Caring for one's health has moral, spiritual dimension, says priest
Published: June 19, 2012
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Father Peter Clark, a bioethics professor at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, believes Catholics have a moral obligation to care for their health. "Catholics have a right to health care, and therefore (we) have a corresponding duty to take care of our health," he said in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service. At a time when the rate of obesity among Americans is on the rise, he added that "obesity is both a sanctity-of-life issue and a question of justice." A recent Gallup study found that Americans are more likely to be at an unhealthy weight than at a normal weight, and that 26 percent of Americans are considered obese. The trend is affecting not only health care costs, but personal well-being. Though there is no simple solution, many, like Father Clark, offer a spiritual approach. Tom Hafer, who is a minister with Volunteers for America, a physical therapist and the author of "Faith and Fitness," uses ecumenical teachings to incorporate spirituality into a wellness lifestyle. To him, prayer is as vital as exercise and proper food when losing weight. "Prayer, or a deeper understanding of our connection to our Creator is necessary," Hafer told CNS. "Because everything we need for sustaining health and wellness has come from our Creator. The act of exercise itself can be the conduit to a deeper prayer life." Exercise can be a meditative experience, according to Hafer. He suggested reading a psalm or praying before going for a run, saying the exercise and prayer will complement each other. Because life and well-being are God's gift, "exercise really is an expression of gratitude and thanksgiving," he said. Hafer described his job as a lifestyle, not a program, because his work is not necessarily about weight loss, but about "returning to a full life."
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