What Does it Mean to You to be a Swole.Catholic? – Benoit
Benoit (Ben) Chavarie: Dracut, Massachusetts Outpost
When you hear someone use the word “swole” you either think you had better get to the hospital or you think of a gym bro. In many cases you would be right, but when I hear the word “swole” I think of discipline, strength, tenacity, and perseverance.
Why is Swole good?
I moved to the US a few years ago to go back to school and be with my, now wife, Pamela. I came from a very demanding job in the oil industry in northern Canada (think Ice Road Truckers). I didn’t know anyone other than my wife and her family here in Massachusetts and I couldn’t work on a student visa. School was great and kept me busy a portion of the day but what was I to do with the rest of my time when not studying? My wife worked during the day and I had become accustomed to working long days for the past 10 years so let’s just say I got bored quick! I decided to spend the rest of my time at the gym. I fell in love with lifting and working out as it was hard and rewarding. It took discipline, dedication and knowledge. The first few months I started working out real hard for at least 2 hrs. daily and worked my butt off trying to reach my fitness goals. I soon realized that there was more of a science to it than hitting the gym hard. “Swole” might mean to be big and strong but to get there takes intelligence and discipline.
“I fell in love with lifting and working out as it was hard and rewarding. It took discipline, dedication and knowledge”
I was baptized Catholic as a baby and later received some of my sacraments but was never Confirmed Catholic. At some point in my life, after going through divorce, my mother had decided to leave the Catholic Church. I remember begging her as a kid to go to Church like all my friends were doing because I wanted to be “normal,” so she took my little brother and I to a United Church for years. What my mother didn’t realize, was that I continued to attend my catholic religious ed classes in school and eventually received reconciliation and my first communion sacraments through school (just like all my friends and classmates) but my faith formation sort of stopped there. Fast forward to 2015 now living in Massachusetts, enrolled as a full-time college student and having a very disciplined fitness life. At this point, my wife and I had decided to come back to the Church and making our Faith a staple in our lives. She had been back and going to Mass for a little over a year and I wanted to join her in growing my faith along-side hers. I had never gotten confirmed, but we wanted a Catholic wedding. We started attending Mass every Sunday, met with our Parish Priest, completed our marriage prep course, officially registered as parishioners, got involved in various ministries such as Youth & Young Adult Ministries, and started to fall in love with God and the beauty that is his Church.
At the same time, I was also getting stronger and bigger in the gym to the point where people were telling me I should compete. I thought about it and then decided to give it a go. I knew that it would take a lot, my food intake needed to be perfect and my training needed to be on point. This incredible discipline and focus were what attracted me to competing. Little did I know; this same discipline and focus is what God wants from us and what his Church teaches us. It was during my time prepping for the competition that I’d say my “reversion” journey began. I really dove into my own faith formation by getting involved in bible studies offered at our parish and we became youth ministers for our parish Life Teen group. Through this, I realized that the same discipline athletes require to achieve their goals, is the same discipline we as Catholics need to strive to becoming Saints! We should continuously be working on our faith formation as adults and strive to get closer to God, learning from his Saints how we are to live our lives.
“I realized that the same discipline athletes require to achieve their goals, is the same discipline we as Catholics need to strive to becoming Saints! “
After my first competition, I decided to take a step back from men's physique due to vanity reasons and some of the stresses the diet put on my family life (I mean I didn't eat ice cream for a whole summer). I still weight lift and train. I love setting fitness goals and love competing for the Glory of God and pushing the gift of the body He gave me. I also love being active outdoors and hiking mountains. I truly feel these sacrifices to compete and the physicality of sports helps draw us nearer to God. It's also a great way to evangelize and spread the Gospel to praise Jesus, offer up your workouts. There are so many ways to relate fitness to our faith lives.
“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” — Pope Benedict XVI. I know greatness doesn’t mean being rich or famous but being the best version of yourself whatever that means to you, give more, do more, be more and that’s what being Swole-Catholic means to me.
In His strength,
Ben is originally from New Brunswick, Canada, lived in British Columbia & Alberta for 10 years working in the Oil & Gas industry as a Journeyman Pipefitter before moving to Massachusetts to be with his wife Pamela. He recently graduated from MCC with an Engineering Technology CAD degree and works as a Project Manager. He's the founder of Burning Tenacity, a Swole-catholic outpost, focused on building a healthy community and helping people grow closer to Christ through physical fitness. He is a catholic revert who came back to the church by way of physical fitness and saw a true potential for evangelizing his brothers and sisters who share the same passions as he does. His mission is to help them come back (or come for the first time) and help them grow a stronger relationship with God.
Ben's favorite fitness activities are mountain hiking, weight lifting and OCR's. When they aren’t hiking mountains or hitting the gym, Ben & Pam are heavily involved in their parish community at Saint Francis of Assisi as youth and young adult ministers helping young people grow closer to Christ.