Passing on the Faith - Basketball Style


For decades, the normal offensive formation for basketball has been 2-1-2: a point guard, shooting guard, two forwards, and a center. In this formation, the center dominates with the ball revolving around him. But what does this have to do with passing on the faith?

For decades, the normal offensive formation for basketball has been 2-1-2: a point guard, shooting guard, two forwards, and a center. In this formation, the center dominates with the ball revolving around him. But what does this have to do with passing on the faith?

Until about 30 years ago, passing on the faith also revolved around a "center," the center of Christian culture. Whether our kids were at school, work, or the neighbor's house, everyone played by the same rules — keeping Christ and Christian values at the center.

But basketball has changed, and so has culture. The "center" has disappeared, and that means we have to change our strategy. We can't keep playing like we did 20 or 30 years ago, and we can't pass on the faith the same way our grandparents did. So what's our new strategy?

Here's where basketball can help. A few years ago, University of Connecticut eliminated the center and created a fast game by using three guards to cut and slice through the key. And that's exactly what we've got to do to pass on the faith. We have to be fast. We have to cut and slice through the secular culture. And we have to use every player to pass on the faith.

Who, then, are these five players? In basketball terms, the first player is the point guard. He brings the ball down the court, passes it off, and is ready to receive the pass back. In faith terms, the point guard is the sacraments. They bring the faith to us through baptism and then over and over again through reconciliation, the Eucharist, Confirmation, the graces of matrimony, etc. We must look to the sacraments in an on-going way to bring the faith to us, and teach our children to do the same.

As for the two other guards, they keep the ball in the court. They provide the boundaries, the parameters. In a non-Christian culture, how do we know what to pass on to our kids as authentic Catholic teaching and not just someone's opinion? How do we say "in bounds"? The answer is scripture and tradition. These "guards" help us teach our children a true image of God, the Church, and ourselves.

Even when millions of Christians say the Lord's Supper is merely a symbol, we can confidently say it is the body and blood of Christ. When TV commercials insist our self worth comes from owning an SUV or a particular brand of jeans, we can remember that we are made in God's image and likeness. And when magazines, billboards, and pop singers laud sexual "freedom," we can help our children establish boundaries of chastity and purity.

These contrary opinions won't go away. They're like the opposing team that keeps trying to knock the ball out of bounds. Rather than removing our children from the game, we have to equip them with the skills and knowledge to remain on the court. We can do this through scripture and tradition. We can help them slice and cut through the false messages that surround them to hold onto an eternal view of life.

And now for our two forwards. These players are in the thick of it. They show us how to pass on the faith in the nitty-gritty of life. They teach us how to rebound when life doesn't go the way we expected. The two forwards are the saints and Mary. They show us what to do when we feel frustrated, boxed out, alone, or overwhelmed. They've played the game before us, and they've won. Their writings and example provide inspiration for our children and consolation for us.

On the court these five players aren't isolated individuals, they're a team. They work together as one body. And that's exactly what the sacraments, scripture, tradition, saints, and Mary do for us — they work together as the Body of Christ to help us pass on the faith to our children. But they don't do this in a haphazard way. They do this in a neat and organized way — through the liturgical year.

The liturgical year is the Church's game plan. It keeps us all moving as one team. It's how we know where to focus, how to prepare for what's coming next, and how to celebrate. We need to adopt it as our family pattern for life and our strategy for winning.

The liturgical year can be divided into six main sections: Advent, Christmas, and ordinary time; Lent, Easter, and ordinary time. This forms a wonderful rhythm of preparation, celebration, and break. Advent prepares for Christmas and then a break. Lent prepares for Easter and then another break.

Once we've discovered the liturgical year as the Church's game plan and how our five players help us live it out, the greatest challenge is not wondering what to celebrate, but finding time to celebrate. In our home, the two most important times of the day for celebrating the liturgical year are breakfast and dinner. This is when we rotate prayers and traditions based on the liturgical season. Advent starts by getting out the Advent wreath, lighting it at dinner, and singing "O Come, O Come Emanuel." At breakfast, we recount salvation history through the Jesse Tree or a scriptural Advent calendar.

But that's not all. Mary's feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe fall during this time as do the feast days of St. Andrew, St. Nicholas, St. Lucy, and St. John of the Cross. In preparation for the Immaculate Conception, we might pray a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and from November 30 to Christmas, we sing the St. Andrew Novena 15 times a day when we're in the car. (See sidebar.) We never miss the opportunity to recall the story of St. Nicholas on December 6 and put out our shoes for candy and chocolate covered gold. And of course, we go to Mass more frequently and celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation.

This type of preparation beautifully involves all five players — the sacraments, scripture, tradition, Mary, and the saints. And it serves as a model for the rest of the year. When the Advent wreath is put away, we pick a Christmas card each night and pray for that person/family before dinner. At breakfast, we pray a holy family prayer or a spiritual adoption prayer. When Lent arrives, we read the gospel for the day during breakfast, rotate dinner prayers (see sidebar), and often pray the stations of the cross in the evening..

It took me a number of years to remember to prepare for and celebrate the feasts of St. Joseph and the Annunciation during Lent. One year, we learned the Angelus in preparation for the Annunication, and I'm constantly discovering marvelous prayers to St. Joseph ("O Glorious St. Joseph," the Litany of St. Joseph, Consecration to St. Joseph, etc.).

By now you may be wondering how to keep all these prayer, novenas, and traditions organized. It's simple — buy an accordion file with at least 12 pockets and label each one with a month of the year. That way, when you find a prayer or novena (for instance, on the back of the misallete or a prayer card) you can stick it in the month that corresponds to the liturgical season.

You'll quickly discover that months like December and March become stuffed. Other months, such as the big chunk of ordinary time from June through November, are more meager. Fortunately, this time is punctuated with wonderful feasts such as Corpus Christi (June), the Assumption (August 15), and the Archangels (September 29). You can also use it to pray for vocations, read the lives of the saints, and discover twin feast days such as the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts (June), the Triumph of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mother (September), and All Saints and All Souls (November).

When we follow the Church's game plan and allow our five players to "walk" us through it, passing on the faith doesn't seem so mysterious and burdensome. In fact, it becomes a wonderful adventure, in which you create your own family traditions and prayers. When this happens, you will have taught your children not only how to live the liturgical year, but how to pass on the faith to their children.


Lenten Prayers

Here's one of my favorites by Mother Marie-Anne Blondin, foundress of the Sisters of St. Anne in Canada:

O Jesus, my crucified Love,
I adore you in all your sufferings.
I surrender myself to the spirit of the cross,
and I embrace with my whole heart, for love of you and the salvation of the world,
all the crosses that may befall me.
May they be my treasure and joy in this world.

Other Lenten prayers:
The Anima Christi (found on the back of the misalette),
Litany of the Precious Blood, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet.


St. Andrew Novena

This begins on November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, and is prayed (or sung) 15 times a day until Christmas for a special intention:

Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment
in which the Son of God was born.
At midnight, in Bethlehem and in the piercing cold.
In that hour hear my prayer and grant my wishes,
through the merits of our savior Jesus Christ, and of his mother Mary.



Katrina J. Zeno "Passing on the Faith — Basketball Style." Our Sunday Visitor (March 18, 2001).

Reprinted with permission of Katrina J. Zeno.


Katrina J.Zeno is a conference and retreat speaker and freelance writer. Her specialties are one-day retreats for women, John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and passing on the faith. She can be reached at or 740-282-9062.

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