Wednesday, October 16, 2019

From the Moon to the NY Mets: Celebrating Another 50 Year Anniversary

Today celebrates the 50 year anniversary of the 1969 World Series Champions, the "Amazin' New York Mets. In "Ya Gotta Believe," Most Rev. John Barres writes "Amazing things are still possible in the seemingly diminished world of 2019 in which cynicism, disillusionment, polarization, and despair often seem easier to come by than inspiration and hope." Sadly, I agree. He adds "Why would a Catholic bishop write a Pastoral Letter on the 1969 New York Mets?" I have but two words: inspiration and more inspiration.

We need inspiration. It feeds our souls. I have always believed "if you look for it, you'll find it." I don't mean to oversimplify things. Look for sexism, racism, inequality, hatred and injustice—and it's there. But inspiration is too. It's something you can see and really feel. It can catch fire; inspiration lights things up. When it gets hot, inspiration doesn't cool things down. Rather, it makes it bearable. 

For example, my single favorite memory of this past summer was gathering with my brother and nieces of watch the simulcast of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. A heat wave hit the District of Columbia; every day it was over 100 degrees with a heat index of 110. Night wasn't that much cooler. The humidity hung heavy. Regardless, we traipsed to National Mall to see "one small step for humankind" as shown on the Washington Monument. I'm so grateful our nation's capital decided to celebrate the 50 year anniversary through a creative, communal gathering. The joy was palpable, the inspiration abounding. I can only imagine how July 20, 1969 must have made people feel! For the New York Mets, it was the seedbed for their success. In the Sports Illustrated piece Moon Magic: The Apollo 11 Landing Wasn't the Only Fantastical Event of July 20, 1969, S. L. Price writes
Pairing the moon landing with the hapless franchise’s first, and most unlikely, World Series title has long been a thing—if only because of context. In an era scarred by race riots, assassinations and the cultural earthquake of the Vietnam War, both events registered as against-all-odds triumphs, examples of the species at its lovable best, never mind the carping of Cubs fans. That Mets players, watching Armstrong’s moonwalk that night in a Montreal airport bar, tipsily declared themselves moon people only helped. 
“We all sat there in disbelief that something like that could happen,” Mets ace Tom Seaver later recalled. “And you talk about metaphors: I mean, we just looked at each other and said, you know, ‘Why not?’
In "Ya Gotta Believe!" Bishop Barres speaks of Mets who moved from "Why not?" to "We believe!" He writes 
Everyone started to believe and the thing steamrolled. Seaver pinpointed a specific clutch comeback win against the Dodgers in August where he himself began to believe. 
When they made it to the World Series after overtaking the Chicago Cubs and sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs, the Mets faced the formidable and intimidating Baltimore Orioles who had such Hall of Famers as Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer. 
The Mets lost the first game to Baltimore 4-1 but as they were coming off the field, Don Clendenon came over to Seaver and said with a confident intuition, “We’re going to beat them!” 
As we know, the rest is history. The Mets swept the next four games. They beat the seemingly unbeatable Orioles. 
In short, when belief takes root, miracles happen.
So why should we, 50 years later, care about a team that decided to believe? What's in it for us to learn about the Miracle Mets? 
Our world needs hope. And hope is rooted in faith—belief in things seen and unseen. Bishop Barres writes, 
The very essence of our Catholic faith is that there is always a light in the darkness – a light that the darkness cannot understand – and the history of the Catholic Church repeatedly shows that hope can spring from the most unlikely sources. 
Drawing on the inspiration of the 1969 Miracle Mets, the Catholic Church on Long Island can experience a new era of Catholic Evangelization and dramatic missionary growth against all the odds and expectations, and even become a model for the country.
I am not in his diocese. I don't have any connections to the Amazin' Mets. I refer to the Washington Nationals as the Washington Miracles....not the Miracle Nationals but this leader in the Catholic Church has found a way to connect with the people of God through one of his passions—one that I happen to share with him. Bishop Barres speaks my language: Sports and Spirituality. I will do my part to lean into his. One of evangelization, mercy, discipleship and of course, Faith.

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