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While the Christmas spirit is still strongly present and the New Year just days away, I thought it would be appropriate to reprint a column from Christmas 2006. The forward to the column was written by Father Scott Pilarz, President of the University of Scranton who passed away on March 10, 2021 from complications related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at age 61. As always, he offered sage advice and reflection for a healthy mind, body and spirit…thank you Father Pilarz for your many contributions to our community!

To my loyal readers this holiday…that the spirit of this holy season would be with you for 30 seconds each day for the rest of your life. The love, faith and hope of this season are so powerful that it could transform our lives if we somehow find a way to reflect upon it daily. I believe that it is the foundation for a healthy mind, body and spirit. This is proven in the fact that those of faith live longer and happier lives. All major religions promote physical and spiritual health, wellness and respect for life. In 2006, I asked Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., President of the University of Scranton to offer some words of reflection on how this holy season relates to a healthy mind, body and spirit:

On the surface of things, it seems counterintuitive to write a column on health and fitness during the week before Christmas.  For many, this can prove to be the unhealthiest time of year.  People find themselves too busy to exercise and simultaneously confronted with too many opportunities for eating and drinking.  Certainly an abundance of culinary temptation is especially the case on a university campus, where just about every department and division hosts a party.  The cold weather can also be a hindrance to outdoor activity.  It’s too tempting to stay inside and, specifically, on the couch in front of a fire, making resolutions to exercise after the New Year.

This is, however, also the season for renewing our spirits and remembering what’s most important in our lives.  As a result, we might consider the importance of regular exercise as an ingredient not only to physical health, but to spiritual health, as well.  The connection between these aspects of our lives has been stressed by a variety of spiritual traditions over the centuries.

The Jesuit tradition, with which I am most familiar, has long given exercise a place in its schools and educational philosophy.  Jesuit schoolmasters knew that they wanted to form “the whole person” and not simply the minds of their students.  Since the first plan of studies, or Ratio Studiorum, was published in the sixteenth century, Jesuit educators recognized the importance of encouraging their students to work their bodies as well as their souls and minds.  It was understood that exercise promoted balance and concentration needed for study and prayer.  The Spiritual Exercises, which are the living legacy of the Jesuit’s founder, St. Ignatius Loyola, are rigorous.  They depend on divine assistance as well as the focus and strength of a person at prayer.  St. Ignatius started his career as a soldier, and he never lost his appreciation for the kind of discipline that exercise fosters. 

Early Jesuits also had a healthy appreciation for the value of friendly competition.  This long-standing tradition may help explain the success centuries later of Jesuit college athletic teams, including The University of Scranton Royals.  It also accounts for the fact that the University still requires students to enroll in physical education courses and is home to a Department of Exercise Science and Sport.

Here’s hoping that readers will mine their own spiritual traditions during this sacred season and discover again the way in which exercise can be of benefit to “the whole person.” Remember, physical activity is one of the most important factors in improving a lifestyle in a positive way. But, it does not have to be complicated. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity, 3-5 days per week will many positive effects on your body.

Some simple suggestions for beginning an exercise program are:

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – Next Monday

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit:

Be Religious and Spiritual … It will improve your immune system!

Happy Holidays! It is at this time of year that we celebrate life with great hope and faith. People of many faiths take time to reflect, respect, and resolve. Christians celebrate Christmas, the miraculous birth of Christ, the Son of God, and the Messiah. Jews celebrate Chanukah, the miraculous festival of lights, when one night’s oil provided enough light and safety for 8 nights. Both major faiths promote healthy lifestyles for the mind, body and spirit. These faiths are grounded in hope, faith, love and peace. It is no surprise that studies repeatedly demonstrate that people of faith outlive those without!

With this in mind, I purport, that to be truly healthy, one must have faith because complete health is multidimensional. Socrates preached this message to his students thousands of years before Christ. One must have a healthy mind, which requires intellectual stimulation with attainable goals related to education and intellect. One must have a healthy body by eating well, engaging in physical activity and have attainable goals related to his/her body. Likewise, one must have a healthy spirit with faith, hope, prayer and meditation, comrades and counsel, and set attainable spiritual goals.

5 Health Benefits of Religion and Spirituality

1. Healthy Blood Pressure: High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart disease and stroke, which are the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). It affects 1 in every 3 adults and only half of these people have their blood pressure under control. Well, religion and spiritually may help …

The health benefits of religion or spirituality are well documented.  One study conducted at Duke University Medical Center on 4,000 subjects, older adults who described themselves as religiously active were 40% less likely to have high blood pressure when compared to those less active. Moreover, they were surprised to find that those who described themselves as spiritual rather than religious also were less likely to develop high blood pressure.

2. Greater Sense of Satisfaction: Research also indicates that religious people are more satisfied with their lives than those without faith. A sociology study determined that high satisfaction among church goers may be due to the strong social bonds that are developed within a religious congregation. Regular church attendees see the same people weekly and often more often, when participating in rewarding and gratifying church-related volunteer work.

3. Greater Tolerance for Adversity: In an impressive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers interviewed 345 late-stage cancer patients to assess their spirituality as it related to their illness. 88% stated that they were religious as it related to their coping mechanisms. It was determined that those using religion for coping demonstrated a 7.4% rate of resuscitation as compared to 1.8% for those not using religion as a coping mechanism.   

4. Stronger Immune System: According to a Duke University study of 1,718 older adult participants, those described as “highly spiritual” were 50% less likely to have high levels of anti-inflammatory proteins that weaken the immune system and have been linked to some cancers, viral infections and autoimmune diseases. The outcome was similar for those who attend religious services at least once a week.  

5. Greater Longevity Those who attend religious services more than once per week are found to live and additional 7 years when compared to those who never attend services. Again, researchers feel that the social benefits of a belonging to a strong religious community may be a large part of the associated longevity. Additionally, the lifestyle of religious people is often healthier: members of these communities rarely engage in risky and unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, indiscriminate sex, etc


NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

Read ALL of Dr. Mackarey's Articles at

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.