I’ve been retired a while now and have been moved to the place where I am constantly reading and seeking all of the “natural” points of view about health.  If you have done some looking at anything that hints of Oriental medicine and health traditions, you know that the breath is a topic that you see all of the time. Oriental doctors consider it of utmost importance.  I heard a very interesting guest on Sirius the other day and she was passionate about the topic.  She even had a website called “The Breathing School.”  It set me to thinking.

We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  We don’t give a single thought to things that are vital for our very lives.  We have systems that pump the blood, react to the environment, move the body, grow the body, heal the body, process food, adjust our internal chemical levels, move vital oxygen in and poisonous wastes out.  We don’t worry about a single physical thing.  It all kind of rolls along.

Yet we all know that if we are deprived of breath for as little as three minutes death is most likely imminent.  Breath is the very first thing we do when we arrive on the planet and the very last thing we do when we give up the last flicker of life.

So how come we don’t pay more attention to this bodily reality and what it means to us physically, emotionally, and spiritually?  In our lack of awareness maybe we’re missing a most obvious teaching from the Father right there in plain sight!

Could it be that this “mundane” function that we so take for granted has things to show us that we never considered? The bible teaches that the very essence of human life came literally from a pile of worthless dirt and God’s own act of breath:

“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

This neverending action in our very flesh and blood which goes on until the day we die is something that God himself put into us.  If we look around it is also true that no living thing on the planet does not have breath.

The term “breath of life” takes on a completely different perspective in that light.  How can we say, in all humility, that there is any creature that is less than we are and deserves no respect?

We are all inhaling and exhaling God’s own breath from the beginning. That makes me want to take a closer look at Franciscan spirituality.  Maybe Francis’ preaching to the animals and birds wasn’t so eccentric after all.

The Church gives an affirmation of this indivisibility between our life force and God himself in the Rite of Baptism.   Few people know this but the priest echoes God’s act of creation in the Rite.

5. The Priest shall then breathe on the child, and say:

May the powers of darkness, which the divine Redeemer hath vanquished by his cross, retire before thee, that thou mayest see to what hope, and to what an exceeding glorious inheritance among the saints, thou art called.

(General Instructions, 1972)

No matter who you are, you breathe. This doesn’t changes if you are a mega sinner or a minor sinner.  Whoever you are, during every second of your existence you have a Holy Act happening in your very being.

Do you often say things about yourself like, I’m not important, I’m not good enough, I’m such a sinner that the Church would fall down if I entered it?  Do you believe the negative about yourself that someone has taught you? Do you hate things about yourself?

If you answered yes to any of the above, think about this:  God’s own life force is in you right now this minute and has never left you.  Despite all of the negative things you might believe about yourself, a Holy Action is still taking place in your body every second you live.

In light of that, how would any of those negatives hold one shred of truth?  In the style of the East just settle down and for a few minutes: “observe your own breath.”  Could you use that as a prayer? Could you actually understand that you and God are inhaling and exhaling the same breath?  What perspective does that give you about yourself that you never had before?  Maybe you need to discuss that with Him.

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.Psalm 139: 14 (NIV)

Copyright 2014, Kathryn Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at:">

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