Spiritual Reflexes: Needed When Things Are Flying At Us At A Dizzying Pace

Spiritual Reflexes: Needed When Things Are Flying At Us At A Dizzying Pace

I’ve known Bernadette Kozak since 2007. In all my years of teaching, I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who has taken the teaching of the Theology of the Body to heart in the way she has. She is a remarkable testimony of what this teaching can do – of course, it’s Christ who does it – to breathe real hope into painful places of our hearts. What I like about this particular piece she’s written is that it shows how the Lord uses the things dear to us, which may seem ordinary or even banal (like ping-pong in this case), to teach us extraordinary life-lessons. That’s what TOB/sacramentality is all about: learning to find the extraordinary IN the ordinary.

Thanks, Bernadette, for the witness you are to the world!

Christopher West

Anyone who knows me would think I am not an athlete, and they would be right. However, I am a pretty good ping pong player, and in high school I won tournaments (and had a coach – it was the 70s – think Forrest Gump). I can still hold my own and have a ping pong club at the high school where I teach. 

I was sitting in Adoration today and praying about everything that is going on in the world, and in my life in particular. It seemed that Jesus inspired me to think about the analogy between how I play ping pong and how I can respond to what is going on in my life. It takes the same kind of reflexes to respond to issues in my life as it does to get the ball over the net, in the way that I find yields the greatest success — fast and low

It takes spiritual reflexes to respond to what comes at me in life. Here is what I mean.

The best I can do in my job as a teacher in this virtual learning environment, is to answer that email, that student, that request for information as quickly and as accurately as I can, with an acute awareness of how it will be received. This is what I do when I volley, so not to lose control of the ball.  It takes practice.

In the case of my job, it takes, not only practice, but spiritual guidance.  I need to pray all the time, then I don’t need to worry about what to do.

… Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Matthew 10: 19-20

I must admit that I prefer to play to keep the volley going, instead of trying to cause the other player to miss. My students don’t like to do that, being competitive, which I am not. They want to keep score even when it is likely that I will win by a large margin. 

But the way I like to play is a better way to see the analogy — it’s not about beating the other player; it’s about staying connected, and enjoying the game which only gets better as the number of volleys over the net increase. Both of us enjoy the experience, and both improve our skill.

In 2012, I had the privilege of taking a course given by the Theology of the Body Institute, taught by Dr. Peter Kreeft. Among his extremely diverse interests and skills, he is a very successful and avid ping pong player. In fact he carries his own paddle when he travels. We played many games; I never won a single one. But I came close – often got to 18 when the winning score is 21. He would catch up and beat me every time. (He, by the way, is 20 years my senior!) Here is how that can be seen in the analogy. 

When I am careful and responsive most of the time, it’s okay to miss a few.  But after a while, I lose confidence in myself, and so do others. That is what Dr. Kreeft told me; I did not have confidence. And that is the way with life. I need the spiritual reflexes to be ready to handle issues like reacting with sensitivity and love to the pandemic, family illness and even death, the financial and emotional burdens of students and colleagues, and of course the country’s recent heightened anger surrounding the issue of racism. Things are changing every day at a dizzying pace. We can respond – we can return the ball even as it is coming at us at an ever increasing fast and furious pace, if we just trust that God is there for us. He will let us keep the rhythm necessary to do His Will, no matter what. And He will let us react with humility when we don’t.

Many of the people who surround me — the priests and brothers, and many others at my school, as well as my  family (especially my husband Gary) — have the very spiritual reflexes I am talking about. 

I am stunned at the grace with which they are returning the volleys that are coming at them without end. You are all Forrest Gump to me. Thank you and God bless you for showing us your lightning-fast spiritual reflexes.

Bernadette Kozak with Dr. Peter Kreeft at Black Rock Retreat Center in Quarryville, PA.

Bernadette Kozak teaches Physics and Engineering Design at Don Bosco Prep High School. She and her husband Gary of 33 years were first introduced to St. John Paul II’s TOB in 2007 at a seminar they attended sponsored by the Sisters of Life in Kingston, NY. She’s since taken a total of 11 courses with the TOB Institute and graduated with the first Certification Program class in 2013.