Why All Neutral Baseball Fans Should Back the Royals

Traditional sources of community have been frayed in modern American life. People change jobs more frequently, are more likely to relocate across the country from their family and friends, and local clubs and organizations have declined in membership. One enduring source of community, however, is sports.

While the players might come and go more frequently than they once did and athletes might not be as big a part of the community now that their salaries have soared, there is still a bond that comes with supporting the hometown team.

The rich might be in the luxury boxes and working class people might be in the nosebleeds, but they are united in their passion for the success of the team they love. It creates a bond that cuts across race, gender, and class. It is a source of pride for a community.

That is what makes the Giants attempt to push the Oakland A’s from the Bay Area such a despicable act. It is the ultimate expression of the corporate mentality over the belief in community—in fact, it’s an active attempt to destroy a community that exists. The nauseating greed of the Giants’ ownership has crowded out any sense of civic spirit or responsibility.

As a lifelong A’s fan, I am hardly a neutral observer. But even in my Maryland home, my house bears the markings of a Bay Area partisan. Raiders, 49ers, A’s, Warriors, and Sharks pennants dot the walls. While I could not stand Barry Bonds, I harbored no enmity toward the Giants for years. I wore number 24 because of Willie Mays, admired Marichal and McCovey, and liked Giants players from Trevor Wilson to Bill Mueller to Buster Posey.

I even rooted for the Giants in 2010, not because I wanted to see the ridiculous fans rewarded who throughout that very season had been calling for Manager Bruce Bochy’s ouster on a daily basis on the Giants’ radio station KNBR, but because I wanted my friends who weathered the cold of Candlestick’s swirling winds to experience championship glory.

And I hoped that winning a championship would reduce some of the insecure pettiness many other Giants fans had displayed toward the A’s. The Giants-A’s and Giants-Dodgers rivalries are real, but the intensity had always been stronger on the Giants’ side, almost certainly because of the total absence of championships in San Francisco until 2010.

Rivalries in two-market areas are not a bad thing. They can be fun and competitive. And while there are hardcore partisans on each side, it is not uncommon to see people jump on the bandwagon when a team is successful in the postseason. This is inevitable in a community like the Bay Area.

But attempting to drive a team out of the area to corner the market and maximize profits is everything people have come to hate in sports. And rightly so. For a team to push another team out is a gross violation of loyalty to the people of the Bay Area, including, but not limited to, loyal A’s fans. It deserves nothing but opprobrium and condemnation.

It is not simply about disregarding the importance of community. The Giants’ ownership is willing to fracture a community out of corporate greed. Rivalry is turning into genuine hatred. And much of it has nothing to do with what takes place on the field. It is a toxic situation that is about economic domination, not just baseball. And in some places, it is turning friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor.

How did we get to this point? In the early 1990s, the Giants tried to move to San Jose. My family of A’s fans supported it. San Jose is the tenth most populous city in the country; it deserves a team. We did not want to lose our area’s National League team to St. Petersburg, Florida. The Bay Area has the population (over 7 million), media market (6th biggest), and wealth (first in high-tech jobs in the country) to support two competitive teams. This is beyond dispute.

At the time, the owner of the Oakland A’s shared this civic-minded mentality and loyalty to the Bay Area. He ceded the territorial rights of the A’s to Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, so the Giants could move there and the Bay Area could keep its two teams. What compensation did he request from the Giants? None. Not a single penny.

The people of Santa Clara County and San Jose rejected the Giants’ bid for a new stadium. Fortunately (or so it seemed), the Giants were able to remain in San Francisco and build one of the best venues in all of sports. The Giants’ fan base grew and revenue soared. Eventually the Giants ended decades of futility and won a championship—and then another.

Yet that is not enough. The Giants’ owners love money more than the game. They love profits more than their community. And the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, has failed to step in to ensure that the common good trumps individual greed.

The A’s stadium is not fit for Major League Baseball, as fond as my memories are of it, both before and after the construction of Mt. Davis. It seems unlikely that Oakland can currently sustain an MLB franchise, given the financial realities of the present system. This is a shame for loyal A’s fans in Oakland, but moving within driving distance is the best possible outcome if they must leave.

The Giants’ ownership would almost certainly receive compensation or a guaranteed minimum level of revenue if they were willing to cede the territorial rights former A’s owner Walter Haas ceded for free, simply because he was a decent person. The Orioles-Nationals deal shows that there is no real barrier to fixing the situation under a new commissioner who is competent. But the Giants are doing everything in their power to block this.

An A’s move to San Jose is good for the Bay Area. It is good for baseball. But greed stands in its way.

I can’t blame Giants fans for rooting for their team in the Series. They should. They don’t have a say over whether or not their owners are greedy corporate fiends with no sense of community or decency. But for all other baseball fans, it should be obvious who the good guys are in this Series: the Oakland A’s-hearts-breaking, scrappy, base-swiping, dominant bullpen-led Kansas City Royals.


Beyond Networking: Fostering Authentic Friendships

This is a revised draft of a talk given in DCCatholic’s Summer Theology on Tap series on July 15, 2014.

God is Friendship

Good evening to you all. I first want to thank you for coming to this event and thank you for coming together. Among my favorite scripture passages is Psalm 133, which opens with the acclamation, “How good and how pleasing it is, where people dwell as one” (Ps 133:1). And tonight we can affirm the truth of this statement. There is an intrinsic value and a beauty when people gather in hospitality and openness to friendship. Perhaps there may also be a bit of uncertainty and even awkwardness as we make introductions and small talk, but there is also a real joy. And if we are open to this, we can feel it.

We all have heard it said before, that God is love. But what if we were to look at it slightly differently? What if we were to say, “God is friendship”? If God is love, and friendship is a type of love, then we should also say God is friendship. And this makes sense, doesn’t it? For God is not some static and solitary figure, but rather God is Trinity, the communion of three persons in one, in which each person shares his life with one another and with all of us. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us that when two or three are gathered, he is there in their midst (Mt 18:20). This was not some predication that the ghostly apparition of Jesus will magically appear, but rather that in the very act of communion, God is present. So let us affirm how good, how pleasing, it is when brothers and sisters dwell as one. How beautiful it is when we can come together in unity, because when we do, God is here.

Connecting with One Another

We live in Washington DC, which is one of the most connected cities in the country, if not the world. Wherever we go, when we meet people, we try to find mutual contacts. We exchange business cards, we attend meetings and conferences solely for the purpose of building our networks. Our city revolves around these connections; if you do not know someone, good luck trying to get a meeting with him or her.

We have become adept at building these networks in this new social age. When you meet someone in the professional setting, what is the first thing you do when you get back to your computer (or you look at your phone)? You add them to your LinkedIn account. Or if it is in a non-professional setting such as a happy hour like tonight, you Facebook them. There is a whole set of protocols and unwritten rules governing these interactions, but once you are connected, then you can access who they know, thus creating this incredible and intricate web of virtual relationships that potentially mirrors our actual lives. As we are becoming more interconnected, the world is becoming smaller. As the saying goes, we are all only about six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, right?

Yet despite this level of connectivity, many of us still have a desire for something more substantial, even if we cannot quite express what we mean by this. But we realize that there is a real danger in being caught in a plethora of superficial connections, both on social media and in real life, that can distract us from having authentic friendships.

Different Types of Friendship

In my Philosophy 101 class, I learned that according to Aristotle, there are three main types of friendships: friendships based upon utility, friendships based upon pleasure, and friendships based upon goodness and virtue (Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII). In modern terms, we could think of these categories this way: friends of utility would be our coworkers and colleagues, people with whom we are in certain political parties or associations, with whom we share common professional goals, people who we are connected with on LinkedIn. Then, friendships of pleasure would be persons with whom we attend happy hours, play co-rec sports, go on hikes,persons with whom we simply relax–in other words, our Facebook friends. And then the final category of friends, according to Aristotle, are the best, but also a bit a difficult to describe: friends who are virtuous in themselves and recognize and appreciates the goodness of the others. They are friends simply because there is an intrinsic goodness in companionship and sharing their virtue with another. The key difference between the friendship of virtue and the other two types is that the former endures, while those latter ones are often dissolved once the object of pleasure or utility disappears.

Yet these categories are at once useful and deceptive, because there can be a temptation to demean the friendships of utility and pleasure and say that these are not real friends. But in reality, these are often the friendships which are the most present and meaningful in our lives. And in contrast, we have all had coworkers who have not been our friends and who have made our jobs and lives unbearable at times. So it is important that we not confuse friendships of utility with those people who simply use and manipulate.

Fostering a Beautiful Tapestry of Love

When I reflect on the experiences of my life, I realize that I disagree with Aristotle’s hierarchy of friendship. If God is friendship, then any friendship has the potential to be what we may call authentic. There is a real beauty in the diversity of friendships; each can improve the quality of our life in real and different ways. Henri Nouwen has a beautiful passage on this, in which he writes,

“Each [friend] has his or her own gift for us.  When we expect one friend to have all we need, we will always be hypercritical, never completely happy with what he or she does have. One friend may offer us affection, another may stimulate our minds, another may strengthen our souls.  The more able we are to receive the different gifts our friends have to give us, the more able we will be to offer our own unique but limited gifts.   Thus, friendships create a beautiful tapestry of love” (Bread for the Journey, May 2).

While some may try to put limitations on the number of friends in their lives, it is important to realize that every friend can shape our lives for the better. By opening us to the joys and cares of others, they help us to realize that our lives are not meant solely for ourselves, but for others. They open us up to the presence of God, and to a new, blessed, and more fruitful life.

But friendship is not just something that happens passively; rather it is an act. It requires energy, time, effort, and our presence. And we all have the capability of fostering it. There are a few ways in which we can, if we are intentional: when we meet someone, we need to recognize that he or she is another self, totally independent of your own desires and wants. When we speak with them, we need to actually be interested and actively listen to them. But we also need to be honest, share our own stories, and at times, be vulnerable. And most importantly, we need to remember them. Nothing ends a friendship quite as quickly as forgetting a person’s name. This will require at times more energy on your part and may not offer an immediate return. Yet there is something intrinsic to ourselves that longs to be in communion with others, and we miss it when we it is not there. But we should never complain about a lack of authentic friendship, because we can all create the space to foster it. To paraphrase St. John of the Cross: “Where there is no friendship, put friendship – and you will find friendship.”

Who are our friends?

But we also need to ask ourselves: who are our friends? So often we surround ourselves with people who are like ourselves. Just this morning in the Washington Post (July 15, 2014), there was an article that said that friends share a greater amount of similar genes than with strangers. We often separate ourselves from those who are different from us—just think about the different neighborhoods in Washington DC. I bet very few of us go across the Anacostia River to the Southwest neighborhood, where there is a much greater perceived threat and danger. Rather, we mostly stay in the neighborhoods that we are more comfortable with. But the danger is that we lose sight of the beautiful tapestry of love, which is created by diverse friendships. There is a true potency in friendship that can reach across different divides and bring people together in ways that even kinship does not.

But there can be a real danger in limiting ourselves to friends that mirror us in superficial ways. Any one of us can see this happening already in our Facebook newsfeeds. Whenever we click on or post something, it is recorded, and more similar articles will appear more often. If we are not careful, our newsfeed can become an echo chamber, repeating the things that we already have said. Our ideas are never challenged, only reaffirmed; we become entrenched in our ideologies, and become separated from those who think differently than us. We can already feel the effects of this. If Washington, DC is one of the most connected cities in the country, it is also one of the most divided by political partisanship and income inequality. But this disassociation with and demonization of others different from us undermines the very fabric of society. Even in ancient times, Aristotle recognized this, for he writes, “Society depends on friendship, after all, people will not even take a journey in common with their enemies” (Politics). We must realize, then, that friendship is not just personal, but is also necessary for the cohesion and the common good of our cities.

We also need to realize that friendship is necessary for the Church as well. Pope Francis has really challenged us not to be stuck looking inward upon ourselves. In the conclave prior to his election, he said that a Church which does not go out becomes sickly. It needs to reach out, become diverse, engage the world. We can say the same about us in terms of our friends. Again, friendships open us up to the cares and concerns of others. Engaging in one friendship actually makes us more capable to befriend others, including those who may be different than ourselves.

What can we do?

Now I am a member of a Catholic lay movement, called the Community of Sant’Egidio. This community began in Rome in 1968, composed of a few high school students who rediscovered the vitality of the Gospel and desired to live it in concrete ways. So they began praying with scripture and went to the slums on the periphery of the city to tutor poor immigrant children. Out of this movement from the Gospel to the margins of society arose this international community, whose members strive to live out the Gospel through prayer, service, dialogue, and friendship, especially with the poor. There was the discovery that the Gospel cannot be lived far from the poor. This friendship with the immigrant children opened up the Community to encounter the other types of poor, including the elderly, persons with disabilities, the homeless, the terminally ill, and prisoners. I have been a member for the past six years, with a special focus on encountering the elderly in nursing homes and the homeless on the streets. In Washington, DC, there is a small group of young adults from Sant’Egidio, who every Friday night go out to the streets to share food, share conversation, share our time, and share our presence with those that we encounter there. We are striving to create a culture of encounter.

Sant’Egidio has been encountering the homeless for over 30 years. We have realized that:

“loneliness and isolation are a condition common to all the homeless. Sometimes they are so oppressive as to leave a human being in a void, without any contact with his or her family, completely cut off from the world in general. Stopping, exchanging some words may seem little in a life full of relations. The homeless, however, speak only to ask for help, and at times to no avail. Nobody calls them by name. Name recognition, on the other hand, attests to the importance of a person as a human being. Greeting someone is a humane and decent thing to do, introducing oneself, asking for a person’s name. Breaking the prison of contempt in which these people are confined—and giving them the respect and recognition to which each and every human being is entitled—is as easy as that. This is the first thing we can do to alleviate the conditions of these unfortunate brothers and sisters of ours” (www.santegidio.org, “Friendship on the Streets”).

Fostering friendship can be the foundation for the careful search for solutions towards a better future, even in situations that appear impossible to change at first. A kind approach, constant dedication, and patience are signs of God’s love for His “little ones” (Matthew 25). At first appearance, it may not seem that we do much. By offering a simple meal, something to drink, and perhaps a blanket or jacket in the winter, we are not mending all the challenges of their lives. But these gestures are concrete signs to show that we are people who care. And they can serve as the starting point to significant relationships with persons who at the beginning, because of long isolation periods, do not always seem inclined to make a contact or accept help. And slowly, through these friendships, we can bring the transformative presence of God to our city and help make it a more human and hospitable place for us all, especially the poor and marginalized.

One issue that is often expressed is the real concern for our safety, especially when we go out to the neighborhoods where the poor live. This concern can stifle our generosity and goodness. It would be naïve to simply gloss over real dangers, but we must also realize that these concerns can serve as excuses to remain in our comfortable lives. There is a real need in the city for our presence, and God is constantly inviting us to serve, to reach out to the marginalized. And this is why it is important to have friends who can join us on our mission. We are better together. Again, we are better together. The disciples did not go out alone, but in pairs. None of us can engage in this work alone, so we must therefore foster friends who can accompany us in serving the marginalized. Eventually, once we faithfully encounter the poor and marginalized, their friendship becomes a call for us, and we realize that the beauty of being with them far surpasses the fear that formerly held us back.

And we must not forget the importance of prayer. Prayer opens us up more fully to the presence of God, assuages our fears, heals our hearts to be generous, and calls down God’s graces upon difficult situations. We all need a community that prays and serves together, a community that will constantly challenge us to go beyond our comforts and complacencies, a community that will form us in love. And by doing this, we can all become artisans of peace, artisans of encounter, artisans of friendship, who can weave this tapestry of love, and who can help others realize how truly beautiful and pleasing it is when brothers and sister can come together and dwell as one.

Charlie Gardner is the Washington Officer for the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is a Catholic lay community dedicated to putting the Gospel into practice through prayer, service, and friendship with the poor. He grew up in St. Louis Missouri, and attended the University of Notre Dame where he received an undergraduate degree in Great Books and Catholic Social Thought and a graduate degree in Theology through the Echo Program.


If you are interested in learning more about the Community of Sant’Egidio and joining us for either evening prayer or service, please email the author, Charlie Gardner, at charlesrgardner@gmail.com; you can also visit www.santegidiousa.org to see in which cities of the US the Community is already present.

Bibliographic note: A.C. Grayling’s philosophical book, Friendship (Yale University Press, 2013), was extremely helpful in helping me clarify my thoughts and in constructing the narrative of this speech.



Live Questions Launches

I’m excited to be part of a group of millennial Catholics that launched the website Live Questions this week. It’s an online space for an ever-widening community attempting to follow the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s advice: “Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

A bit about us: We are a community inspired by one belief — The love of God is at work. We try to live this belief by exploring questions of vocation, community, solidarity, and beauty:

Vocation: Who is God calling me to be? How does God’s love affect important decisions related to relationships, career, money, leisure time, and more?

Community: What does strong community require? How can we promote the common good in the church and the world? How can we encourage both participation and accountability?

Solidarity: How can we cultivate kinship across boundaries of religion, ethnicity, and class? In what ways can we live the belief that all people are part of one human family?

Beauty: What is beautiful? How does beauty inspire and rejuvenate us? What can we learn about God and ourselves by encountering and creating works of visual art, film, music, poetry and prose?

Most of the curators of LQ participated in Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) in Philadelphia, a two-year leadership development and faith formation program rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. CLA itself is part of the Jesuit Collaborative, whose mission is to share Ignatian spirituality.

After the group concluded in 2012, some members continued to meet in each other’s homes for the purpose of sharing a meal, discussing books, music, or movies that engaged us, and praying.

Along the way, a few like-minded friends dropped in. Because of our prior experience in CLA and our continued fellowship, we were also able to use each other as trusted sounding boards for career, family, and life choices.

The idea of the “four questions” was an attempt to provide structure and coherence for these gatherings. We were clearly more than a book club. We also had something special and distinct from the many “young adult” groups some of us had experienced. We may not have had an official name, but we are a very intentional, albeit small, Catholic community.

We think there is a real thirst for people to connect with something bigger than themselves, to be part of a community, to be authentic and engaged, to see where we fit in a loving God’s world. Our group gathers monthly for prayer, discussion, and meal-based fellowship focused on those four questions. We commit to asking these questions in our personal and professional lives every day. We participate in worship and service in our own parish and wider communities.

Live Questions, which launched this week, grew from our desire to share this experience with others. Check us out at Live Questions, like us on Facebook, or shoot us a note: livequestions2013@gmail.com. We’d love you to join the conversation.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Tea Party vs. the Common Good by Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter: “The individualism that is such a part of the American psyche has developed into something deeply pernicious, a denial of the possibility of the nation coming together, in the form of government action, to promote the common good.”

Could Pope Francis make women cardinals? A pipe dream, and an opening by David Gibson: “Pope Francis has said repeatedly that he wants to see greater roles for women in the Catholic Church, and some argue that he could take a giant step in that direction by appointing women to the College of Cardinals – the select and (so far) all-male club of ‘Princes of the Church’ that casts secret ballots in a conclave to elect a new pope.”

Everything Is Yours by Annie Selak: “Every act of self-gift becomes an act of bringing God into the world. As a result, the faithful are continually giving to the world and building the kingdom of God, renewing the church.”

Sr Eugenia Bonetti wins EU award for anti-trafficking work by Vatican Radio: “Italian Consolata Sister Eugenia Bonetti, a driving force in the fight against trafficking and prostitution, was among the recipients of the European Citizen’s Prize 2013.”

Paradise Lost by Anna Nussbaum Keating: “In a culture that values individualism and personal choice, we have forgotten that we are social animals, interdependent from conception, and that our relationships and communities, to a large extent, determine the quality of our lives.”

Pope’s Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization: “No one is excluded from the hope of life, from the love of God. The Church is sent to reawaken this hope everywhere, especially where it is suffocated by difficult existential conditions, at times inhuman, where hope does not breathe but is suffocated.”

Project Gubbio at St. Boniface: sanctuary of sleep by Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle: “The Rev. Tommy King, pastor at St. Boniface for nearly two years, said the church’s congregation doesn’t mind homeless people sleeping in its pews during the day since the church would otherwise sit empty, save for the first few pews reserved for those coming to pray. The family of a recently deceased parishioner even agreed to allow the homeless people to keep sleeping while it held a funeral service at the front of the church – complete with 150 mourners and a full choir.”

Pope Francis Lays Out 4-Point Plan by Greg Erlandson: “What excites many and disturbs some is simply that the Pope seems to be living this agenda. In word and in deed, he is inviting those who do not know Christ to “let God search and encounter” them. And to those who call themselves Catholic, he is challenging us that if we claim to be disciples, we had better get out there and meet the world.”

Open the Doors by Karen Gargamelli: “Although the number of women religious is dwindling, they remain the lifeblood of our church, and their convents are holy and fertile ground for new communities of faith. My suggestion: Keep the convents. Open the doors to lay people. Welcome migrants and the homeless.”

Assad regime snipers targeting unborn babies by The Telegraph: “Snipers belonging to the Assad regime in Syria are shooting pregnant women and their unborn babies in a disturbing “game” of target practice, a British surgeon has claimed.”

‘Super nun’ in Congo helps victims of Lord’s Resistance Army by CNN: “Sister Angelique Namaika has been recognized for her extraordinary humanitarian work with victims of atrocities committed by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the militant group led by African warlord Joseph Kony.”


Letter to a “Conservative” Catholic

Dear “conservative” Catholics,

First, I regret using the word “conservative” to describe you. Up until this point in my life, I have refused to use terms like “conservative” or “liberal” that unfairly place Catholics into boxes and create divisions. But I am now finding it necessary for what I need to say.

Let me admit up front that I am a “liberal” Catholic. You may want to deny the existence of these categories, but you know what I am talking about. I am more likely to visit with the poor and homeless than to attend a pro-life rally (though I definitely am pro-life and have attended pro-life events). On October 11th of last year, my Facebook status was about the 50th anniversary of the convocation of the Second Vatican Council (though I was also genuinely excited about the beginning of the Year of Faith). I am more likely to attend a liturgy in which David Haas hymns are sung by a choir than one where more traditional hymns are chanted over the scent of incense (though I truly appreciate both). I am cringing as I write this because these are rough generalizations with many exceptions.

I am also cringing because it pains me to see so much division within the Church today between Catholics like you and Catholics like me. The mixed responses of my Catholic friends this past Thursday, in person and on social media, to the release of Pope Francis’ beautiful interview “A Big Heart Open to God” made me feel sad and worried. It was almost as if you and I were on two Catholic teams that were fighting against one another. This is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for many years: Catholics viewing each other as enemies, claiming to be the only true Catholics. What breaks my heart the most is seeing Catholics say that they would like to see a “smaller, purer church.”

Let me confess that I have contributed to this division. I have become upset and angry with you before on many occasions, because I sometimes think you are emphasizing the wrong things and losing the really important stuff. I have stubbornly butted heads with you in ministry meetings, arrogantly scoffed at the “close-minded” questions you have asked in theology classes, and have even made unfair judgments about you based on things as trivial as the way you dress at mass.  Maybe you have felt the same about me. I confess my own sins of anger and pride that have blocked me from being open to what you have to offer to my life. I am truly sorry.

But we are not that different, you and I. If we began talking and actually listening to one another, I know that we would find that we share the same beliefs, but just have different emphases. We both love the same Church, but may care about upholding different aspects of it. I am asking you to see this so that we can engage in real dialogue. My relationship with God would be nowhere close to where it is today if I had not been open to some amazing and life-changing conversations with Catholic friends that are more conservative than I am.

As I have matured in my faith and grown more open to Catholic viewpoints that are different than mine, I have come to believe that God has called us both to focus on different ideas within the same beautiful tradition. More than that, I have come to believe that we truly and desperately need each other. We need each other to find balance and keep each other in balance.

So here are the promises I would like to make to you today:

I promise to balance the emphases of my faith with yours by truly listening to what you have to say.  I promise to never demean the beautiful ways you serve God just because they are different than the ways I choose to serve God. And most of all, I promise that I believe the Church is better with you in it than it would be without you.

Can you make me the same promises? I don’t want a church without you in it, and I hope you don’t want a church without me.

Thank you for challenging me, for inspiring me, and for showing me ways I have been wrong. Thank you for being my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love,

A “liberal” Catholic

Rebecca Sharbaugh is a student in the Master of Divinity Program at Boston College. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2011 with a B.A. in theology, prior to spending a year in campus ministry at Notre Dame.


No Family Is an Island

Matthew Warner of The Radical Life has a brilliant article that describes the “12 Most Important Metrics for your Child’s (and your) Education”:

  1. Are they humble – not that they think less of themselves, but that they think of themselves less.
  2. Do they know how to be loved – are they humble and secure enough to be vulnerable.
  3. Are they at peace – which means knowing who they are.
  4. Are they filled with joy – because they live with a hope that transcends this short life.
  5. Do they know they are small – that the world is not about them.
  6. Do they know they are giants – that, to somebody, they mean the whole world.
  7. Are they adventurous – willing to embrace a faith that will take them beyond the prison of their own limits.
  8. Are they imaginative – able to see that the best parts of life cannot be measured or touched.
  9. Do they embrace the moment – knowing that the present moment is the only moment they’ll ever have.
  10. Are they virtuous – aspiring to the best parts of their nature.
  11. Do they know how to give generously – because to give of yourself is the only way to find yourself.
  12. Do they know how to love – because this is what they were made to do (and because I’ve shown them by loving them every day unconditionally and by introducing them to a God who loves them perfectly).

It is a truly outstanding list and captures exactly what I hope to inculcate in my young daughter. I only found myself disagreeing with one sentence in his article, his concluding thought that ultimately, if his kids don’t learn these lessons, it’s no one’s fault but his own.

Being a parent comes with an awesome set of responsibilities. He is correct in the sense that parents, caregivers with unique and extensive duties in raising and nurturing their children, are truly irreplaceable when it comes to teaching their kids to value humility, virtue, joy, and everything else he mentions. But no family is an island. We are inevitably shaped by the communities in which we are members.

Kids are shaped by their schools, friends, and the people they admire. Various communities can reinforce or undermine the lessons of parents. Kids can receive the support they need within these communities when they face the temptation to be inauthentic or immoral in order to be cool, popular, attractive, or anything else the average adolescent might find tempting, or they might not. They might be inundated with values that contradict the understanding of success that parents are trying to get their children to embrace.

The dearth of communities in our society that reinforce this way of understanding success is something that concerns me greatly. Having taught and coached kids from kindergarten through college (mostly at Catholic schools), I have seen the flak that thoughtful, caring, kind, generous, joyful kids can get from those demanding conformity to the values of a more narcissistic, empty culture. And it can be tough to be vulnerable when others have hurt you when you have opened up. It can be tough to feel joyful if you feel alienated and lonely. It is tough to be loving when others don’t accept your love or even mock or reject it. All of this is particularly true in the challenging, formative years of adolescence.

I admire Matthew Warner’s strong embrace of his responsibilities as a parent. The world would be infinitely better if all parents demanded as much from themselves. But as it stands now, we have a responsibility to not only help our children embrace these values, but to try to transform our communities to reflect these values. It is a responsibility because we love and value others and want them to experience human flourishing and true success. But it’s also a necessity if we want to give our kids an even better opportunity to embrace and live these values, a better chance at achieving real success.