Run (or Hike) So As To Win


            I approached the “Helping Hike for the Poor” with some mixed feelings. I was excited for a challenge, nervous about how it would go, grateful for the opportunity and my sisters’ support, and a bit concerned about the logistical aspects (I was the self-appointed “Sherpa” for the day).  It wound up being a beautiful day all around: the weather was clear and not too hot, we finished (!), and it was also, for me, an object lesson about the meaning of community in the Christian life.
            After the sisters who joined us for the first stretch of the trail left, the remnant group decided to pick up the pace, to make sure we finished the hike at a reasonable hour. This movement intensified at the halfway point after lunch, when only Fr. Matt, Morgan (a Franciscan University student), and I were left. We would take turns setting the pace, because after a certain point, it’s just hard to go fast if there’s nobody in front of you encouraging (or shaming!) you to keep pushing. As we trudged, climbed, jogged, and trod through the woods, I suddenly thought, “This is the Christian race! This is what St. Paul was talking about!”
            You see, I am competitive by nature, and I’ve often reflected on St. Paul’s running metaphor for the spiritual life. He encourages us, saying that we must run so as to win – after all, only one man wins the victor’s crown! This is certainly an inspiration for us to strive earnestly in the spiritual life, but how does this somewhat individualist notion cohere with the communal aspect of the Christian life? Where is my neighbor? Am I trying to pass him?
            The answer, of course, is “no.” Each time I would take the lead in the hike, I would push myself just as hard as I could to set a good, quick pace. But it wasn’t to win first prize or to be the best. It was in order to serve my brothers, traveling alongside me. When Fr. Matt took the lead, I was grateful to follow, and focused just on encouraging (and sometimes entertaining!) him. His speed was a challenge to me, but it was also a gift to me. To use another Pauline metaphor, we were members of one body, Christ’s, and together we were striving to finish the race.
            This is a microcosm of the Christian life. We all must strive to push on, to do our best, to be saints. And as we do so, we are not in competition with one another. Rather, we are on the same team, working together in Christ to become Christ, or, as St. Paul says, to “attain to the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).

- Sr. Agnes Thérèse Davis, T.O.R.


The "Helping Hike for the Poor" is a fundraising effort sponsored by Father Matt Russick, T.O.R. The hike helps to support the sisters living and working with the poor in downtown Steubenville, OH. The fundraising goal for this year's hike was $13,000 ($500 for each of the 26 years since our community's founding.) Your generosity has helped us to pass our goal, reaching $14,990. THANK YOU!

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