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FOR THE JOURNEY | Guard the net

When my daughter Maria was a senior in high school, the girls’ hockey coach asked her to be the goalie.

This might seem a reasonable request except for one thing: Maria didn’t play hockey. She was a good athlete,on a competitive soccer team that traveled to other states. She was a skier and a skater. But she wasn’t even a soccer goalie. And a hockey player? No.

Apparently, the team was desperate because they’d lost their goalie, and no one, absolutely no one on the team, wanted the position.

I reminded Maria that the dentist had just said she had perfect teeth and I’d like to keep them that way. I told her I always felt sorry for the goalie’s mom in any sport.

But the coach won and Maria said yes.

The team ended up winning second place in the final tournament, runners-up for the city title. While my daughter had proven that, for a beginner, she was a decent goalie, it was apparent that something else was going on with the team as well.

In an effort to protect their net, those girls developed into a fierce defensive squad. Knowing they had a rookie in the goal, they were all over that net.

Most of us have never played hockey, but most of us have been the person in the net at some point, taking the shots in life. The teammates we yearn for don’t have to carry big sticks, but they do have to be present, to help deflect the next shot, to let us know they’ve got our back.

In a similar way, I like to envision my special saints eager to come to my defense as well. I need a lot of defenders.

Recently, a friend received a sobering diagnosis of stage four cancer. It was inspiring to see our faith community rally around her and her family with food, cards and words of support. She responded with words of faith and hope that rallied all of us.

But not every need cries out to us with such clarity. Many times, we don’t see the need and pain in our friends or family or in the stranger we encounter daily. Recall that oft-used phrase, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

We need to develop a listening attitude to hear the battles another is facing.

And we need to share with someone our own struggles. We need to seek out a friend who is committed to confidentiality and to listening. All of us would profit from a spiritual director, and in these troubled times some of us may need a therapist. Maybe we need the consoling gift of the sacrament of reconciliation.

“Faith has need of the whole truth,” wrote Jesuit Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and if we don’t speak our whole truth to a person we trust, the silence will continue to control us.

In his book, “The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times,” the late Jesuit Father Dean Brackley talks about the way the Evil One targets us through silent desolation.

“When the person targeted confides the matter to a friend or advisor, the game is up,” writes Father Brackley. “The lesson is that temptations lose their power when we disclose them to a wise confidant.”

Sometimes, we’re called to be that confidant. Sometimes, we’re the one alone in the net.

No one should feel shame about their struggle. Sharing allows your defenders to rally. Every shot that’s fired your way is not yours to defend alone. We must remember we’re a team.

Caldarola is a columnist for Catholic News Service.

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