Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Pressing Question for Sports Fans: Nothing Spiritual About this....

I have attended two major sporting events in the past month. Lucky me! Both games have also sparked a realization. Perhaps it should not have taken me this long to come to terms with how I feel, given how long I've been a sports fan (i.e. my whole life). Regardless, allow me to put this insight into the form of a question. Here it is. To what degree does the quality of a game affect your enjoyment of the experience? A lot? Not at all? A little? Is there a "right answer?"

On Saturday, September 4, I went to Oracle Park for the second time this season to watch the league leading San Francisco Giants take on our talented nemesis—the Los Angeles Dodgers. With its 6:05 p.m. start, it was the hottest ticket in town. 

I could not have asked for better seats or a better companion at the game. Mike is a die hard, life long fan of the orange and black. In fact, he's my favorite type of person to watch a game with. Why? He knows the players, sees details that I do not and calculates standings/potential outcomes with ease (love those text messages!). Mike asks me questions. He knows Giants' history, baseball history and more. Mike is funny and we have a close friend in common who is a massive Dodger fans. We delight in beating the Dodgers because we should--that's what Giants fans do. But using it against our friend is potentially sick and twisted, but still ok. (See rivalry 101 for more information). 

Our game was the second game of the three game series. The Giants won game one, but never never got it going and lost 6-1. The winning pitcher Jose Urias was good, but he wasn't MadBum World Series 2014-like. The loaded Dodger line-up put the hurt on early, as Trea Turner started the game with a one-run home run. 

While the Giants did score one run in the first inning, they never got in a rhythm and we are still upset about the balk. 

While I was sincerely grateful for our time together, something felt off...or missing. When coworkers and friends asked me how my weekend was, knowing I had gone to the game. I should have been more ebullient but that's not how I felt. Does anyone else share my sentiment?

But two weeks later, I was in South Bend, IN for the Alumni Association's Fall Affinity Groups Meeting and stayed for the home opener of the of the 2021 Notre Dame football season. The Fightin' Irish hosted the University of Toledo Torpedos and won 32-29.

I went with a beloved friend, my former roommate. Erin and I have attended a game together, barring Covid, for the past six years. As Notre Dame alumni and fans know, returning to campus for a game is about so much more than what occurs on the gridiron. The pep rally, time at the Grotto, meeting with other friends, tailgating, mass and golf make game weekend and incredible weekend.

Erin is also a great sports fan. Her football IQ is strong and we always find a way to connect to the people around us. She loves to play call and even though I got mad at her for projecting a loss (it was WAY to close), I love her passion and commitment to ND football.

The seventh ranked Irish squeaked out a win on the final drive of the game. We locked arms for the alma mater, took a photo together and were thrilled to leave with another victory (the Irish are 6-0 in the games we have seen together). We also left exhausted, dehydrated and wondering how the rest of the season is going to be with a team that played so flat footed. The defense was no where to be found. I wasn't even sure who SHOULD get the game ball.

I returned home from an incredible trip to campus and yet, I couldn't pretend like the game wasn't something that it wasn't. It was confusing, nerve wracking and even with the win, it was underwhelming. 

Thus, I am left with the question I asked at the beginning of this post: 
To what degree does the quality of a game affect your enjoyment of the experience? A lot? Not at all? A little? Is there a "right answer?" One reason I ask is because I cannot find an analogy for this issue in the spiritual life. But the more important reason is because I believe sports are a gift. To participate and witness athletic contests and feats should enhance our lives, not compromise them. And yet being a fan of sport isn't without cost. If I didn't care—and care deeply about my teams, I could walk away unaffected. Though still grateful for the experience, I reminded myself that we say victory is sweet, but some much sweeter than others. 

And if there's a word in German or in Yiddish that captures this feeling: grateful to have been part of something but less than thrilled about the experience itself, please let me know. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

#Gameday2021: Reflections on Sports and Spirituality at Notre Dame

I posted a photo of the Golden Dome on  the first day I returned to the University of Notre Dame and wrote "No Caption Necessary." In response to this iconic shot, I got likes and hearts, questions and the message "Welcome Home" from several friends. This is something I hear quite often when I return to campus and it never gets old. That message, those words—they warm my heart. 

Notre Dame is a home for me. Like any home, it's a place we yearn for. We return with anticipation and expectation. It's not easy to get to Notre Dame and often times, I arrive home exhausted but excited. Weary and yet hopeful. My time at home always sparks a mix of emotions. Things aren't the same--Why would they be? In many ways, life on campus is so much better. In many others ways, it's not. I think I am too. 

My return home however prompts memories--new and old—and gives me the opportunity to reflect and pray. And, as readers of this blog know, my time and ND offers me a chance to think more about Sports and Spirituality. Here are but a few thoughts that I gained from the past weekend.

Saturday, September 11, 2021 at 8:46 on the South Quad 
My former roommate and good friend Erin and I went to the flag pole in the middle of South Quad, the same space that students gathered after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 for Mass. The celebrant then was the leading celebrant of this timely prayer service, President Emeritus Edward "Monk" Malloy.

As written on the Notre Dame website,

At 3 in the afternoon an estimated 7,000 people gathered on the South Quad for a Mass concelebrated by 75 Holy Cross priests, including Father Malloy and Daniel Jenky, CSC, ’70, ’73M.Th., auxiliary bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese. In contrast to the somber mood, it was a dazzling blue-sky day.

“On the altar today we will say prayers that Jesus will be present with us again,” Monk said to a mass of people that stretched from Alumni Hall nearly to Badin. “His words are emblazoned on the Sacred Heart statue not too far to my right: ‘Come to me all you who are afflicted with heavy burdens for I will be with you. My burden is easy and my comfort light.’ He is our source of comfort. He is the one who can give a perspective on the incomprehensible horror that we have experienced today."

Monk recalled how students were lost and clung to one another on that tragic day. They went to the South Quad because they did not know where else to go. When it was time to pray the Our Father, they didn't join hands—they locked arms. The sign of peace was shared by heartfelt and long lasting embraces. Father Malloy has mentioned that mass as one of the most memorable and meaningful events of his presidency (if not his priesthood) .

Twenty years later, we remember the members of the Notre Dame family who died on September 11.  The night before, I spent some time reading in Deaths in the Family: September 11 and Domers that Survived the World Trade Center attacks in Notre Dame Magazine. I carried the names of all to this prayer service.

The ND Club of New York offered a flag that once flew over Ground Zero. It was raised in silence and then lowered to half mast. Though I have seen many a flag fly at half mast, I'm not sure I have ever seen this ritual take place. I was amazed, humbled and inspired that a simple gesture could say so much. 

I am so grateful I was able to begin this tragic day in remembrance and in prayer. Thank you, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Stadium
I posted another photo, this one from my seat in the North end zone. #Gameday Go Irish!

My friend and podcast partner Haley replied to it with a question many other people were asking. She wrote "Why isn't the stadium full?" As someone who comes from a city with the number one team in baseball and the best ballpark in MLB that has had very few sellouts all season, I have my own thoughts. Covid? 

The 20,000 empty seats, barely registered with me. Why? My seats was adjacent to the student section. I realized if I wasn't watching the game, I was watching them...and at times doing what they did. 

No, I did not stand the entire game. Nor did I volunteer to be hoisted or to hoist anyone else for push-ups after the Irish scored. But I did wear green as 97% of the student body did when they purchased THE SHIRT.  (97% is also the same percentage of students who are vaccinated). And, I lifted my hands to fist pump and clap in response to the marching band.

In my four years as an undergraduate, I attended every home game. While many people think of Touchdown Jesus, the Dome or the spire of Sacred Heart Basilica as the backdrop of Notre Dame Stadium, I realized this past weekend there is an audible backdrop, and it's timeless. 

This backdrop hasn't changed in the 25 years since I graduated. It's not just the whistle of the referee, or the clashing helmets. It's something other than the Notre Dame Victory March and the Alma Mater. I am talking about a score, a collection of ditties from the Band of the Fighting Irish. This rhythm comes from the drum line and the cheerleaders lead the way. This music and these cheers aren't something students think or talk about. I don't even know if each song has a name—but I know exactly what to do when the begin. And I love them! I always have. I will ask my friend Kristin, a former cheerleader more about this

This year, the band does not sit in the corner opposite the student section. Instead the are in front of their friends and roommates—their peers. I loved seeing the student body together and as one—especially as they join in those cheers.

Notre Dame Mass Hype Video
Yes, you read that right. Only at ND does a jumbotron feature an an advertisement, an invitation and a reminder for Mass. Check it out for yourself, but the celebrity priest, Father Pete McCormick is featured doing his work in much the same way the team and fans do theirs. Erin and I went on Sunday morning at the Basilica, but  I do love that all are welcome—easily and accessibly to a number of places on campus to remember "you are called, you are known and you are loved." Thanks be to God.

In Conclusion
My role as a Notre Dame Women Connect Regional Director brings me home for meetings in the Fall and in the Spring. It should be of no surprise that both dates are planned to include a football game (in the spring it's the Blue and Gold game...both of which are optional). These meetings are not for the weary. We meet and plan, discuss and debate ideas and input for better programming, meaningful experiences and new ways to live the mission of Notre Dame.
Even at home, there is work to be done. I am grateful for it.

As beautiful as Notre Dame is, was and will always be—it is home because of the people--the Notre Dame family.

Thank you all those who serve on ND Women Connect Board--you are colleagues and friends. To the NDAA for your tireless effort and leadership. We are a "Force for Good" because of your support and dedication. Special shout outs to the Sheehan family, Colleen Moore, Notre Dame Women's Golf coaches and players for the visit, the Kroha Clan, John Harris (one in a billion), the Rohr family (we connected!), Paul Kollman, CSC, Brian Levey (Sports in Ethics Prof and resident comedian), Don Smail (in spirit), the staff at Sacred Heart Parish Center and my dear, dear friend Erin who has joined me for the past 7? 8 years now?  Go Irish!

Photo Credits
Touchdown Jesus
All others--taken by me or Erin!

Friday, September 10, 2021

We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe: Welles Crowther and His Red Bandana.

I stood before all those in attendance at the Notre Dame Alumni Association's Fall Affinity Groups Meeting to lead our closing prayer but my mind and my heart wanted to share a message must different than the one I had prepared. I suddenly got choked up as I realized the gaiter around my neck is a red bandana.

Today, my Sports and Spirituality class at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, CA is learning about Welles Crowther. Welles was a lacrosse player at Boston College and dreamed of being a fireman. After graduation he worked as an equities trader at Sandler O'Neill and Partners. Tragically, he lost his life while making heroic efforts during the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center. However, twelve men and women are alive today because he led them through the rubble of the 78th floor to the stairwell. 

Rather than descending all the way to the bottom of the south tower, Welles went back in and up. To me, this is why Springsteen's song and album "The Rising" is poignant and powerful. Through music he articulates what is nearly impossible to put into words—the total sacrifice, and heroism of people chose otherwise. Those he saved did not know his name, they simply knew that he wore a red bandana.

There is a book and a movie about this life. The video my students saw today is this one. I encourage you to watch it now and consider the questions I have posed for my own students.

  • Can an ordinary object ease agony?
  • Can an ordinary object create legacy?
  • How can someone be gone but still with us?
  • Have you ever played a game that honors another person? Have you ever dedicated one of your games in honor of a friend, family member or cause?
  • Identify a personal object of your own, maybe this is something that you wear or have at home. It might be something that was given to you, or something you got from someone you love—that is of personal significance to you. What is it? What is the story behind it? What is the lesson or reminder it offers

What they don't yet know, but will learn is the red bandana is a sacrament (lower case "s) and to be a Catholic is to celebrate the sacramental life.... one that we can understand and share through prayer.

A gift from his Dad, Welles wore a red bandana as a young boy.

The prayer I had written was one thanks for the Notre Dame family, one that is seeking unity in our diversity. I offered thanksgiving for the Notre Dame spirit—a force for good, guided by Mary, Our Mother. With gratitude for the hospitality that has been extended by leaders at the University, I asked for continued blessings in the work we all share and a prayer that we return renewed and recharged to our homes with "a warrior's heart, an immigrant's spirit and a servant's soul." We heard these words at our introductory session and they capture the life of Welles. The prayer I wanted to offer in that moment was in remembrance of him and all those who have given their life in service to others. I hope this post serves as its own prayer.

Tomorrow marks 20 years the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. I will begin the day with prayer at Notre Dame. As written in "Notre Dame News, "
30-minute prayer service on the South Quad to begin at 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane was flown into 1 World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., will preside, as he did for a Mass of remembrance in the same location on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. Mary Elizabeth Stern, director of faith and service in Student Government, will serve as emcee, and the Notre Dame Folk Choir will provide music." I will wear what I wore today: a red bandana. A sacrament for all to see. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Faraway Goal: Using story and soccer to talk about Afghanistan

I frame the curriculum of Sports and Spirituality with a focus on three things: language, vision and story. Ron Rolheiser said, "God speaks to every element in the language it can understand." For the purpose of the course, that language is sport. Second, "spirituality is understanding there is more to life than what meets the eye." Thank you Richard McBrien. My goal is to help young people acquire the ability to see the spiritual in all things, especially sport. Finally, I believe sports are the subject of some of the greatest stories we have and hold. "Faraway Goal" is a  story about Nick Pugliese, an American soccer player who played on the Kabul Cup championship. His story is how I decided to talk to my students about a crisis in our world that has brought tremendous sadness to my heart—the current events in Afghanistan.

In 2014, Nick found an opportunity to continue his soccer career after college in an unlikely place: Afghanistan’s pro soccer league. He said, "You cannot explain this place in two minutes, let alone two hours. I'm not sure whether I will be able to share this experience with people or if it's something that I'll just hold with myself for the rest of my life.” 

The article, Empire Alumni Nick Pugliese Featured on Sunday ESPN SportsCenter, states "Tom Rinaldi voices the story, which explores Pugliese’s life in Kabul last fall (2013). A native of Rochester, N.Y., Pugliese went to Afghanistan to take a job after graduating from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he was a soccer standout. He played high school soccer at Rochester’s McQuaid Jesuit."

“I was just fascinated by the idea of an American all by himself living in this country and of all the things, he was playing professional soccer,” said Dan Arruda, producer of the feature for ESPN, who spent 10 days in Afghanistan with Pugliese. “It just seemed very surprising to me and I wondered what his life was like.”

I shared this story with my students because I wanted them to see just what Kabul, a city of 3,000,000 people looks like (let alone from a fellow American's point of view). I wanted them to see Ghazi stadium—a place that was once used by the Taliban for public executions and in Pugliese's tenure as a venue for  Afghani "association football matches." I wonder how and if that will change again.

Through soccer, Pugliese becomes much more than friends with his teammates. To him, they are family. 

Sayed Shahab Shah said, "he was speaking a little Farsi, I was speaking in broken English. We started with hello! How are you? We drink tea together. We go to the market together. We tell each other stories and share our thoughts.

Upon hearing that word "story" my eyes began to pool with tears. I started to wonder what are the stories Sayed is now telling Nick, who is in law school at Yale. 
I wondered if Nick's teammates and friends are safe. Are they living in fear? Are they even alive?

Sayed added, "we don't treat each other like a foreigner or an Afghan. We're like brothers."

If only that was the perspective of the Taliban...of ISIS....ISIS-K and what hurts me most—of the US Government. I believe the United States of America  has a moral obligation to uphold our end of the bargain in protecting those Afghanis who protected us. I know friends and family here in the US who have lost sleep over what we have failed to do.

As written in the WSJ, "Today More than 100 people were killed, including at least 13 U.S. service members and 90 Afghans, at the Kabul airport Thursday when two blasts ripped through crowds trying to enter the American-controlled facility, disrupting the final push of the U.S.-led evacuation effort." Please pray for peace, for safety, and integrity.

After watching Faraway Goal, my Dad said "if Afghanistan had a team that played in the World Cup, things might be different. A soccer team unites people in many foreign countries in a way that little else does. They would certainly cheer against America, but it would bring together all of those in the Afghanistan in a much different way." This in no way is meant to simplify the complexity of the problems. That being said, one of my students—a die hard soccer fan, completely agreed. How I wish that story could and would be written... 

Photo Credits
Nick with Medal

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

School Rules: The Positives and Negatives of Norms, Rules and Expectation in Sport

On the first day of school, one of my studnets walked in significantly late. I was speaking to the class when he handed me his tardy slip and kept walking toward an empty seat. Several of his friends laughed at this brazen move. I imagine this confident senior must have been embarrassed on some level. Who knows. I was so shocked by the interruption that I gave a response that surprised even me. 

I said, "Did you know if you are late in NFL for a team meeting, you are fined? Interesting, huh? But for those of you who know the culture of the NFL, fines aren't uncommon. But let me get back to the point at hand; I would like to talk about that consequence: Is it fair? Is that a good idea? Fining players when they show up late?! We will talk about that in this class."

growing up with a Grandfather and uncles who refereed, I suppose respecting the rules is in my DNA.
Glasses Ref has retired from his duties at the white hat but still works with the Pac 12 Crew of officials

The class thought about it too. I returned to my original point and the bell rang but a few minutes later. As I packed up my backpack, I realized the 2021-2022 was well underway and with it, a new way to talk about classroom norms, expectations and rules.

Given that the entire student body hasn't been together since March 2019, I realized quickly how important it is to cover nuts and bolts of the course and what students are expected to have in class. Between posting the seating chart, taking roll and reviewing the syllabus, we haven't had much time to talk about Sports or Spirituality. Therefore, I figured why not integrate them into this discussion as well.

I posted my syllabus and asked students to review and sign it for homework. It includes a course description, outcomes, and our units of study. It lists the grade structure and procedures, grade scale, late work policy as well as expectations for academic integrity and attendance. Starting last year, we implemented a diversity statement. I hope students know how seriously I take the principle of respect for one another, for me and the course itself.

It was important for Coach Wooden that all his players had short hair.
Bill Walton challenged this!

After formally reviewing the information I want to be sure they are familiar with, I presented the following three prompts that address culture, climate and rules.

  1. If you are late for a meeting in the NFL you are fined.

  2. Many private clubs have dress codes and norms or rules for members. At the Olympic Club in San Francisco some of the rules are as follow: no hats inside a building, no jeans on the property (Lakeside), male members must wear a collared shirt when playing golf, men must tuck in their shirt, hats cannot be worn backwards, no cargo or yoga pants on the course or short skirts. It is the responsibility of members to know and follow the rules but not enforce them on one another. That is the job of the staff.

  3. John Wooden, the legendary coach at UCLA, had three rules for his players:  1. Be on time. 2. Never criticize a teammate and 3. No profanity. Not one word

I asked the class to determine what was positive and negative about each statement. I challenged them to think creatively and consider how these ideas relate to our school. I emphasized that the point of this exercise was not for them to share their opinion on the matter but rather to consider how these norms can affect a community for better or for worse. 

I have always tried to offer personal examples when I talk about school rules. For example, when I share with my students that I enforce the dress code, I remind them that I too must follow one: female teachers are not allowed to wear sleeveless shirts. They are asked to wear a sweater over a tank top or any blouse with straps, etc. However, providing these examples that relate to the wide world of sports was much more interesting. For example, one student noted that the dress code at Olympic Club affects men more than women—many saw that as a new characteristic! They also loved reading the list of what else the NFL issues fines for. I've heard it called the No Fun this why?

I hope my students will return to class with other examples of rules and norms as they apply to our school and the world at large. Stay tuned. It's exciting to be back.

Photo Credits

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Football as the Metaphor for Life: What We Can Learn from the NFL on the COVID-19 Vaccine

In his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech, John Lynch said, "I want to state the National Football League is the greatest metaphor for life that I've ever known." I have a world of respect for the nine time Pro-Bowler and now General Manager of the San Francisco Forty Niners and still his words challenge me. Really? Football is life? I suppose Ted Lasso is proclaiming the same truth.

On one level, his proclamation should not surprise me. The yellow jacket, the bronze bust, the platform to recall and celebrate past success allows one to wax poetic about the power and potential of this great game and the organization that makes it the most popular sport in America. Even with emotions running high, I have to admit, his metaphor works—for better or for worse. 

Three words that come to mind when I think of NFL leadership are cronyism, nepotism and sexism. Truth be told, these isms are characteristic of too many powerful organizations. Sadly, drug use, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and homophobia are friends of the program. In the NFL, you have the obscene wealth of the owners, the extreme wealth that agents make, and the inordinate cost of season tickets. The PSL should be criminal. Unfortunately, the list goes on. Did I mention the Black Hole? 

But Lynch does not focus on the shortcomings, the limitations of the National Football League. Instead he says:  

It challenges each and every one of us that plays this great game in every way possible. Everything about the game is hard and tests your will. It compels every man that puts on a uniform to not only do their best, but to be their best. In football we quickly discover we're only as strong as our weakest link, and if we're to achieve the goals that we've set for ourselves, we must all learn to play together and pull together. Each of us comes from a different walk of life, but when we huddle up, we huddle up as a team. It doesn't matter where we come from or your background. All that matters is the fulfillment of one goal: victory.
And I think few too people know this metaphor extends to a battle we are fighting in our country and in the world today: COVID-19.

The NFL is now nearly 90% vaccinated!  These increased numbers didn't get there by happenstance. Due to the league and players' union, every player is not required to get the jab,  However, life is challenging for those who won't. And I want to thank them for that. 

In the ESPN Daily Podcast, How NFL Team are Combating Vaccine Hesitancy I learned the league is actually leading a vaccine campaign in the US. According to Kevin Seifert this is the last thing he would ever imagine saying. 

While many people are aware "if an unvaccinated player causes an outbreak that forces a game to be canceled, that player's team must forfeit. And every player on both teams will lose out on their game check." Many fans—and players!— are upset about this decision. They wonder Why should the vaccinated get punished for what others have chosen not to do? Good question. And yet, is that not corollary to our reality right now? If all those who are able to get the vaccine had gotten it, we would not be required to wear masks indoors once again. For the record, it's NOT fun and it's hard to teach with a mask on. The metaphor is real.

But what many people do not know are what I see as positive measures the league has taken to promote getting vaxed. 

If you are vaccinated, there are very few protocols or restrictions on your actions around the team and in your personal life as well. You do need to wear a contact tracing device in case you get exposed and must get tested every 14 days (this is subject to change based on the variant). You can eat in the cafeteria, you don't have to worry about social distancing, you can go out to dinner when you are on the road, you can leave for the bye-week. You can do all the things—for the most part—that NFL players have been able to do in previous years to the pandemic

However, if you are unvaccinated, you are subject to all the protocols and a few additional ones that we saw in 2020. You must wear a mask at all times except for when you are participating in a game or practice. You have to stay in town during the bye-week so you can keep getting tested so you don't bring anything into the building. When road games  happen, you are going to have to travel separately, you can't leave your hotel room, you can't eat with the team in the cafeteria, and you can't see your family without them being subject to testing. Players have to wait 30 minutes for their test results so they can join team meetings. The "No Fun League" fines players if they are late for meetings! This means athletes arrive at practice extra early. In short, the NFL is making it very difficult for players to stay unvaccinated.

You can call it a maximum pressure campaign, but those steps, those requirements remind me of Lynch's message. These times are hard; the past year has tested my will in more ways than I thought possible. And yet, we must strive to do our best and be our best. We must work to stay healthy, to be clean and as far as I'm concerned get the vaccination that prevents severe illness, hospitalization and death. Do we have the goal of beating the virus? Do we want to protect people like Ron Rivera—coach of the Washington Football team who is immunocompromised due to chemotherapy treatments in 2020 and cannot get the vaccine? Indeed, we come from different walks of life. Fortunately the vaccine is completely free. And what might we all say to one another in that huddle as we continue to work toward victory over this pandemic? Let us continue to work toward fulfilling a goal—putting COVID 19 in the history books

Lastly, I would like to write a whole lot more about John Lynch, but his message was but a starting point for this post. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the US Open in June at Torrey Pines! Thank you, Cort!!! I loved his speech because it reflects what I consider to be shared values. He  thanked his wife Linda first, his children—each one of the four by name, and his parents. He said, "your standards and expectations were always high, your love always unconditional. The Catholic faith that you instilled in me and blessed me with is my guiding light. Where would I be without it? Where would I be without both of you? Mom and dad, I'm truly grateful and I love you."  I too am grateful to my parents for the Catholic faith they instilled in me. And for what it's worth, leaders in the Catholic Church have encouraged the faithful to get vaccinated.

Photo Credits
Vax Site
JL and Jake

Monday, August 16, 2021

MLB at Field of Dreams: Here's to the 2021 School Year

The 2021-2022 school year at Saint Francis High School officially begins on Wednesday, August 18.  With 10 minute classes, we have just enough time to welcome students, introduce ourselves and share an insight or two about the course. And, thanks to MLB at Field of Dreams that took place on August 12 between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees in Dyserville, Iowa I know exactly what I will share.

I have always loved the artwork of Lisa B. Johannes entitled "Is this heaven?"

My two sections of seniors enrolled in Sports and Spirituality will be asked to pull out their notebooks and with pen in hand and respond to the following statement: "I believe in things visible and invisible." I can't wait to hear what they have to say.

Perhaps these words are familiar to you. I say them with conviction at Mass when we stand and profess the Nicene Creed. I have never been a person who must "see to believe." To me, there is so much more to life than what meets the eye. Such is the stuff of the spiritual life. 

It's also the premise of the movie "Field of Dreams" in which Kevin Costner, playing Ray Kinsella—an Iowa farmer turned mystic—greets his father for the first time in years thanks to a call and a commitment to build a baseball field. The catch? (both literal and metaphoric here) is something that takes place on a diamond that he builds from his corn fields. 

Ray hears the voice. He sees Shoeless Joe Jackson. Some do, like his daughter and others do not. For Ray and his family, the invisible IS visible to him. Thanks be to God. 

If you would like to use "Field of Dreams" in your own Religious Studies class, I have created a discussion guide hereIt is a beautiful movie—the setting, the music and the lighting. It is a weird one too. How perfect for teenagers. I have written a number of blog postings about this movie you might enjoy. 

Kerry Weber, editor of America magazine writes, "You Don't Have to Love Baseball to The thing about “Field of Dreams,” though, is that you don’t have to love baseball to find beauty in the film. You just have to want to be reminded of the power of faith in things unseen and the need to find courage to follow a path not yet trod. It offers stories of second chances and reminders of the beauty of reaching out when all seems lost, only to find that someone has been watching out for you all along."

I think "Field of Dreams" offers an invitation to reflect on some very basic questions that relate to the spiritual lives. For example, In your own faith life—What messages have you heard? Have you been called to do something that is as Ray says, "totally illogical?" Do your family members see what you see? Do they support you in your vision? Field of Dreams is just one way to consider what our Creed outlines as truth. 

Sure you can call it a smart marketing gimmick by MLB, but for me it offered good press and a new chapter in the story of Field of my students will read again this Fall. It evokes so many of the primary themes of my class—mystery, pilgrimage, beauty, sacrifice, reconciliation and the afterlife. Sometimes, believing IS seeing. 

Photo Credits
Is this Heaven?
MLB at Field of Dreams
Corn Field