A baseball lesson we all should remember

| June 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

My fifth-grade son recently found himself in a spot every kid who loves baseball dreams about: He came up to bat in the last inning of a city league game with two outs, runners on second and third, and his team trailing by a single run.

A hit would likely mean winning the game, collecting hearty congratulations from his coach and teammates, and maybe even receiving the game ball.

My son stepped from the on-deck circle and into the batter’s box. He whiffed weakly at the first pitch, and then at another. Then he swung and hit a hard line drive — unfortunately directly to the pitcher, who gloved it for the final out.

My son was devastated. Head down, he walked back slowly to the bench.

In a show of good sportsmanship, his teammates gave him pats on the back. The coach told him that it was probably the team’s hardest hit ball of the day — the game just didn’t go their way.

As we climbed into the car for the drive home, his mom and I tried to use the experience to teach an important lesson: Sometimes, even when we try hard, even when we do everything right, things don’t always work out the way we would like.

Not an isolated experience

The game left me reflecting after we arrived home. How many times in our own lives have we felt that we’ve done the right thing only to experience disappointment or failure?

How many people, despite being dedicated and hard-working em­p­loy­ees, have been laid off from a job they loved, or watched as their position was eliminated due to a bad economy?

How many people have had friendships or family relationships deteriorate despite their best efforts to maintain them?

How many people have been beset by serious illnesses, even though they followed a healthy diet and exercised faithfully?

How many people, especially in developing countries, have raised families under difficult circumstances, only to have their efforts upended by earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters?

The typical question people ask at these moments is, “Why?” Often there are no easy answers. God doesn’t single out anyone to experience disappointments or tragedy. Much like a hard-hit line drive to the pitcher, they simply happen from time to time.

Community support

Thankfully, we have our faith to turn to and the knowledge that God is always with us, even in the most difficult of times. And one of the best manifestations of God’s love can be found in our local church, where we reach out to people in need through prayer and a variety of ministries.

In the coming years, our local church itself will be experiencing a number of changes as a result of the current archdiocesan strategic planning process. These changes, unlike my son’s line drive, won’t be happening by chance. A task force appointed by Archbishop John Nienstedt will soon be offering recommendations to him. These recommendations are informed by the input of thousands of parish and Catholic school leaders as well as staff, parishioners, pastors and others.

As a result of this process, there is a good possibility that some church and school buildings will close, others will merge, and all parishes will be asked to share resources in new, more collaborative ways.

There are bound to be tears and feelings of disappointment among some of our fellow Catholics, many of whom are regular Mass-goers and collection-basket contributors who feel they have done everything right.

But the fact is that many of these changes will occur due to circumstances beyond any one person’s or any one parish’s control, including a difficult economy, shifting demographics and fewer priests. The changes are necessary to help foster a revitalized church.

Archdiocesan and parish leaders will help facilitate the changes to come. But we parishioners will also need to reach out to others — perhaps newcomers from other parishes — to smooth the transition.

In many ways, we are like my son’s teammates, called to offer encouragement and support during times that can be challenging and personally difficult for some of our fellow Catholics. We need to show them that God still cares about them and that the church still needs them. We also need to try to understand the need for the upcoming changes, even if we don’t like them.

My son learned a valuable lesson on the baseball field, but it’s also one worth thinking about in our pews as our local church makes changes to ensure it is here and healthy for us now and for future generations.

Category: Archdiocese Planning Process, Editorials