Today I had to run my usual morning jaunt which is an arduous trek of almost seven kilometres. It was a difficult run for several reasons, the most obvious being that I am completely out of shape. Next to that there were some more subtle but no less important reasons for my distress. For example, I am just getting over a five day cold and am still somewhat short of breath but I thought to myself, ‘why not?’ and went for it anyway. I fear time will answer that question.
Still, perhaps the most painful difficultly of today’s run was the fact that I had to accomplish it without the help of my running partner, an energetic personality, who is in many ways much further down the path of holiness than I am. And so in his absence I called on the only one who could hear me anyway, and the one who I thought might be at least somewhat interested in me finishing the race. I found myself saying things like ‘holiness is in the effort so keep trying’ or ‘step by step, a prayer for my wife, step by step, a prayer for…’ and so on.
I am not sure when it hit me but I am sure of its effects because at one point I realized that I run like a Catholic. Here I was struggling up a hill, asking for God’s grace upon my family and friends and enemies and all the while I needed and wanted God to help me to continue. It was not God who made me run and it was never just me that kept me going.
It was then that I thought of our ancient friends turned rivals, what history has called, the Pelagians. And it occurred to me, how would they run? Pelagius you will recall believed that he had everything within himself necessary to achieve salvation. He was perhaps the first self-help guru of Christianity. If he was living today then he could probably contribute to the wealth of one liners one finds in motivational posters that help people do it – whatever that is – by themselves. If Pelagius was an avid reader, which it seems clear that he was, then he would have agreed whole heartedly with Rousseau who said, ‘I gradually learnt to feed (my soul) on its own substance and seek all its nourishment within myself.’ God could add nothing to his efforts and offer nothing to one jogging.
So there you have it, I am a Catholic. Don’t believe me? Watch me run.