September 30, 2022

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Parents do small things to help their children achieve greatness

Sean GallagherMy sons Raphael and Victor recently competed on a Catholic Youth Organization volleyball team at Lumen Christi Catholic High School in Indianapolis where they are students.

As I watched their matches, I was interested in how players on both teams took small actions to allow another team member to shine in the spotlight.

One player would hit a small “set” shot where the ball floats up high so that another player can come in and “spike” the ball hard across the net.

Good spike shots are dramatic and draw big cheers. Set shots, not so much. But they’re often necessary for the spike shots to happen at all.

This phenomenon of one person doing something unremarkable to make an extraordinary play possible for someone else is common in team sports.

A simple lob pass in basketball can lead to a spectacular dunk that brings down the house.

Offensive linemen in football anonymously open a hole for running backs to run through to glory.

In my life as a father, I’ve seen how the mentality of doing small things to help others achieve greatness is at the heart of the vocation of parents.

It is the mission of parents to get themselves, their spouse and children to heaven. These tasks are interwoven. Progress, with the help of God’s grace, in one furthers the fulfillment of the others.

The steps in our pilgrimage to heaven often happen in countless ordinary acts in the daily life of families. They’re acts that the world will never see or, even if it did, probably would not value.

So, what are some of the “set shots” that parents can do on a daily basis to help their children to achieve greatness in this life and in the next? Here are a few.

• Make daily prayer and Sunday Mass as a family a priority. Praying at mealtime and bedtime might seem insignificant. But done daily through many years, these practices can help our children become real prayer warriors as they grow.

Being committed to going to Mass as a family is also a sure way to build a strong foundation of faith in children.

I’ll add one other suggestion to this point. Parents going to confession regularly and having their children do the same (and maybe at the same time) can seem small at the time, but it can be a tremendous channel of grace to children as they grow in their faith.

• Put your children and family first, at least most of the time. Parents need time for themselves, and spouses need time with each other. But a lot of times, the vocation of a parent involves putting their desires second and the needs of their children and the family as a whole first.

When children see their parents do this in little ways daily, they’ll be formed to do this as they’re growing up in helping around the house and later as adults when they begin to live out their own vocation.

• Take yourself lightly. Laughing at yourself and at the little frustrating moments that can fill daily life can help children get over the obstacles that might keep them from growing in holiness.

G.K. Chesterton’s great adage, “Angels fly because they take themselves lightly,” applies to us humans, too.

There are many other little set shots that parents can do each day to help their children on their pathway to heaven. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the countless opportunities God gives you daily to be channels of grace to the children he has so graciously sent into your lives. †

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