In John L. Parker’s Cult Classic “Once a Runner,” fictional Olympic gold medalist Bruce Denton works out at Southeastern University, and allows college runners to work out with him. They all want to know “The Secret.” What makes him so great? What’s the special workout? What’s the secret? Parker tells us how it usually goes. The college runners join him on a day’s workout. It’s tough, but not ridiculously so. They begin to think they have it, and if they stick around longer, they’ll be let in on the secret. They come back the next day – again, a hard workout, pushing themselves, but nothing impossible. By the fourth or fifth day, the runners stop asking for the secret and many give up the workouts.
The secret? There is no secret. Bruce calls it “The Trial of Miles, Miles of Trials.” It’s no trick, no special workout, no certain food. It’s consistency and hard work. Making it a priority, and showing up and putting the time and effort in every day, making the necessary sacrifices – that’s what makes him the world’s greatest miler.
In my experience of imitating the saints and holy people I’m surrounded by now, I like to think that they are just created holier than me. They just have gifts that make them want to pray more. Those people, those saints and those people who know their faith better than me, were just born more interested in it. There’s some secret that God has revealed to them, because they are meant to be pray-ers.
But that would mean that I’m not meant to be a pray-er. Which is preposterous. Christ wants to be in relationship with all of us – with me, with you, and with those holy men and women. There’s no secret to becoming holier. There’s no secret to knowing more about my faith. There’s no secret to becoming a person of prayer.
Just like being a great athlete requires sacrifice, a dedication of time and effort, and a desire, so does being a person of prayer. Putting the time in on a daily basis – giving each day to Christ – asking for Mary’s intercession – reading spiritually inspiring works – and receiving the sacraments – that’s all the secret. Except it’s no secret. We all know that. We just need to make the choices to do it.