Why are we Catholic? ‘Why’ doesn’t matter

Books, baseball, family, love and my Catholic faith — all these came together at an intersection of time in Michigan this summer.

My lakeshore reading at the rental place where the Z’s — 36 of us — “reunioned” for a week was “Battle Creek,” a little-known novel by an author you probably never heard of, Scott Lasser.

The story takes readers through a season with a fictional amateur baseball team. The baseball-lover in me enjoyed its sufficient doses of game action and the inside-baseball thinking that Lasser has down pat, but really, the tale was more about the players and coaches and the choices they make both on and off the field than about balls and strikes.

At one point in the book, a veteran player dates a woman who knows nothing about baseball. Baseball is all the guy ever thinks about; he just loves baseball, and, when the woman discovers this, she asks him why.

We must stand on the front line for life

The front lines are always dangerous. Standing up for a just cause in the face of injustice is uncomfortable at best and deadly at worst. Jim Pouillon knew that.

According to, almost every weekday for over 10 years in Owosso, Mich., Pouillon publicly witnessed to the humanity of unborn life by holding a large picture of an unborn baby. With his oxygen tank and leg braces, he prayerfully endured verbal insults and projectiles.

But on Sept. 11, 2009, he paid the ultimate price. While holding a picture of an unborn baby on a public sidewalk in front of Owosso High School, Jim Pouillon was shot to death.

Scant media coverage has kept most Americans in the dark concerning Pouillon’s murder. But when an abortionist who makes his or her living killing innocent unborn babies is murdered, it’s breaking news. Federal marshals are sent to abortion mills to ensure continued access to these killing centers.

Killing is not the way of the nonviolent Jesus. Killing an abortionist is gravely immoral. But the killing of unborn babies is also gravely immoral — arguably more immoral.

Faith in God will stop our worries

Worry is like a rocking chair: It will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere. Worry is an exercise in futility. Many of us are such veteran worriers that we could be personal trainers for this futile exercise.

I purposely placed a card on my windowsill just above the kitchen sink so that I could read it often. On it is written the saying, “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.” Worry never accomplished anything, except to furrow our brows and create unnecessary tension.

Worry is the child of fear. When we are afraid or unable to control situations, our fear gives birth to worry. The phrase “fear not” is in the Holy Scriptures 365 times, that is one for each day of the year. God tells us so often not to fear, but we take our fear and wrap it up in a big fat bundle of worry.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “Don’t tell me not to worry. I have three kids, no job and heaps of bills that need to be paid. What about that couple who could not sell their house and ended up in foreclosure, the grandson addicted to drugs, the student who is failing courses, the spouse who has cancer?”

Good coaches build character

There’s a special place in heaven for good coaches. They shape character. They build spirit. They teach success. And they do all this in the goofiest ways imaginable.

Good coaches are usually a little crazy. They are one-of-a-kinds. They all preach similar messages — hard work, sportsmanship, teamwork, discipline. But the best coaches have a way of making their lessons stick.

I had a wrestling coach in high school, for example, who told us there were two reasons people made mistakes. Either a) you were “acting like a banana” or b) you “didn’t have the guts.” According to Coach Camp, acting like a banana meant you weren’t thinking. Maybe you were impulsive or perhaps you were getting too caught up in emotions. In any case, your decision making was flawed because you weren’t using your brain. Not having enough guts, on the other hand, implied you knew what was right but you didn’t have the courage to act on it. 

One day in my sophomore year I got into a row with a history teacher. As I stormed through the hallway, Coach Camp pulled me aside and asked to hear my woeful tale. He listened, grimaced and then asked, “Do you know what your problem is?”

Reminding each other what God's love can do

Oprah imagined the comeback long before Whitney Houston stepped on her stage and delivered it.

She sang, “Oprah said, ‘Girl, do you know you’re loved?’ Now I know my own strength.” Oprah blinked away a tear and the audience screamed, and in that moment, Whitney’s triumph over addictive drugs became Oprah’s triumph over sagging ratings.

It was a classic Harpo exchange, one that managed to feel both commercial and spiritual. As the two women hugged, I thought about the transformations we cheer into being, clapping and whistling, waving brightly-colored poster boards that broadcast our confidence.

In my twenty-some years, I’ve been blessed with many cheerleaders. Lately, I’ve been more attuned to their impact, the way they spur along my pursuit of big dreams and small to-dos.

The other day, for instance, I told my dad that a National Public Radio editor is considering an essay of mine and has requested audio samples — something I’m a tad short on. Dad didn’t miss a beat, recalling a few 10-minute segments I did five years ago. “You’ve got radio experience! Did you tell him about those Relevant Radio interviews?”

Job revisited: notes of an Orioles fan

On Oct. 4, the Baltimore Orioles will take the field at Camden Yards against the Toronto Blue Jays and, win or lose, complete their 12th losing season in a row — which, for losing streaks, puts my beloved Birds in roughly the same category as the 10th-century papacy under the Ottonian emperors. It was not always so; ample evidence for that admittedly counterintuitive claim is provided by a fine volume, The Orioles Encyclopedia, compiled by Mike Gesker and published recently by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Books like The Orioles Encyclopedia, and the love lavished on them by authors, editors and readers, make an important theological point, to which I shall avert in a moment.

First, permit a brief a trip down memory lane.

Hard as it may be to believe, after these last dozen years of futility, the Baltimore Orioles were the most successful team in the major leagues from the late 1950s through the early 1980s: more successful than the Yankees, Dodgers or Cardinals; more successful than anyone. They played in a rough-hewn old ballpark, Memorial Stadium, the splinters from whose wooden benches will likely be found in the bottom of my coffin someday; they played for a “middle market” city that, truth to tell, was coming unglued even as the Birds won six American League titles and three World Series between 1966 and 1983; the franchise was always on the brink of financial disaster. But the Orioles scouted wisely, built from within, traded shrewdly, emphasized pitching and defense, and won more games than anyone over a quarter-century. Like Job, they enjoyed an ample share of the world’s goods, and then lost it all — or, better, threw it away by abandoning the “Oriole Way,” cheating on the farm system, and lusting for the fleshpots of the free-agent market.

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