Ain’t No Party Like a Catholic Party!
The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 5 of 15)
For when I would be washed clean by that water [the water of God’s grace], then also would be dried up those rivers flowing down from my mother’s eyes, by which, before you and in my behalf, she daily watered the ground beneath her face. – The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Part: V; Chapter 8
Ain’t No Party Like a Catholic Party
For the first time in the three-year history of this book club, I completely scrapped my entire post for the week. Initially, I had talked about Saint Monica and her desperation for the salvation of Augustine’s soul, because that passage spoke so glaringly of my own passion for the salvation of each of my children.
Which brings me to why I scrapped my post. First, my original post was a little, let’s just say, whiney? Something along the lines of, “Here I am, a lowly mother, struggling from day to day with my husband to raise Catholic children who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to perpetuate the Kingdom of God in a world where good is called evil and evil, good…blah, blah blah” – and that’s how I felt. Blah…blah…blah.
But yesterday, my faith was reinvigorated! Not my faith, exactly. More like my sense of belonging. As in, belonging to something bigger than my own relationship with God. Sure, I know all about the Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints. But sometimes, even as Catholics, we can begin to live out a “Me and Jesus” type of Faith. Me and Jesus in the Mass, Me and Jesus in Confession, Me and Jesus in prayer. You get the idea. That’s where we’ve been lately as a family. Our Family and Jesus. And when the Faith becomes about “Me and Jesus,” the world becomes a lonely place. Scary, even.
So how was my sense of belonging revitalized? Well, yesterday as a family we attended what we thought would be a casual softball game between priests to raise money for vocations. The competition had been dubbed the I-80 Collar series, so-called because Interstate 80 separates the Diocese of Lincoln from the Archdiocese of Omaha, whose priests would be competing. The game was scheduled (appropriately) on Father’s Day.
We had heard a little about this softball game through the Knights of Columbus at our church and we knew a couple of the priests who were expected to play. So out of our Catholic sense of duty and a lack of something better to do, we packed some fried chicken and a few snacks, picked up some drinks and headed down to Werner Park, home of the farm team for the Kansas City Royals.
When we pulled into the parking lot, my husband commented that he hadn’t realized this event would be so well-attended. Quite a few tailgate parties were in full gear and cars were streaming in one after another. We found members from our church and visited a bit and ate a little food before making our way toward the ticket counter about twenty minutes before game time.
Despite the abundance of cars, we were shocked to find the line for admission into the stadium ran along the entire side of the stadium and out to the very edge of the parking lot. And we’re not talking a single file line, either. We’re talking rows of people 5-8 deep, as everyone was standing in groups, enjoying the atmosphere. As we made our way to the back of the line, excited conversations hailed in every direction expressing disbelief at the turnout. A friend from Knights of Columbus told us he’d called Spirit Catholic Radio (sponsor of the event) a few days before, and they had said they would be thrilled if there were 2,000 tickets sold. Well, it’s safe to say that ticket sales exceeded expectations, because the stadium, which holds a little over 9,000 people, appeared to be full as we searched for seats. Although they are still counting tickets as we go to press, estimates of yesterday’s attendance are somewhere around 8,000 people. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final numbers are higher.
What an amazing experience for our children – and for us! There was joy-filled celebration everywhere we looked! The stadium was full of like-minded people, all out to celebrate our Faith with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, supporting vocations while cheering for our priests!
As a mother, at times I feel a certain amount of futility in raising my children to be faithful Catholics. I constantly remind myself that my children will be saved by God’s grace, and not my effectiveness; but in our day to day walk as parents, we are challenged like never before by a culture out to destroy anything resembling the Truth. I spend so much time floundering around, trying desperately to keep our children safe in the proverbial boat that is Holy Mother Church, while they watch others doing cannonballs off the edge or even gleefully floating on their backs, oblivious of the need for a boat in the first place.
Yesterday that feeling was nowhere to be found because there was a HUGE party right smack dab in the middle of the boat! Not one of our kids was gazing overboard during that game! They were reveling in the beauty and greatness and kinship of our Faith. In fact, a couple of them began talking about the priesthood in ways I haven’t heard in a while. And our six-year-old was unbelievably excited every time he saw his beloved Father Cook on the field. Our priests were veritable celebrities!
I cannot begin to describe the sheer fun of the event! One of the highlights of the game occurred on the last play of the day when (fittingly) the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Omaha (Father Paul Hoesing) smacked a line drive out to center field – scoring both a literal and spiritual home run for vocations!
At past events I’ve heard Father Cook do an amazing impression of Father Stan Fortuna, singing, “There ain’t no party like a Catholic party!” He is absolutely right! When we celebrate our Faith like we did on Father’s Day, there is nothing more exciting, more attractive, or more validating. We need never feel that we are adrift alone in the middle of the sea.
We are not merely protected on the boat, participating in the sacraments and making the sign of the cross as we peer overboard in fear of the treacherous waters below (How appropriate was Sunday’s gospel?!). No! This needn’t be a frightening journey. Rather, it should be a joyous voyage, shared in smiles and camaraderie with all our brothers and sisters in Christ!
Occasions like yesterday are reminders of the glory of God and the universality of our Faith. No man is in this alone. We are a family. And the more we celebrate our Faith as a community in beautiful and collective ways, the less each of us will agonize over the salvation of our children’s souls – for they, too, will be caught up in the excitement over the glory of God. Before we know it, rather than leaning perilously overboard, more of our children will answer that great call for vocations. Then they’ll lean over, not out of temptation, but rather to cast broad nets for gathering all those inspired to join the fabulous party on board.
Prayer for Vocations:
(distributed at the I-80 Collar Series by the Archdiocese of Omaha):
God our Father, You made each of us to receive our gifts in the Body of Christ.
We ask that You inspire young people whom You call to the priesthood and consecrated life to courageously follow Your will.
Send workers into Your great harvest so that the Gospel is preached, the poor are served with love, the suffering are comforted, and Your people are strengthened by the Sacraments.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Book Six: Chapters 1-16 (The Widow’s Son – In the Garden of Epicurus)
1. Do you sometimes feel alone or isolated in the Faith? What do you do to combat that feeling?
2. Has your diocese or parish celebrated in ways that made you feel you part of a large Catholic family? If so, please share to offer others ideas for their communities.
Please feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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