Is it really possible to live this way? In today’s culture, this is a good question. We live in a world where a lot of people are searching for happiness in all the wrong places. Worldly success and status, and the pursuit of pleasure at any cost cannot satisfy the human heart. There is a growing concern for the importance of health, which shows itself particularly in diets and exercise programs that aim at human mastery. While health is a real human good, it once gain cannot provide in itself all the answers to the longings of the human heart. And the call the be holy…this is probably the most challenging in today’s world. We have lost a real sense of the sacred and holy, and what is difficult, it is the call to holiness that makes the first two make sense. There are real challenges but there is hope. We need to be REFORMED.
My name is Fr. Innocent Montgomery, CFR, and I am a Catholic Priest. It is probably not surprising to you that the call to be happy, healthy, and holy are close to my heart. I believe that God has made us for this; to experience real happiness of heart, to receive our physical health of our minds and bodies as a gift, and to live a life of conscious contact with the living God, which produces holiness of life. Again, this is God’s desire for us, and with all good things in life, it takes time for these sacred realities to come to fruition. God invites us on a journey to receive these gifts, and this journey can often be filled with ups and downs, with twists and turns.
I feel like I have been on a journey of growth and formation a long time. If I include all my schooling, seminary studies, and religious formation, I have been on this journey of formation for 25 years! That’s a long time! As I look back, I can see how the “3 H’s” were consistently present on the journey. Specifically, in my formation years as a religious and a priest, the Church was always clear that the formation should always address body, mind, and spirit…the totality of the human person. You cannot have one dimension without the others. It is similar with the 3 H’s. The call to be health, happy, and holy are a package deal! In theory that makes sense to me, but in reality, it is not always the case!
I was ordained a priest in 2016. I was finally done with school and ready to save the world! I was really happy, healthy (so I thought!), and striving to grow in holiness and faithfulness to God everyday by living out my mission as a consecrated priest. At the time, I had the privilege of working at our homeless shelter and directing our volunteer missionary program for young men discerning our way of life. Life was crazy busy, but this is what I was waiting for! As I was making time for prayer and silence, I was always on the go. Meals were quick and unhealthy, very little exercise, and good sleep was hard to find. Over time, I began to notice that something was off. I was waking up 4-6 times a night with anxious energy and restlessness. This caused exhaustion during the day, but there was no way to slow down. Life was definitely high stress with little signs of a rest step. I coped with caffeine, granola bars, and sleep aids. To make matters more confusing, I really did love my life and ministry, but I knew something was wrong.
This is when I met Jackie Mulligan. Throughout our conversation, she mentioned to me that she was a wellness practitioner. I had a vague idea of what that was, so I decided to throw her way a few struggles that I was dealing with. In true Jackie fashion, she was immediately engaged in caring for me not only for my health needs, but also for me as a person. To be honest, before I met Jackie, I had just accepted the reality that life was busy and stressful, and that eating and sleeping right was just not possible with the demands of my life. My “normal” was going 100 mph, exhausted and anxious about life, and then crashing at the end of the day. It is in this place that Jackie proclaimed to me: “Fr. Innocent, God does not want you to live like this! A different way of life is possible!” This was the beginning of my journey to REFORM.
From the beginning, what was appealing to me was that Jackie see’s the whole person. She really gets it. Health is not an end in itself, but a state in life that helps us live our God given potential. When I am healthy, I have the ability to be more myself, and it is then that I can give myself in my vocation as a priest. When my body and spirit are both thriving, it is then that I feel most alive and truly living in right relationship with God and others. Jackie and REFORM opened my life to this truth once again! At the beginning phase of REFORM, I had to be open and honest with my weaknesses and admit that there was really something wrong. After several tests, it came to light that I was Gluten intolerant, I had serious gut issues, my thyroid was off, and that I had been living with two bacterial infections for a long time! In the face of these issues, Jackie made a plan! The invitation was to be faithful to God and to let my body heal through a variety of avenues. A daily schedule of prayer, rest, exercise, supplements, and a strong emphasis on consistency was key. I needed to start experiencing health in a different way and to create a space for my body to heal. It is heard to explain, but once I fully committed to be “REFORMED,” changes started to happen. I had more energy during the day and was able to face stress and anxiety differently. Instead of running 100 mph, I was able to slow down and experience the joy of the small things. Looking at food a fuel, I was able to make my diet simpler and more effective. It wasn’t until about the third month, but I even started to sleep better. I didn’t think this was possible! Now I am sleeping through the night! REFORM has brought me healing and I my heart is grateful.
In the end, I realized that Jackie’s REFORM is a way of life. The invitation to physical and spiritual health is a daily “yes” to live in the way that God desires us to live. I have a grateful heart to Jackie for inviting me on this journey to REFORM. She has instilled in me a true hope that we do not have to settle in life, particularly when it comes to our health. God has created us to be Happy, Healthy, and Holy. This is possible for all of us. I am grateful for Jackie for being a true witness to the REFORM way of life. I hope that all who read this are inspired to say YES to the REFORM journey. Happiness, Health, and Holiness await you!
- Fr. Innocent Montgomery