My daughter finished a half-marathon today. My husband and two younger sons were there to cheer her on. The race was a culmination of months of disciplined training, and a testament to the human spirit and will.

For me it was yet another way to see God manifesting Himself in daily events. He allows us to draw from human experiences and be lifted up into contemplation of Him and His plan to be one with us. It never ceases to amaze me how He can bless this way: in the silence of an Adoration Hour, as well as in the midst of a crowded event. Whether a spectator or a participant in this half marathon, one could use the experience as a spiritual “exercise”. I hope St. Ignatius of Loyola would agree!

In Blessed John Paul II’s teaching called the Theology of the Body, he writes,” The body expresses the person”. (TOB 7:2). As I watched the myriad of runners go by, I saw all ages, body types, and running styles. The glory of persons created in God’s image astounded me! How unique and unrepeatable we are! What joy in the recognition that no one of us is the same, and we all bring our individual gifts to the world! Sleek runners - so at home in their stride, and there to break record times -were on the same path as the knee-braced and lumbering who could barely pick up their feet. The burly tattooed and the tough ran alongside fashion colors of “carefully-chosen-for-race-day” running gear. It was difficult to know who evoked more respect: the woman pregnant with child, the flag-holding firefighters who ran in full gear, or girl with one arm, and the Soul Surfer’s strength. Statements were proclaimed: on T-shirts that professed a cause, and on faces that emulated the feeling of the runner’s high or the grimace of a longing for it all to be over.

Are we not all running the race, as St. Paul tells us? Are we not beautiful in the unique ways we are called? No less important were the spectators who lined the path. We imagined ourselves as the saints in heaven cheering souls on to the finish!

Besides the glory of the community of runners as a whole, I found myself thinking about the spiritual exercises of the individual hearts, souls and minds of every runner as they prepared for and then executed the race. What interior gifts of self-motivation, intellect, and will-power had they applied as they trained for months before the race? Frequent conversations with my daughter gave me some insight into that journey. Not a day went by without careful thought about a consistent and well-planned routine. There was an inner discipline established early in terms of a weekly running schedule, specific diet, and enough rest. The challenge was mental as well as physical, and it was the daily commitment that prepared the whole person well.

Again, Theology of the Body teaches us, you cannot separate the soul from the body, the physical from the divine. In no other way do we make visible the invisible, but in and through the body! Without words, the inner reality speaks, and whole pages could be filled with each runner’s body language spoken eloquently on race day.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” my daughter proclaimed soon after she crossed the finish line. How often, I pondered, would she be able to draw on this spiritual exercise and apply it to many other circumstances and events in life? She may be inspired by this one for years to come.

Copyright 2012 Cynthia Ann Costello