Busted Halo

Paulist seminarian Tom Gibbons reflects on his formation experience and his life as a seminarian right now. Along the way, some questions will be will be answered, and a lot more will come up.

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July 23rd, 2010

Golf and Priestly Formation


So I’ve taken up golf this past year in Austin.  I have mixed feelings about this development in my life.  Yes, I am enjoying the game… but I still can’t shake the feeling that this is somehow a natural progression of my priestly formation.  Priests and golf seem to be so synonymous that I wouldn’t be surprised if the bishop handed me a seven iron right after putting the oils on my hands during the ordination service.

This development in my life makes me wonder what will be coming next.  Seriously, it CAN’T really be wearing cardigans.  So many priests I know wear cardigans, but that can’t be allowed to happen.  Catholic teachings on the sanctity of life aside, I am really going to have to find some trusted friends who will agree to give me the business end of a Colt 45 if I ever start to wear cardigans.  (Okay, maybe I’m being  extreme, but I would would hope that someone would at least slap me.)

But in the area of golf, I suppose if the President of the United States has also taken to golf recently—someone who regularly plays basketball with pro players and had Jay-Z at his Inauguration—then maybe it’s safer to move into this new form a recreation than I originally thought.

KS_Golf_2Still, I do see direct links between the game of golf and my impending priesthood… most notably in the area of prayer.  For example, a few weeks ago I walked up to the first tee and pulled the driver out of my bag.  After setting the ball, I took a moment and blessed myself with the sign of the cross.  I didn’t necessarily hit the shot of my life, but the ball did not do the wildly to the right like it usually does, so I decided to keep up my petitions for Divine intervention throughout the day.

But after crossing myself for a few more holes, I began to ponder what I was doing.  I was saying—through my actions—that what I was about to do was actually “in the name of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.”  And I realized that what I was doing was actually for MY glory, not God’s.  I felt bad about this… not so much because I was doing something for my own glory—after all I’m a human being and human beings have a tendency to seek their own glory from time to time—but because through my prayer I was suggesting that pursuing my own glory and God’s glory were the same thing.  I had gotten the two confused…. always dangerous ground.

Still, a few holes later, I found it hard to break the habit of prayer before taking a big shot.  I had been shooting the ball well and after an incredible drive I now had an opportunity to put for my first ever eagle!

So I approached the ball on the green.   This ball was ten feet from the hole.  I crossed myself once again.  From the deep recesses of my soul, I heard God respond.

“Tom, I really have better things to do.”

The Author : Fr. Tom Gibbons
Since 2009, Tom Gibbons, CSP, has shared insights on faith, pop culture, and seminary life in the Kicking and Screaming blog here at Busted Halo. On May 19, 2012, Tom was ordained a Paulist priest at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New York City. He will begin serving St. Peter's Catholic Church in Toronto, Canada beginning in July 2012.
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  • Rick Malloy, S.J.

    Tom: Hey, whatever floats your boats, and good recreation is good for priests and everyone. And I do believe God can be sought and found in all things… but golf and priests synonymous? I don’t think so (LOL). Golf “spoils a good walk” as someone once said. Now fishing, there’s a hobby. Much cheaper than a shrink, and John 21 clearly shows the last time Jesus was here he appeared to a bunch of guys on a fishing trip. So, when I’m out fishing, I’m just looking for Jesus!

  • Ken Maher

    An old friend of mine knows that God can use anything, even golf, to transform a life. The author of this book, a Franciscan priest, had a conversion experience through golf. http://www.amazon.com/Engaged-Spirituality-Faith-Heart-Empire/dp/1570757631/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1280499356&sr=8-1

  • Deacon Brian Mahoney (Soxfan)

    Please don’t feel bad about asking for God’s assistance during a round of golf…balls are expensive. Please lose the Yankee cap. It makes you look far less intelligent than you really are.

  • joe

    Great post. I often have to stop myself saying a little prayer or asking God for help before performing some sort of worldly action for my benefit. However, sometimes its so thrilling as a sports watcher to see a ballplayer cross themselves before an at bat. Should we only reserve prayer for “important” things and exclude all else?

    Does God want us to want God as a partner in all that we do, importance aside? To request/beg/pray for help?

    I don’t see why not.

  • Jennifer

    It’s the Hawaiian shirts that you should be worried about!

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