A Surfer’s Tale

Learning to Speak God’s Lingo
by David Barton | Source: Virtue's Clues

AsI sit in the ocean straddling my surfboard just north of the pier at Pacific Beach, an old man with salt-crusted hair says to the young kid next to me, “Dude, that last wave was the bomb.  I thought I was about to get axed but totally shredded it.”  The kid replies, “Yea dude, I ate it hecka hard – totally pearled!”  For those of us from the Midwest, a workable translation might be: Old man says, “Wow, that last wave was really good.  I thought that I was going to fall, but in the end I surfed it.”  Kids replies “Yes sir, I fell off my board and did a nose-dive.”

Two weeks prior to my surfing adventure, I had been invited to a families’ house for dinner.  We sat down at the table, the food was served, and then came time for the awkward part of the evening – the blessing of the food.  I say awkward because as a seminarian wearing a Roman collar some people expect you to say grace, while for other families it’s a tradition that the father or mother always leads the prayer.  Well, in this case nobody was stepping up, but as I looked around I saw the mom and dad simultaneously glance towards their twelve-year-old son.  I took that to be a hint and I asked the boy, “Would you like to bless the food?”  “Sure”, he said with some hesitation, and then after a short pause, muttered, “I bless this food.”

Some of my earliest memories of praying go way back to the days when the tooth-fairy still used to visit me.   I clearly remember night after night getting on my little knees and, with my mom next to my bed, thanking God for the day.  We would then pray a simple little prayer (“And as I lay me down to sleep…”) before my mom tucked me in.  Even to this day I kneel for a moment beside my bed before I go to sleep in order to ask pardon for the faults of the day and to give thanks for all of the graces received.  Had it not been for those simple prayers of my mother that I heard night after night, I would most likely crash into bed without giving God a second thought.

Prayer is like a language, and just like all languages, it must be learned little by little.  One of the questions in the newly released “YouCat” (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) asks: “When should a person pray?” The response given is not only beautiful, but also extremely practical:

“From the earliest times Christians have prayed at least in the morning, at meals, and in the evening.  Someone who does not pray regularly will soon not pray at all.  Anyone who loves another person and all day long never gives that person a sign of his loves does not really love him.  So it is with God, too.  Anyone who truly seeks him will keep sending him signals of his longing for his company and friendship…a great day – full of signs of life that reach God.”

Back to the ocean.  As we wait for the next good wave, it dawns on me that the reason kids from SoCal still talk like their surfer predecessors from the 70’s is precisely because they hang out with them for hours on end listening to them talk while waiting for the perfect wave.  California surf lingo is not something that kids learn in school or even from the movies that they watch.  It is learned from listening to those around them.

If the past generation of surfers can teach young people their lingo, maybe the fact that kids don’t know how to speak God’s lingo has something to do with that same generation.


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Published by: JoAnna Rawicki
Date: 2011-10-16 23:24:27
very compelling article...and inspiring for us moms who pray nightly with our children...

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