Have you heard of Georgi Readman? Probably not — the teen had her 15 minutes of fame on the homepage of Yahoo News a few weeks ago when they wrote about her addiction to Ramen noodles. According to the article, she has eaten only instant noodles for the past 13 years.
Yeah, Ramen. Those packaged noodles that you keep on the shelf for hurricanes or the zombie apocalypse. One package has 400 calories, 20 grams of fat and astronomical levels of sodium.
While they have certainly helped many a college student survive a marathon study session or weekend when the cafeteria is closed, they are not a fixture on the food pyramid.
Pediatrician Lisa Kaufman speculated that “a diet of instant noodles has likely wreaked incredible amounts of havoc on her organs…” Georgi’s doctors describe her as “malnourished” with “the health of an 80 year old” (shine.yahoo.com).
I was shocked that a parent would allow their child to be voluntarily malnourished. Most parents have encountered picky eaters in their household, but they respond by patiently enforcing a balanced diet and finding ways to ensure that their children are healthy. Sadly, our attitude towards spiritual malnourishment seems much more flippant.
This year, I’m coordinating Confirmation preparation at my parish. It’s exciting to give families catechetical opportunities as their teens prepare to complete their initiation to the Catholic Church. However, since it’s now my name on the permission slip, I’m also getting calls from parents who are concerned that preparation and Sunday Mass conflict with music lessons or soccer practice.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the sacraments as “efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us … they bear fruit in those who receive them” (#1131). More than the occasion for a new dress or a photo-op with the bishop, the Sacraments give us Christ.
While sports, lessons, homework, Scouting, vacations, dance classes and college football on TV are all good clean fun, nothing is as important — or enduring — as our life in Christ. Children aren’t born knowing the foods that constitute a balanced diet — they rely on their parents to teach them this. I can imagine that this isn’t always easy, but parents know that not letting little Bobby leave the table until he finishes his green beans is in his best interest.
In the same way that fruits and veggies take priority in a family’s diet, the Sacraments must take priority in a family’s schedule. What does this look like? Sunday Mass, monthly confession and opportunities for catechesis should be penned in the calendar before any other extracurricular is added.
Re-arranging a schedule to accommodate our sacramental life can be challenging — especially for busy families. However, our obligation isn’t to our team, our talents or our pastimes but to our God. This obligation is for good reason, too. We need God — as much as we need food, water and air — and to go without the Sacraments makes as little sense as going without food.