We continue the 52 week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

We have been reflecting on the fourth major habit: Major Habit 4 – Battle Against Sin and Vice and last week reflected upon : Habit 15 – Mortify gluttony by regular fasting and abstinence.

We turn our attention to Habit 16. 

Habit 16 – Discipline and care for your Body

Discipline and care for your Body in reparation for your sins and to be an excellent and grateful steward of the body, the Temple of the indwelling God, by regularly exercising, eating a healthy and nutritious diet, seeking appropriate health care, and receiving the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick when ill.

What does it mean that the body is a temple? – Every man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27, 5:1; Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1702 [CCC 1702]), and through the Sacrament of Baptism, the Holy Spirit dwells within a man’s soul (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19), making the body of a baptized man a temple of the Holy Spirit ( CCC 364, 1265) and part of the Body of Christ (CCC 1267).

How should a man honor God in his body? – Because of the great gift of Divine Life given to a baptized man by God, a man is obligated to “glorify God in [his] body” (1 Cor 6:19-20) as a “living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1-2).

A man honors God by caring for the body God has given him: “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them” (CCC 2288).

Why is it essential for a man to discipline and care for his body? – Jesus demonstrates the model for every man to live to carry out his mission to do the will of God (Lk 22:42; Jn 4:34). Every man has been purposefully created by God to serve and love God (CCC 358) and to carry out many good works (1 Cor 15:58; Eph 2:10).

To fulfill his mission, a man is obligated to not abuse his body but to sustain and nurture his body (Rom 6:12-13; 1 Cor 3:16-17; 1 Thes 5:23) by persevering in self-discipline (Phil 4:5; 2 Tim 1:7); St. Paul demonstrates the need to discipline the body: “…I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).

Part of the mission of men in the vocation of marriage, is to be a leader, protector and provider for his wife and children. Being physically robust as possible helps a man fulfill his duty as a husband and father.

What goals should a man have for his body? – Jesus lived a robust physical life and came to give men life in “abundance” (Jn 10:10). To carry out a man’s God-given mission, a man should strive for longevity (long life) and vitality (robust energy); by having a goal of caring for the body to achieve longevity and vitality, a man can “work heartily” (Col 3:23-24) for as long as God ordains him to live.

The Church also cautions a man to reject the modern pagan “cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for its sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports” (CCC 2289).

Why is a proper diet important? – Eating a healthy and nutritious diet demonstrates gratitude to God for the blessing of a man’s body. Jesus confirms the importance of nourishment in feeding the multitudes (Mk 8:1-10; Jn 6:1-15) and the Apostles (Mt 12:1-8).

Jesus admonishes men for excessive worry  about food and drink (Mt 6:25-34), for following false dietary laws (Mk 7:19; CCC 582) and He condemns gluttony (Lk 12:16-21).

The Apostle Paul warns against the dangers of excess in eating and drinking: “Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (Phil 3:19).

It is necessary to “avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco or medicine”, and to reject drunkenness and seeking thrills which put a man’s and the lives of others in peril (CCC 2290); the use of recreational drugs damage human health and life and is a grave offense against God (CCC 2291).

What is a proper diet? – While the specifics of proper nutrition depends on a man’s age, health, fitness and location, and a man should get medical and dietary advice if he has specific dietary or health concerns, general guidelines for healthy eating include:

Eat a variety of natural high-fiber foods – Eating a variety of foods ensures necessary levels and mix of nutrients so the body can function properly. Include a wide range of foods from all food groups, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, legumes, and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish).

Balance food groups – The right mix of foods is essential to get proper nutrition. Aim for balance in meals by including a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats; about half the plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter should be lean protein, and a quarter should be whole grains.

Align portions to calorie needs – Getting the right level of calories based on activity levels and metabolism is necessary to ensure sufficient energy. Align total calorie consumption to calorie needs as recommended by a physician and use portion control to avoid under/over eating.

Limit processed foods, added sugars and salt: Processed foods are high in artificial ingredients, sugar and salt which can often work against long term health. Minimize consumption of processed and restaurant foods, sugary snacks, deserts and beverages and salty snacks.   

Drink sufficient water – Drinking adequate levels of water is necessary for both mental and physical function. Determine the proper levels of water and consume water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

Why is exercise important? – Jesus demonstrates the importance of being physically fit through His hard work as a carpenter (Mk 6:3) which prepared Him to carry out His three-year public ministry; by some estimates, Jesus walked some 25,000 miles, the circumference of the earth.

All the apostles traveled extensively and endured severe hardships and persecution; their previous vocations (including being fishermen, tentmakers, etc.) helped strengthen them for their apostolic vocations and eventual martyrdom (Acts 20:22-24). St. Paul confirms the importance of bodily exercise (1 Tim 4:7-8) and repeatedly uses metaphors which challenge men to live rigorous physical lives like athletes (1 Cor 9:24-27; Phil 3:14) and soldiers (Eph 6:11; 2 Tim 2:3-4).

In stark contrast to the model of fitness demonstrated by Jesus and His apostles, many men today fall into the Vice of Sloth (CCC 1866).   

What is proper exercise? – While the specifics of proper exercise depends on a man’s age, health, current fitness, and a man should get medical and physical training advice if he has health or exercise concerns, general guidelines for proper exercise include:

Build stamina – Stamina is the capacity to sustain the activity demands in a man’s life. Boost stamina and agility through activities that raise the heart rate like walking, running or swimming, gradually increasing intensity over time.

Build strength – Necessary muscle strength is the ability to move weight with the body consistent with the demands of a man’s vocation. Develop muscle mass, metabolism, and strength with varied resistance training, progressively increasing resistance for muscle growth.

Increase and maintain flexibility – Flexibility is necessary to be able to move consistent with age and vocation and avoid injury. Enhance range of motion and mobility while reducing injury risk through regular stretching routines.

To achieve long term results, build a habit by regularly working out and gradually increasing intensity or difficulty. Prevent overtraining and injury by getting adequate rest, spacing workouts to allow for recovery, and by accepting small and consistent gains over time.

Why is seeking healthcare important? – Illness exists in human life and God desires for men to be relieved of suffering, consistent with His perfect plan for each man’s salvation (CCC 1500-1505).

Jesus healed physical and mental ailments of many people (Mt 9:35; CCC 1503) confirming the importance of seeking help when illness or infirmity limits a man’s health.  Seeking necessary health care to minimize illness and improve health is both prudent and a just response to the life given by God (CCC 2288). The need for health care varies by a man’s circumstances and age and the availability of health care varies based upon a man’s location and wealth.

A man should seek adequate health care, including receiving preventative care through regular checkups and to pursue help when chronic or acute health issues arise. Health care does not include the taking of a life; human life is sacred (CCC 2258) and it is gravely sinful to murder one’s self or another through euthanasia (CCC 2276-2279) or to encourage the murder of a child through abortion (CCC 2270-2275).

Why should a man seek the Anointing of the Sick? – Following the example of Jesus and the power granted to the Apostles in His Church, the Church has long-established the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick (CCC 1511-1522).  Every Catholic man should seek the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick when gravely ill and as he prepares for death (CCC 1523-1525).

This week’s questions – Here are some questions to meditate upon this week’s habit:

Does my current physical condition and activity levels suggest I have not eaten properly and been slothful? 

How might I be blessed by becoming more physically fit by proper diet and exercise?

This week’s commitments Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here is this week’s challenges:

1) Evaluate your current diet and determine some concrete actions to improve the quality of food you are eating for the next month.

2) Make a plan to evaluate and improve your physical fitness.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer – During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to better discipline and care for your body:

Lord Jesus, Giver of Abundant Life, help me build the Virtues of Prudence and Self-control so I can battle against gluttony and sloth and always strive to discipline and care for my body by consuming excellent nutrition and becoming physically fit, consistent with my age and condition. Amen.