by Father Mark Goldasich
Where are the bumpers?
I laughed when I heard this question posed by a second grader to his dad this past Saturday. I was at my home parish of St. John the Baptist in Kansas City, Kansas, with some kids from my parish in Tonganoxie and their families. We were at St. John’s Catholic Club for an evening of bowling, fun and fellowship.
St. John’s Club has been part of the parish for over 100 years. Its six-lane bowling alley, where I spent countless hours as a kid, has experienced a renaissance of popularity in recent years. In addition to hosting bowling leagues, the club is rented out to groups on the weekends. This was at least the third time that my parishioners bowled there.
OK, back to that opening question. “Bumpers” are what many bowling alleys today have available for youngsters. These bumpers cover the gutters on both sides of the bowling lane, ensuring that the ball will ricochet down the lane and hit the pins. Though it makes bowling more fun for kids, it’s not such a good teacher.
Well, things are pretty much old-school at St. John’s Club. Although the pinsetters are automatic, that’s about it. There are no bumpers to be had. Young and inexperienced bowlers today must learn what generations of us endured long ago: Bowling balls are heavy, the distance to the pins is long and your ball will probably end up in those gutters . . . over and over again.
And automatic scorers? Fuhgettaboutit.
Saturday’s bowling reminded me of this story:
Eight-year-old Frank looked forward to a particular Saturday because his dad promised to take him fishing if the weather was nice. Well, wouldn’t you know it, when that Saturday morning dawned, it was raining heavily and looked like it would continue all day.
Frank wandered about the house and grumbled, “Seems like the Lord would know that it would have been better to have the rain yesterday rather than today!” Hearing Frank’s complaints, his dad tried to explain how badly the rain was needed, how it would make flowers grow and bring much-needed moisture to the farmers’ crops. Frank was having none of it. “It just isn’t right!” he moaned.
About 3 o’clock, though, the rain stopped. The gear was quickly loaded and off they headed to the lake. Whether it was the rain or some other reason, the fish were biting and soon father and son returned with a full string of fine, big fish.
At supper, when some of the fish were ready, Frank’s mom asked him to say grace. He did, and concluded by saying, “And, Lord, if I sounded grumpy earlier today, it was because I just couldn’t see far enough ahead.” (The story, “Limited Vision,” was adapted from “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)
The frustrations of “bumper-less” bowling can, with patience, lead to improved technique, and that repetition will lead to higher scores. It takes faith, though, because when starting out, we can’t yet “see far enough ahead.”
The same could be said for our Lenten disciplines. If you’re tired of them by now and frustrated because you haven’t seen any noticeable improvement in your spiritual life, hang in there. Keep up the “practice” of prayer, fasting and almsgiving; that repetition and hard work will pay off one day.
For you see, in the spiritual life, like bowling at St. John’s, nothing is automatic.
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