By Father Jacob Greiner
Recently, I was able to catch up with a friend at my previous assignment, Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine. My friend is married with two daughters. At a certain point in the conversation, he began to express concern that his eldest daughter would undoubtedly be involved in a whole spectrum of extracurricular activities as she enters high school later this year. As a junior high student, this young lady was already a member of two traveling athletic teams in addition to being involved with school athletics, so my friend was worried about how his daughter was going to be able to do everything in high school.
“I want my daughter to be successful and have a good experience, but I do not want her to be miserable trying to do everything,” said this friend, summing up his concerns. I commented to my friend that he probably did not want to be miserable trying to juggle all this activity, especially since he currently works 50 to 60 hours per week doing construction.
This is the typical pattern of many contemporary families — very busy. Though this pace is not necessarily a problem, it is definitely not ideal for a number of reasons. The primary concern for me is that in the midst of these hectic schedules religious practice and the spiritual life are generally forgotten about or pushed aside. “We are too busy to go to church.” “I do not have time to pray today.” These are common responses of individuals and families because something has to give, and this is a matter of fact. Multi-tasking is possible in certain aspects of our lives, but when it comes to developing faith, hope and love, these theological virtues can only be developed through hard work and commitment.
The imperative of Jesus Christ about setting one priority in our lives is probably the most direct answer that I can give to any family: “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Matt 6:33, NAB).
If you are like my friend, worried about how everything is going to get done, maybe you should stop and ask yourself: What are the priorities in my life and the life of my family? If the priority of your family is seeking the Kingdom of God and allowing your family to grow in faith, hope and love, I believe your family’s schedule would probably look a little different than other families.
This does not mean that you do not want your family to be successful and have good experiences. I believe that by setting priorities families would have a standard through which they could make good judgments about how they are going to conduct their lives.
Is being involved in every activity as important as doing something together that would matter? As I told my friend, the Catholic Church is not against sports or extracurricular activities. The Catholic Church is pro-family. We want families to experience the fullness of grace that God wants for them, not the craziness of being completely burnt out.
(Fr. Greiner is administrator of St. Anthony Parish in Knoxville and Sacred Heart Parish in Melcher.)