I ONCE worked in a school with a rowing program.
I was in awe of the students’ ability to get up long before dawn and be on the water by 5am. Occasionally I would accompany them in the coaches tinny and loved the early-morning freshness of the Brisbane River at dawn.
These same students would put their bodies through so much pain to achieve various goals; winning the Head of the River, physical fitness, being part of one of the ultimate team experiences and more.
I have always been curious as to why often such extraordinary self-discipline does not appear to go over into other aspects of elite sportspersons’ lives?
Each year our sporting calendar contains a litany of sporting scandals. Why?
What goes on whereby a sportsperson can punish their body in both gym and playing arena and then, in moments of weakness, overdose on drugs, assault their partner, carry on with no respect for neither their body nor that of another?
Now, Damien is certainly no elite sportsperson.
My coaching CV is littered with glorious achievements like the St Laurence’s 7th XV, the Terrace 5 XI or Under 13 F and G XV.
I don’t think I have ever coached anything but the bottom team and even then the players humoured me, knowing that Br Price really did not know what he was doing, but we had fun.
Lent is upon us.
One of the most significant moments of my childhood was to wake in the middle of the night with all of the lights in our family home on.
I was aged about six as I watched my father being taken away on a stretcher having suffered a nervous breakdown and bad nosebleed; my wonderful mother Zena shuffling along beside the stretcher holding Dad’s hand.
When I was born Dad was a patient in Toowoomba’s Bailey Henderson Psychiatric Hospital. Dad carried the burden of mental illness for much of his life.
Yet no one in Proserpine or Pittsworth before that would ever have questioned the love of Zena and Frank.
When getting ready for my final vows I asked Mum, “Mum, when you married Dad were you certain?” Zena laughed.
“Damien, don’t be silly, in love you are never certain, if you were it would not be love.”
From the moment they married at the University of Toronto in 1949 until my father’s death when I was 17, Zena and Frank worked at love.
“Through good times and bad, in sickness and in health!”
I could well be wrong but my gut feeling is that the answer to the question I posed earlier is the “why” behind what we do.
When our why is built on love, on giving, on contributing to the greater good we build a discipline beyond the momentary and the shallow.
When our why is built on becoming the best me I can be in all aspects of my life then we build a discipline that can ride out any storm.
When our why is beyond balance sheets and trophy cabinets our success gifts us with far greater gold.
Lent can help us achieve that “why” if we allow it to.
When we grow in awareness (prayer) we stare the ego down and more authentically reach out to others.
When we fast – that five-second choice that says “no” to the easy, ego-driven choice we say “yes” to a deeper, more authentic journey and grow in inner freedom.
When we give (almsgiving) we grow wings beyond selfishness and ego, and we gain perspective and balance and we begin to truly see our brother and our sister and their innate dignity and worth.
Zena and Frank journeyed many a Lent.
They built a life based on a love-centred discipline, an-other-centred perspective and a trust in a God who always walked beside them.
When you walk this way – you truly grow to be Christ’s hands and feet, eyes and ears, and gain the heart and freedom of Easter morn.
I suspect Zena and Frank could have had seats four and five in a great rowing eight.
Christian Brother Damien Price is a former teacher in Brisbane schools including St Josephís, Gregory Terrace; St Patrickís College, Shorncliffe; and St Laurenceís College, South Brisbane. He continues to work with schools across the country.