4AM Club – Body & Soul Strength Training

4AM Club – Body & Soul Strength Training


St. James summons us to see the challenges we face as opportunities to rise to new heights of existence, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (Jas 1:12).

In the military, the cross and crown symbolizes a soldier’s willingness to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, and to country, no matter what. This kind of unwavering dedication is exactly what Jesus meant when he gave us the criterion for enlisting in his elite fighting force: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk 9:23-25).

While sounding like a great forceful coach, St John Vianney expounds on this radical call to discipleship: “There is no doubt about it: a person who loves pleasure, who seeks comfort, who flies from anything that might spell suffering, who is over-anxious, who complains, who blames, and who becomes impatient at the least little thing which does not go his way — a person like that is a Christian only in name; he is only a dishonor to his religion, for Jesus Christ has said so: ‘Anyone who wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day of his life, and follow Me.’”

The Gospels stories show how Jesus touched people in ways that made them question the direction of their lives. Some turned away because his challenge seemed to be too hard. But many others were so moved by his mission and ministry that they were compelled to search for a more perfect way of living and being. Where do you stand? Are you ready to put it all on the line? This means nothing less than to do what God is calling you. Are you ready to say “yes” to the call to become his champion? (Excerpt from my book, Church Militant Field Manual).

This may be easier said then done. As Eric Sammons rightly points out in this excellent article, The Benedict Option: Not for the Faint of Heart, we have had 50 years of “Flabby Catholicism” that has left us quite unprepared to face the challenges ahead:

“As a generation that has mostly faced, at worst, nothing but “soft persecution” in the midst of material plenty, we have grown flabby. We live in a Church of felt banners, insipid homilies, and tolerance for sin. One of the primary traditional means to strengthen our spiritual life – mortification – is no longer practiced; in fact, it is ridiculed as a relic of a bygone era. For most of us, just the basic fasting the Church requires on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is considered a high hurdle. Is this really the generation that can joyfully endure a true persecution, in which our jobs, our freedom, even our children are on the line?”



So, how do we strengthen our spiritual muscles that have atrophied from a lifetime of neglect and flabby Catholicism? Eric Sammons points to our first pope for counsel:

Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:13-15)

As obedient children, we are called to be holy. That’s right, it begins with obedience. This is why we cannot begin to strengthen our spiritual muscles without first looking at “resistance training” … resisting “the passions of your former ignorance,” and giving way to “God’s Favored Ways.” Theologically, we refer to this as mortification, which means, putting the flesh to death. We tear down the flabby (self-centered) flesh, and replace it with strong (God-centered) spiritual muscles.

As St. John the Baptist put it, “He must increase, I must decrease.” I call it, “building our mortification muscle.” This requires, not only developing our spiritual well-being, but building our physical well-being, as well. Without physical energy, we are prone to be content with sitting on the bench when God is calling us to get in the game and strive to be “Champions for Christ!”



I write this on Day #1 of Cardinal Burke’s Nine-Month Novena. I firmly believe that Cardinal Burke’s call for a Nine-Month Novena is, in many ways, a call for all of us to utilize this time to become “strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Eph. 6:10). I have made the decision to utilize this graced period of nine-months as an opportunity for this “strength training.”

To that end, I am sharing my plan for these nine-months, not to dictate to anyone what they should be doing, but to, hopefully, inspire as many as possible to design their own plan for spiritual and physical strength training.

I have always been an early riser, but I have decided to be disciplined in rising at 4AM every day, in order to take this time, that is normally free from typical daily duties, to focus on my spiritual and physical health. I have come to be aware that this “4AM Club” is actually trending among dedicated Christians, for the same reason.

I hope and pray this inspires you to create your own plan, based on your present state in life.




Monday = 20 hour fast (7pm Sun. – 3pm Mon.), low/no carbs, 30 min. cardio, lift weights

Tuesday = 20 hour fast (7pm Mon. – 3pm Tues.), low/no carbs, 30 min. cardio

Wednesday = 20 hour fast (7pm Tues. – 3pm Wed.), low/no carbs, 30 min. cardio, lift weights

Thursday = 20 hour fast (7pm Wed. – 3pm Thur.),, low/no carbs, 30 min. cardio

Friday = 20 hour fast (7pm Thur. – 3pm Fri.), low/no carbs, 30 min. cardio, lift weights

Saturday = 16 hour fast (7pm Fri. – 11am Sat.), low/no carbs

Sunday = 16 hour fast (7pm Sat. – 11am Sun.), low/no carbs



Daily Morning Prayers

4:00am = Rise – “I’m Going In!”

Morning Offering
Cardinal Burke Prayer
Lectio Divina (Reflect on daily readings)

5:00am = Gym

Rosary (during cardio)

6:00am = Church

Adoration/Mental Prayer

6:30 = Mass

7:30am = Morning Prayer (Lauds)

Divine Office in Community