What's it take to be a good Catholic grandparent?
First, the comforting news: Being a good Catholic will help you be a good grandparent. Being a good grandparent will help you be a good Catholic.
And, of course, there's also that tight relationship between better Catholic and better grandparent.
Oh, that God of ours! Always one step ahead of us. Well, more than one, obviously. For example, you may have noticed that God seldom gives the job of grandparenting to someone who hasn't already paid his or her dues parenting.
Yes, there are exceptions, but it seems most often, in many ways, grandparenting is the equivalent of golf's mulligan. It's God giving you a do-over to deeply influence a child's heart, soul and mind, from tot to teen ... and beyond.
To love that grandchild with your whole heart, mind and soul ... and spend some time minding them. You free baby-sitter, you! But unlike becoming a new mom or dad -- where you learn (and make mistakes) on the fly -- now, as a veteran parent, you know a thing or two.
Looking back since the birth of your own child or children, you can be keenly aware of "what you have done and what you have failed to do" (to borrow a line from the Confiteor). You know you weren't, and aren't, a perfect parent. You know you won't be a perfect grandparent.
That little child, those little children, are God's way of -- no, not turning back the clock -- giving you another at-bat. A second chance to step up to the plate. Hot dog! Apparently, God has faith in you helping a brand new generation be a witness. To see firsthand, to learn one to one, what the Faith means. How it can be lived out and loved.
We all know the Gospels never described those early followers of Christ as monkey-see, monkey-do, but they did learn a lot by watching how Jesus did what he did.
The love, the compassion, the feeding, the healing, the putting others first, the sacrifices, forgiveness and yes, the telling of some colorful and memorable stories to make his point while teaching.
So ... how 'bout that? To be grandparent-like is to be Christlike. And to be Christlike is to be one jim-dandy grandparent.
Come to think of it, your baked cinnamon rolls or gingersnap cookies, barbecued burgers, grilled Oscar Mayer wieners or some other family favorites, are not unlike Jesus having the coals ready on the beach for cooking the fish the disciples had just caught (Jn 21:9-19).
Then, too, since his resurrection, "the living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6:51), continues to feed us, to offer us himself under the appearances of bread and wine.
Yes, there may have been times you might have preferred he had said, "I am the warm chocolate chip cookie that has ..." -- not to blaspheme here -- but think about it: God saved that role (no, not "roll") for you and your grandchild. You, the grill-master/cookie-queen, chosen by heaven to make that youngster or youngsters such divine-ish treats.
Passing down the Faith
Again, our dear God, is always infinite steps ahead of us.
For instance, the "Lord of the Long View," having your parent or grandparent patiently help you learn about cupcakes or sub sandwiches. About this or that or another skill, as you went on to do with your children. And can now do with your grandchildren. God willing, they may end up teaching those same how-tos to their kids or grandkids.
Beyond food, there was, is and later may be: Playing patty cake. Hosting a "tea party." Drawing a stickman, woman or dog. Playing Crazy Eights. Whistling. Folding and flying a paper airplane. Knitting and/or spitting.
It may come to be said one of the finest legacies passed down from generation to generation in your family is how to make the world's best snickerdoodles.
Which, thank you, God, can also be a conduit for passing down the Faith.
So much can be said, shared and shown while rolling that dough in sugar and cinnamon. It's not multiplying the loaves and the fishes, but it is love -- love, so necessary to even imagine a God who is love.
Small wonder it's easier to believe in a Heavenly Father after being so close to an earthly grandma or grandpa.
BILL DODDS WRITES FROM WASHINGTON.
- Bill Dodds is a columnist with the Catholic News Service.