September always leads to October (Baseball, the Orioles, eschatology and Heaven)

As a priest and a big baseball fan, I always enjoy watching Baltimore Orioles games after a hard day’s work – with some Tostitos and salsa in my lap and my “eyes of faith” wide open.
This is the start of the best time of the year for baseball fans. September is “pennant race” time. The Orioles are fighting for a playoff spot (and a division championship!) and – in my humble opinion as a “prayerful, hopeful” fan – they have a really good shot at it this year.

As a “sports journalist” I’m no Paul McMullen. If any of you are wondering about my “sports cred,” however, nota bene:
1) I am a veteran (and occasional/current) member of the “Men in Black” seminarian and priest basketball team to promote vocations in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
2) When I was an undergrad student at Towson University, I was the sports editor and a writer (and occasional photographer) for The Towerlight, the school’s weekly newspaper.
3) At Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, I was on the first-ever team to win the coveted and first “Rector’s Cup” 4-team soccer tournament with a victory over St. Charles Borromeo Seminary (which, by the way, went down to penalty kicks).
4) I was a “little-league” baseball player as a child, and played on my parish softball team – and led the pre-game prayers, of course! – at my former parish of St. Mary’s in Hagerstown.
5) I played a year of high-school football (mostly sat on the bench…but it was fun) at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School at my alma mater in Frederick.
6) I was privileged to throw out a “first pitch” at a Hagerstown Suns game and also for “Opening Day” for the Pony League (boys of age 10-13) in Hagerstown.
7)  (This is probably the one I’m most proud of). I am the only priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who has a signed baseball from our former archbishop, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien.  I’m going to see if I can get one from Archbishop William E. Lori later. I’m working on it.

Last night, I was watching the Orioles gritty 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox (victories over the Bosox I always enjoy with great glee, almost as much as victories over the New York Yankees!) Kevin Gausmann pitched a strong, masterful game, only giving up four hits and throwing fastballs with a lot of courage and authority. And the O’s only run was Mark Trumbo’s solo home run early on in the game. But the team played with so much heart, and showed so much poise in the face of adversity during the game. They weren’t perfect; but Gausmann got out of several jams and Zach Britton came in to close out the game confidently in the ninth inning as he done so well all year. I was very impressed and inspired.

Well, with my “faith goggles,” this makes me think of our own perseverance as Catholics and Christians.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” said St. Paul (2 Timothy 4:7.) Whenever I see great sports performances like this, it makes me think of the virtues, such as fortitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:
“Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. It disposes one even to renounce and sacrifice his life in defense of a just cause. ‘The Lord is my strength and my song’ (Ex. 15:2.)” [CCC. 1808.]
One of the many great lessons about baseball, eschatology and the “last things” – life, death and resurrection, “dust and dewfall” if you will! – is that every baseball player who steps into the batter’s box eventually wants to get “home” and, if there is anyone on base, to get his other teammates home as well. It’s like our own goal, which is Heaven, and like the mission of the Church, not just for ourselves but for all of our brothers and sisters. As I watch baseball this fall (and hopefully many Orioles playoff victories, as you do too!) I’ll be thinking of persevering in this life with fortitude from the Lord, our strength, our song.
For those victorious in the Lord, September always leads to October, the pennant race to the World Series, this world’s journey to the eternal joy of Heaven.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.