It's common to see priests busying themselves in studying the Catholic faith or doing charity work in far-flung areas. But have you ever met one who, apart from serving others, keeps himself preoccupied with lifting heavy weights and breaking a sweat?
Enter Fr. Michael Angelo "Myke" Dacalos.
Dubbed as "The Pop Monk" on his social media accounts, Fr. Myke from the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart recently sent the internet abuzz when he shared his fitness journey online, something that many would consider uncommon among priests.
In his post, he shared pictures of himself before and after he started exercising. It was clear from his development that all of Fr. Myke's sweat had more than paid off.
But why had he decided to keep himself in good physical condition? According to him, it's to help him fulfill his mission to share the message of God's love more competently.
"Why am I, a priest, into fitness? No other reason than to stay healthy for the mission. I weighed 95 kilograms before and easily got injured. I realized that I'd be a liability sa misyon kapag nagkataon," he wrote in his post.
"Simply put, when a priest is healthy, he becomes more effective in the ministry. I'm very inspired that fitness is a growing consciousness among us ordained especially the young clergy. Kindly support your priests to be healthy," he added.
1/2 Just to put into context the past post about working out:— Fr. Myke, MSC (@popmonkph) October 25, 2023
Why am I, a priest, into fitness? No other reason than to stay healthy for the mission. I weighed 95kgs before and easily got injured. I realized that I'd be a liability sa misyon pag nagkataon. pic.twitter.com/3iSjZ8goja
Steps to keeping fit
Sharing his story with PhilSTAR L!fe, Fr. Myke said that he first considered exercising back when he was still a Theology student in 2018.
"I often found myself sickly or easily injured. I realized then that I could not go on living a sedentary life if I wanted to be active in mission. My current routine is going to the gym at least three times a week and do at least 10,000 steps daily," he detailed.
Being at the gym has also led him to talk to coaches and gym-goers about life and faith, which led him to realize something important: "The gym is not just a place to train the body, but can also be the place to engage with other hearts in their spiritual journeys."
Keeping fit isn’t easy, and there are many who throw in the towel without even giving it their all. Fr. Myke was also one who was discouraged at first.
"I first tried intermittent fasting. I was discouraged for the first months since I saw little changes. But after the third month, I started seeing better results. Since intermittent fasting was about losing excess fat, I realized I needed to balance it with physical exercise," he said.
It was during the pandemic, when he was assigned to be a deacon in Caloocan, that he realized how important it was for a priest like him to be healthy.
"We were so busy with relief operations that were physically demanding. It also greatly helped when I was assigned to Agusan del Sur in my first year as a priest in a rural parish. On a Sunday, I needed to celebrate Masses to five or six villages and to reach them was physically exhausting. I think that the physical exercises also helped in managing the mental stress that went with pastoral work," Fr. Myke recalled.
A fitspiration for many
Fr. Myke's healthy and hearty lifestyle quickly led him to become an inspiration for many of his fellow priests.
"When my fellow seminarians then (and now fellow priests also) saw the changes in me, they were inspired to start their fitness journey, too. I don't actually tell others to start considering having healthy lifestyle, but to let them decide for themselves," he highlighted.
"Also, there's a growing consciousness among priests, especially the young clergy, to exercise and have a healthy lifestyle. And we are quite clear with the purpose. That is, to be really active in pastoral work, because we have also witnessed our brother-priests getting sick and could no longer be active in the ministry even if they wanted to," he added.
While has also received tons of praise and support from other people, there were also those who were not so positive.
"There were comments that were shocking and disappointing, especially coming from those who might have made it their life's project to presume the worst in a person while not actually knowing the person, but so long as I am grounded in my values and the reasons for working out, I'll continue treading the mill and lifting weights," Fr. Myke said.
Spreading the good news online
Being a fitness enthusiast isn't the only thing under Fr. Myke's belt as he is also a rising personality on TikTok with more than 10,000 followers and over 120,000 likes to date.
In a realm that is chock-full of all sorts of content, from dance trends to skincare tips, Fr. Myke has managed to find an audience by not being afraid of breaking the stereotype of priests staying away from social media.
From doing funny lip-syncs and one-liners to sharing about his travels, the local priest has made his page an entertaining one to scroll through.
@popmonkph Huwag mahulog agad. #pushupchallenge #goodvibes #tiktokph #priestontiktok #priest #priestfit ♬ original sound - Fr. Myke, MSC
Despite this, Fr. Myke has not forgotten to place importance on God, as he has also filled his feed with videos of himself preaching about important life lessons, from learning how to forgive to dealing with losing a loved one, and even advising about how to handle bashers.
@popmonkph How do we deal with bashers? #popmonk #dailygospel #CaTikFam #catholic #catholictiktok #tiktokph ♬ 10000 Reasons (Instrumental Version) - Instrumental Christian Songs, Christian Piano Music & Praise and Worship & Christian Hymns
On what motivated him to go online, Fr. Myke told L!fe that he just wanted to share his reflections about life and faith in a language that both the older and the younger generations can relate to.
He also said that being active on social media does not make priests like him less of a "respectable" church leader.
"Being respectable is not about being rigid and taking yourself too seriously. Being respectable is to live one's life truly and for others, and if fun is part of it, what a great reward! As St. John Bosco said, 'Have fun. But don't sin,'" Fr. Myke said.
With all of these combined, Fr. Myke is indeed the person to look up to when you need a fitspiration for staying healthy both in body and in spirit.