Columnist combines sports and religion to awaken the spiritual

| John Rosengren | September 11, 2014 | 0 Comments

FaithonFirstcoverWhat’s God got to do with sports? Nothing, really. But faith does play a role in sports, and vice versa.

Charles Honey illuminates that point in his new book “Faith On First,” a collection of his religion columns that originally appeared in the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press. Honey’s dual passions for religion and sports converge in these columns, where he turns a benevolent eye toward both.

Honey is able to find the spiritual dimension of seemingly ordinary events and normal people in daily life through a variety of lenses.

They include a disabled member of parliament from Malawi who believes in miracles, a man wrongly incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit who rediscovered his faith behind bars, a donut shop owner promoting a mentally-challenged man’s book of prayers, a Dominican sister celebrating life on her 100th birthday and a blind musician who longs for the silence of Advent.

Rather than gushing with sentimentality or proselytizing with righteous fervor, Honey gently probes these people and situations to uncover their goodness. The result is easy reading, one column giving way to another, with a gradual reassurance that the Spirit moves freely through it all.

Honey’s musings range from grace: “unqualified acceptance, the love that will not let you go no matter what you do,” to forgiveness.

In a column about Armando Galarraga, a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who had a perfect game nixed by umpire James Joyce’s mistake: “In Galarraga’s gracious handshake with Joyce the next day, and his teammates’ gentle pats on his shoulder, we saw forgiveness at its best.”

He also moves smoothly from vacation time, “a watch on the beach is an abomination against nature,” to ordinary time in the liturgical calendar: “Just a wide expanse of plain old time, days upon days of living regular life. Give me the joy of the ordinary.”

In one column, Honey stumbles upon a Holy Presence walking through a grove of pine trees alongside a bend in the river: “I felt the spiritual stirring of something greater than myself. I sensed the wonder of the world and wondered where it came from. I knew I was part of it but wasn’t sure which part. I just knew I felt at home with it.”

And in another, watching a group of boys play pickup football on an early autumn evening, which prompts reflection on the Tigers’ fading season: “Soon the leaves will fall, and the crack of the bat will be just a memory for the long winter. So I watch the boys play football and remember how it felt to be 13 and going deep.”

Reading these columns provide their own experience of stirring within us, awakening the reader to the deeper spiritual world. Thank you, Charles Honey, for shedding light on that.

Rosengren is the author of “The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball’s Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption.”

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Category: Faith and Culture