takes time to establish proficiency but it is a great way to force yourself to maintain a neutral spine and find the proper distribution of weight in your heels.