Columnists Mark my words

This column might bowl you over

by Father Mark Goldasich


I grew up loving bowling. I remember my folks calming my childhood fears during thunderstorms by telling me that the flashes and booming sounds were just God and the angels bowling in heaven. Heck, I thought, if it’s something that they enjoy doing, I wanna bowl, too!

That was a pretty easy thing to accomplish when you grew up on Strawberry Hill in Kansas City, Kansas. You see, my home parish of St. John the Baptist was the home of St. John’s Catholic Club, which in turn was home to six, genuine bowling lanes. As a youngster, I spent tons of hours there. Before the installation of automatic pinsetters at the club, I set pins manually. When not needed for that task, I used to keep score for the bowlers. But most of my time was spent actually bowling with fellow kids in the youth leagues at the parish.

It was a safe haven to hang out at the club. Not only did you learn to bowl and keep score, you learned to behave as well. That was because all the adults at the club knew exactly who you were. If you, God forbid, acted up, they’d “discipline” you immediately and then call your parents, so you could get another dose of discipline when you got home.

Although I’ve always enjoyed bowling, I got away from it for years, except for a brief time when I was recruited to bowl in a Knights of Columbus league while a priest in Topeka. A year or so ago, however, the bowling bug bit me again.

Now, every two weeks, I head out to various alleys to bowl. A few weeks ago, for instance, I was in Lawrence visiting a parishioner in the hospital. Afterwards, I decided to head over to the Royal Crest Lanes since “coincidentally” my bowling ball was in my trunk. I swapped out my clergy shirt for a plaid shirt that I also “happened to have” with me. It was a successful day at the lanes, as evidenced by the three scores at the beginning of this column.

I was just finishing up my last few frames when three people started to bowl a few lanes away. Suddenly, a young voice said, “Hi, Father Mark!” I looked down to see one my young parishioners staring at me wide-eyed. “I told my brother that was you, but he didn’t think so.”

I could understand. His older brother was probably thinking: a) why would Father Mark be bowling in Lawrence in the middle of the day; and b) I can’t believe that he would be doing anything even remotely athletic!

I’m not a great bowler, but I do enjoy it. And there’s got to be some calories expended in tossing a 14-pound ball at pins about 60 times over three games, right?

Bowling can be a wonderful teacher about life as well. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:

  • Be flexible. Every lane is different — some have more oil on them, some are drier — so you have to constantly adjust your stance and throw.
  • Be patient. Sometimes the pins will fall easily and sometimes it’s like they’re nailed to the floor. Go with the flow.
  • Strive for perfection, but be grateful for good. Even professional bowlers only occasionally toss a perfect — 300 — game. (I’ve never come close.) Take pride in simply striving to be better. Strikes are nice, but it’s picking up spares that will really make a difference in your score.
  • Learn from your mistakes. There’s a reason you tossed a gutter ball or missed a spare. Figure out what you did wrong and correct it.
  • Automatic scorers (which most lanes now have) keep you honest!
  • Automatic scorers that display your score for anyone in the bowling alley to see keep you humble!
  • Unless you’re on the pro bowlers tour, don’t take things too seriously — just have fun.
  • It’s definitely more enjoyable to bowl with others.

I hope that you’ve made time this summer for some rest, relaxation and physical activity. It’s good for the body and the soul.

And if you’ve not been bowling for a while, give it a try. After all, you want to give God and the angels some competition when you get to heaven!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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