Fr. Brian Jordan, OFM
Fr. Brian Jordan is a native of Brooklyn and for years he has enjoyed the challenge of running in marathons — especially the grueling ones in Boston and New York City. In this digest of an article in Pastoral Life (October 1989), he ties in his run in the 19th New York City Marathon with his life as a Franciscan priest.
On November 6, 1988, it is 10:30 a.m., 16 minutes before the cannon shot which commences the marathon. About 22,000 of us, men and women, representing all 50 states and I guess nearly 70 different countries, are waiting to start our goal to go the 26 miles from here (the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge) in Staten Island to there (Tavern on the Green in Central Park, Manhattan).
The metaphor of the New York City Marathon pertains to my spiritual journey as a religious leader. My primary influences are Jesus Christ and the charism of St. Francis of Assisi. All of us runners have chosen to run a marathon and to fulfill its goal. We Franciscans also choose to join religious life and to fulfill its goal of “life on high in Christ Jesus.”
There is growth in our spiritual marathon of religious life. For myself, St. Francis is my inspiration. Francis looked for places and events that evoked an intimate union with his Lord. These places and events became marked as “significant” for Francis: meeting places where God’s call and Francis’s response became one in Christ. While on the bridge, like a long, colorful caterpillar, we became an intimate body of humanity pursuing our common goal.
My fellow runners are enthused and anxious when we arrive in Brooklyn, which will comprise about 11 miles of the race. The crowd is exhilarating and supportive. What tremendous energy exudes from the crowd to the runners and back again!
There are no spectators — we are all participants alike. Whether we be priest, sister, brother, or lay person — we are all struggling to live a religious life. Prayer is our foundation. The inner life of God is something precious within us — a living and edifying sanctuary in both the runners and the crowd.
What is most comforting is the dedication of the volunteers along the whole marathon. They are the distributors of water, oranges, ice cubes, vaseline and Kleenex. They are generous with their time and concern for us weary runners.
It may be halfway as we reach Queens, but we are starting to get tired. At times, we get tired of religious life, and we need to be replenished through prayer and community. Thank God for volunteers! Thank God for the laity and their kind support of us. Through Baptism and Confirmation, we all receive a call to ministry.
As we cross into the Bronx at the 20-mile mark, I reflect that I like to run marathons as a sign of my Franciscan life and ministry. I like to put my evangelical preaching word into apostolic action. The primary reason I ran this marathon was to raise money for our Franciscan fund designed to assist creative programs for the poor.
Here we are, running in the poorest urban section of the country. Despite the impoverished conditions of the poor, they rise above it all today to cheer us weary runners on! I am glad that I am a Franciscan. Poverty is a challenging vow — whether it be our socio-economic poverty or our spiritual poverty.
When we re-enter Manhattan and run through Harlem, those around me are getting really worn out, including me. We feel like quitting. But look at those faces, Lord. They are like Simon of Cyrene, helping us on our journey. Again I ask myself, what do I really want to be? Answer: I really want to be a Franciscan friar. I decided to stay in the race and in the Order.
We are now approaching the finish line. The crowd is getting louder and louder. I raise my arms up in triumph, thanking God and the prayers of the people for getting me through.
—This essay was written in 1991 when Fr. Brian was a Doctor of Ministry candidate at Andover-Newton Theological School, Newton Center, Mass., and a resident of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. It appeared in the May 1990 issue of The Anthonian magazine.