Life Challenges: Morbid Obesity


In the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius tells us that on our part “we ought not to seek health, rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor….” Within the context of our western culture he could have added “being fat rather than being trim”.

My friend, let us call him Fred, is morbidly obese. I can only guess at the life challenges this presents to him, although he has shared some of these with me in the swimming pool where we take lessons together once a week. Getting around Winnipeg on foot in the winter is a challenge for all of us; it is all the more so for Fred.

With the help of his cane he moves slowly as he tries to avoid falling, but this means that he often misses his bus. When he does catch one he needs the bridge offered at the front doors of our buses to assist wheel chair users when he gets in and out. Once on the bus he occupies at least two seats.

Then people stare at him and he thinks they make fun of him behind his back. This is especially true of teenagers for some of whom Fred’s condition represents a nightmare that might possibly even justify anorexia. Anything would be better than being as fat as Fred. Does St. Ignatius have Fred in mind as he makes his way through life neither preferring honors rather than dishonors?

Fred is a cheerful person who is about thirty years old. He cultivates friendship wherever he can find it and tries to keep busy even though he is on a disability pension because he cannot hold down a job.

As I go through the latter part of my own life I am more than I was as a younger Jesuit of how far my own spiritual life must grow in order to enjoy even an asymptotic connection with the ideals articulated in the Principle and Foundation.

John Perry, Sj, is doing pastoral ministry at St. Ignatius Parish, Winnipeg and is researching and writing at St. Paul's College..

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