“Never Alone…” (What the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and running marathons taught me about our relationship with God and others.) by Andy Sensenig OMI
As I continue to heal from recently running in the LA Marathon on March 15th, I have relished the lessons learned. How to hydrate, how to push through pain, how to adjust to the conditions at hand (it was a very hot race day in the 90s), but most of all that aloneness (isolation) is an illusion.
There have been books written with the titles saying that the runners are the kind people who are either craving being alone or struggle with loneliness. There is even a famous novel on runners entitled: The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe, but I beg to differ. I run not because of a need to alone, but to connect. Connect with my body, my heart, mind my soul, my neighbors and with God.
It is this connection with God, others and your heart, which is the center of the spiritual teaching of our Founder, St. Eugene De Mazenod. He encouraged and taught his brothers of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to sit and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament not for some “alone time” with Jesus, but to be open to God in a loving way and to be open to pray for others. St. Eugene would write to his brothers around the world about how he was present to them while he was in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
You might say that St. Eugene was “Spiritual Skyping” with God and with others. St. Eugene called this practice of quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament “ l’oraison,” and this practice is still performed by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate brothers worldwide. It is just a good reminder that we, by our Baptism, are the Body of Christ for ever and ever.
As I have progressed through this year’s LA Marathon with 26,000 other runners and with scores of people cheering us on, I realize that I am never alone and that is true even when I trudge along a mountain trail by myself in Sitka. God is always there and what is needed is from us is an openness to embrace the joy that God sprinkles along the way.
It brought me to an important truth of our faith, when we use the Blessed Sacrament to aid our ailing brothers and sisters as they continue their pilgrimage to God we call it, “Viaticum” (Food for the Journey). It is with this profound sense of connection and joy I get when I run, I ask God to invite others to join the Diocese of Juneau and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. We need vocations to remind the People of God of this sacred journey and journey along with them.
So why do you run, walk, pray? To be alone? Or are you like me looking for ways to deepen that vital connection with God and with others? That is a good place to start when you lace up to your shoes and head out into the great outdoors in Alaska.