Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Prayer to St. Sebastian--Protect Me in My Athletic Efforts

This morning I went out for a 14.1 mile run at 5:40 returning at 7:30.  I ran to the zoo and back with a lap around the Druid Hill reservoir.   I have included a picture I took this morning-sights like this make it worth running early in the morning, even if alone.

For a run from 5:40-7:30 in the morning (even at this time of year and on into the summer) I don't tend to use a lot of sunscreen.  But similarly to morning of the Boston Marathon, I did use sunscreen in one place before I went for my run this morning.  I carefully sunscreened the tattoo to preserve the image as carefully as possible.

The five second description of the image is a modern reinterpretation of artwork depicting Saint Sebastian being rescued after being shot by archers--using 1930's Baltimore to guide the skyline and the clothing.  St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes in the Catholic church.  When I decided to get a tattoo, this was not my original idea, but as I went through a process of discernment, I was drawn to the symbolism inherent in a patron saint.

I have said prayers asking for intercession from St. Sebastian to God on my behalf (that is the standard approach to invoking a saint in a prayer in the Catholic church as we only pray to honor God but we may pray to particular saints to ask for their intercession on our behalf).  And, much like the several races before the Boston it was a simple prayer.  Asking that I would be blessed to give as much effort in my experience as St. Sebastian had put forth in his experiences and that my experience would  show to glory of God.  I also through in a comment about protecting my health.

Why did I make a comment about protecting my health? There is a risk of death when running a marathon.  It is not high (0.75 per 100,000 runners according to an article at  But it is there and a couple years ago when there was a cluster of marathon related deaths (which we have not seen again since that time) my extended family had been quite worried.

I never imagined the risk to my health that actually did occur that day.  In fact, no on in my running circle had.  I doubt anyone in my family had.  My prayer was a naive one.

When the day was over, I realized just how blessed I was.  Was I protected by my prayer to St. Sebastian?  I will never know.  I ran a good race.  The attackers chose their time to attack for whatever reason they did.  My finish and the time of their attack did not coincide.  Could just have easily been dumb luck or good fortune as anything having to do with a prayer.

But the next time I pray to St. Sebastian before a race I will pray with a different set of risks in my mind.  Will I always pray to St. Sebastian before a race? Probably.  It is difficult to forget the prayer when I have St. Sebastian drawn permanently on my leg.  What risks will I pray for protection from?  Unfortunately, they will always include the risks of a terror attack looking ahead.  And even if it is just all imagination, it is psychologically helpful to think that there is something out there bigger than me--some being, some purpose, some cause--that for whatever reason has protected and continues to protect me in my athletic efforts and efforts in life in general.  

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