IN HIS book Running to Resurrection, Clark Berge is like Bill Bryson high on communion wine, earthy, witty, and connected, with bons mots galore: “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
His Odyssey pounds his USA origins, his emerging Franciscan vocation, and his itinerary as Minister General, shaping his soul en route. “When I run I feel the joy in the beauty of plants and trees, the seashore, the animals and birds. I feel part of the neighbourhood and love greeting people.”
As a reformed alcoholic, 45 year-old Berge felt “a dull, half-asleep feeling, hanging between me and the world, blocking the sun. God had raised Christ to make everything new — except me.” Running surprisingly breaks the impasse as Berge realises that “to sweat is to pray; we run to undo the damage.”
An unashamed runaholic, he draws in others. “Your visit shook us up, now every brother runs every day,” a young friar jokes in the Solomon Islands, whose inhabitants commit themselves to peace by dumping their arms in the sea.
Running assuages Berge’s inner wolf, giving him the nerve “to be fully present in a particular place, a salutary reminder whose world I inhabit”. He runs to Resurrection Cathedral, Popondetta, mindful of the New Guinea martyrs; he runs around Assisi, pondering a church baffled by Francis and Clare; he runs Psalm 48, going round about Zion, marking well her terrible separations, claustrophobic with Christ in the Holy Sepulchre; and in Stroud, Australia, terrified of snakes and spiders, he empathises with her aboriginal peoples: “growing up with same-sex attraction in a hostile world enables understanding of the predicament of other outcasts.”
Franciscan to the core, he composes a Christmas homily for a surly troop of baboons in South Africa, inspired by baboons in Kenya, who saw off their alpha males and found truth and reconciliation.
Running to Resurrection proved a rooted and spiritual raison d’être for any form of exercise, imaginatively lifting up your heart and making you sing.
The Rt Revd David Wilbourne is an hon. assistant bishop in York diocese.
Running to Resurrection: A soul-making chronicle
Canterbury Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70