bratton_heidiPicture this:  You have been chosen as a finalist on the reality TV show, America’s Top Chef!  You’re not exactly sure how this happened; I mean, you did send in that video of yourself preparing an incredible chicken cordon bleu a year ago, but however it happened, a camera crew will be on your doorstep in exactly 10 minutes.  At that time you will be expected to plate up a meal that is worthy of the honor of being America’s Top Chef.  With the cameras rolling, a panel of the nation’s most acclaimed (and highly critical) chefs will be judging your cuisine and rating your culinary abilities.

But here’s the problem; you haven’t even boiled water since preparing that cordon bleu video.  Your kitchen is somewhere under a mound of dirty dishes, and there’s nothing in your pantry but a slim box of mac and cheese, and a can of tuna.  Oh, wait.  Make that a can of tuna-flavored cat food.

To be crowned America’s Top Chef is an honor you’ve wanted all your life.  You just knew that one day someone would recognize your culinary brilliance, but to give a demonstration of it today?  In 10 minutes?  Panic sets in.  You beg the producer for even one hour; okay, just 45 minutes, to get prepared.  No dice.  It’s now or never.

There are times when being a Catholic parent stirs up feelings like these, feelings of unprepared panic.  We want to be brilliant parents.  We’re egotistically sure that we actually are brilliant parents because of how precious our two-year-old is.  But then, Miss Precious morphs into Ms. Precocious teen, and between mouthfuls of pizza asks something like, "Hey, Mom, we’re Catholic, right?  Well, Dr. Harrington down the street said Catholics don’t believe in birth control?  Is he right?"

Well, Mom, forget having a 10-minute warning.  Do you, right now, know what the Church actually teaches?  If so, can you summarize it in a three-second, teen-friendly sound bite?  And, if after listening to you - big if - Ms. Precocious squints her eyes and asks how you know this, how will you back yourself up?

Okay, parents reading this, remain calm.  This was only a simulation exercise to illustrate why, with regard to the effective sharing of our faith, St. Peter instructs us in the New Testament to, "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have. (1 Peter 3:15)."  We must always be prepared because we never know when our number will be called.  Fortunately, if we fail to become America’s Top Chef, life goes on.  Unfortunately, if we fail to adequately teach our child the Catholic faith, it may compromise their eternal life.

Perhaps you are like me and were convicted by the verse from St. Peter of your need to become a better-prepared Catholic parent by learning more about your faith, but you are also just too busy to wedge even one more thing into your calendar.  If this is the case, then here are a few bite-size ways to get ongoing adult faith formation into your life anyway.  Forget reading Cooking Light in the doctor’s office and bring a pocket rosary or a Catholic publication like Faith and Family magazine to occupy your waiting time instead.  Skip night school classes in wok cookery, and join a church support group or service organization instead.  Turn off the morning news and read the Bible.  You’ll be amazed at how these little actions add up.  You see, finding time and opportunities for faith formation is not the real problem.  The real problem is finding the resolve to replace all that stuff that seems so very worldly-urgent with that which we know to be so much more heavenly-important.

When I have more excuses than resolve in this area, I have found that the only thing to do is to pray.  Seriously, I just pray.  I pray a two-second prayer every day that the Holy Spirit would replace my sloth with resolve, and my sense of what is urgent with what is important, until I am once again convicted that, yes, I am willing to do the work needed to stay prepared for the honor of being a Top Catholic Parent for my children.  So, how about you?  Parenthood is calling.  Got resolve?

Copyright 2010 Heidi Bratton