I was never much of a runner in high school or college. It wasn’t until I entered the seminary at Mundelein and discovered the 3.3 mile road which surrounds the stunningly beautiful thousand acre campus, that I actually laced up some shoes and decided to start running. At first, I wasn’t sure if running was going to be ‘my thing.’ It seemed to be boring and strenuous, but after successfully making it around that three mile course for the first time, there was a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. For a long time I really had no clue that there is actually a right and wrong way to run. Breathing, posture, and where you position your arms are all key components to a more effective running experience. In 2006, I ran my first Chicago Marathon. That summer I trained with a group along the Chicago lakefront and our coach was a gentleman who also happened to be a member of Old St. Pat’s. Not only was he a coach and member of this wonderful community, but I learned quickly that Coach Brendan Cournane was also an accomplished marathoner. I think he’s run 88 marathons to date, accomplishing his dream of running in all fifty states and the seven continents! Coach Brendan continues his passion of running and coaching, and we are fortunate that he leads our Crossroads Runners group for Old St. Pat’s. He is an extraordinary coach and I’m sure, like me, there are many people who never would have crossed the finish line of many races had it not been for his encouragement and wisdom. Among the many pearls of advice Coach Brendan likes to share, the one line which has become his trademark and quoted often by his “students” is “Good form will carry you through!” That’s a great line….and not just for runners.
Like everything we do in life, there are ‘good ways and bad ways.’ When you stop for a moment to reflect upon Brendan’s inspired statement to his runners, it’s so true: Good form WILL carry you through! It goes beyond our posture and breathing to how we live our lives and take care of ourselves. Think about it in terms of the gospel text we hear today. Zacchaeus, the tax collector and wealthy guy, is figuring out that there are better ways to live life. Realizing that so much of his acquired wealth happened because he probably cheated and used extortion methods as a tax collector, Zacchaeus realizes that this “form” is not what God had in mind. With the help of being discovered in a sycamore tree by Jesus, Zacchaeus soon discovers a new method of being more alive and allowing grace to carry him through. Giving back and giving away is a better form than holding onto and keeping for oneself. Living for others and being fair is a much better form than living only for myself and cheating someone else.
Good form will carry you through… I think about that a lot with respect to Old St. Pat’s and what our mission needs to be about. I took a few days off this past week beginning last Sunday. As a result I found myself “in the pew” at another church here in Chicago. Without mentioning the name of the parish or being overly critical, I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears the glaring need and want for “Good Form” when it comes to our corporate act which we call the Sunday liturgy. I had a decent experience at this particular church but not great. The best part of the mass was the children’s choir. They sang their hearts out and you could easily tell that these kids wanted to be a part of this choir. It was wonderful. I felt bad for the priest presider because it was obvious that he struggled with English as his second language. As a result, the deacon preached and unfortunately the homily just didn’t go anywhere. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am tired of being negative about my church and I don’t want to be negative about this parish. It’s a church with a wonderful pastor and great people! But likewise, we MUST discover the importance of “Good Form!”
If ‘Good form will carry you through’ is true, then we need to keep working together on the Good Form of preaching, music, and hospitality: three important benchmarks for our Sunday experience, but they’re not the only ones. Zacchaeus discovered that essential to any Good Form, we need Jesus. We can’t do this alone, period. The Good Form of welcoming others and likewise welcoming God’s Spirit into our lives will carry us through. The Good Form of getting involved in our various ministries, coming to our events, and offering your hand in our outreach efforts and owning the mission we are trying to create will carry us through. The Good Form of just simply “showing up” and creating kinship here and in North Lawndale will carry us through. The Good Form of singing, responding, and inviting others who may have drifted away from the church is really great stuff that will carry us through. The Good Form of spending some time (even just a few minutes) in prayer each day, praying for each other; for our world; for our country at this time in our history; and just being in touch with our soul will definitely carry us through. Good form will carry us through, only when we are connected with the Divine Spirit. We can’t take life or a place like Old St. Pat’s for granted. With God’s help and by our working together, we need to keep creating a great experience of church for people: now more than ever before!
I’m writing this on Thursday, as the Series is tied 1-1. I love the Good Form of the Cubs. What an exciting team to watch. May their great form of playing together as a team and not getting too full of themselves, carry them through to being the 2016 champions!
Have a great week!
Fr Tom Hurley, Pastor