On Being a Dad, On Ministry Part II

Jerry Maguire, Cry Rooms and Experiencing a Ministry Breakthrough

If you’ve seen the movie, Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise, you know that his character (Jerry) spent several sleepless nights being tormented by the next great idea in advertising. He discerned his mission statement, wrote up his proposal and then watched as countless colleagues laughed at the simplicity of his idea. Only a single co-worker would side with him, leave the firm and help him create a start-up company based on principles and not solely with an eye on the almighty dollar. In our ministry profession, we too need to brave the storm of colleagues, their cynicism and overly critical nature in order to birth a new idea worth following. If it’s from the Lord, then it’s endurance we’re after in following through on the mambo ideas that He inspires.

I’ve had a parenting breakthrough in the last month as my daughter, now two, finally behaved through Sunday Mass without me having to take her out to the cry room, lobby, or even to brave the elements outside of the church building. Now bear in mind, it’s been nearly two years since I’ve even heard a Sunday homily, much less gotten something out of it. We’ve tried everything from religious books (good for Catholic parents who might feel bad bringing in an Elmo book…though I don’t know why) to picture albums of family members to small statues of the Virgin Mary. What can I say? We simply wanted our precious, busy little girl to be quiet. A word first about cry rooms.

Cry rooms have been a strange experience for me. I can vividly remember my first “cry room experience”, otherwise know by parents as CRE. We had entered church and immediately my daughter was somewhat busy, working the crowd, talking to the fans on the ceilings, etc. We thought, innocently, “Let’s go for the cry room and make it easy on ourselves…what bad could come out of it?” As if no one noticed, we discreetly skipped back to the small room with the door off of the lobby. Inside were four rows of chairs and one window to see the Mass taking place. The speaker system was so finely tuned that even the last row of choir members could be heard, unfortunately. There were two other families, all with children well behaved. My first thoughts were:

&#8226 Is this room like the “parents detention box” for parents who can’t control their kids?

&#8226 Am I a loser for being in this room?

&#8226 Am I setting myself up for years of seclusion in this 10X10 foot room?

I immediately played it cool and made sure that the other parents knew that I was a practicing Catholic. I made sure they saw me making the sign of the cross and reciting ALL of the prayers. We are real Catholics, just taking one Sunday out of the year to join the rest of you, in this small, lonely room. We don’t usually do this.

At that instant, something started happening. All of the other kids started acting weird. Vegetables in small bags were opened at the start of the Old Testament reading. By the Gospel, sippy cups were being refilled and little pigtails was on her third trip to the bathroom. Being isolated actually made me realize that my daughter was pretty good after all and that we could brave the storms of “regular parish seating” for as long as it took.

Well, we’ve finally made it through that difficult time &#0151 two years to be exact! Now, the little one can sit, realize when the consecration is occurring and today she was practicing her genuflecting on the side of the church. We actually enjoyed Mass!

What carried us through that time was the quality of endurance. Believe me, there were plenty of times when I was tempted to go back into that cry room but we simply hung in there and smiled. Sometimes that’s all that you can do!

When was your last breakthrough in your career in ministry? A month ago? A year ago? Whenever it was, let’s make a commitment this Advent to be open and listening to the cool ideas that God might whisper into our hearts. Maybe it’s something to do with faith sharing or evangelization. It might be something that meets the needs of the poor. It might have to do with Eucharistic adoration.

Whatever it might be, you’ll have to let it percolate for a while and then launch your idea. Run it by your supervisor or a friend before going all out on a PowerPoint presentation or handout. Really FEEL the depth of the idea before working on the details of its implementation. Trust me, you’ll know if it isn’t from God- nothing will happen. On the flip side, you’ll know deep down if God is using you to reach the next million young people or minister to the needs of one broken family. Be open, watch for God’s lead and pray that the Holy Spirit gives you the grace to hang in there when others oppose your idea. And sometimes, all you can do is hang in there and smile. That’s ok because we’re in this for the marathon, not just the sprint. Sort of like with parenting, people are depending on our great ideas and the stick-tuitive-ness to make them a reality. Go for it!

Michael K. St. Pierre is the Associate Campus Minister and teacher of theology at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover, NH. He has worked in parish and school ministry for over seven years and holds an MA in theology from Seton Hall University. He is the co-founder of Catholic Ventures, a ministry to those who work with youth. Michael lives with his wife and daughter in southern New Hampshire and can be reached at www.catholicventures.com.

To read Michael's first installment on this topic, click here.

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