Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fr. George W. Rutler on baseball player pursuing the Catholic priesthood

Here is Fr. Rutler's commentary for January 31, 2010:
Sports news often sounds more like business reports, preoccupied with the salaries of athletes being traded. Personally, I’d rather watch paint dry on a wall than listen to some of the sports commentators filling TV air time, but in this I may be unrepresentative. Ears perked up recently when Grant Desme, a top draft prospect for the Oakland A’s, announced he was going to study for the priesthood. The only player in the entire minors with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the past season, Desme was ranked by Baseball America as Oakland’s No. 8 prospect.Sports officials expressed both respect and surprise.

It recalled the publicity given a Major League Soccer defender, Chase Hilgenbrinck of Illinois, when he entered the seminary. He is now studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland for the Diocese of Peoria. Desme will enter the seminary of the Norbertine Fathers, whose rapidly growing abbey is in California. There was less stir in 1912 when Al Travers left the Detroit Tigers to become a priest, but salaries back then were not what they are now .An aphorism says that a priest’s pay is not much, but the benefits are out of this world.

It is more to the point to say that Christians, clergy and lay, become the most professional athletes by their Profession of Faith. The Greek word asketes, referring to one who exercises, is also the root for asceticism, which means getting the soul in shape.Our Lord and His Apostles must have been in very good physical shape for the lives they led. St. Paul spent twenty years traveling, well over twenty thousand miles by some estimates; his first missionary journey alone was 1,400 miles. He sailed, but usually walked and suffered many physical tests. One plausible recollection has him short and bowlegged, but wiry. He disciplined a “weakness in the flesh” and it strengthened his humility (2 Cor. 12:7-10). The physically infirm can be better athletes for Christ than the physically strong, and wheelchairs can reach heaven faster than running shoes.

The Latin collect for the feast of St. Paul prays that we may “walk according to his example” and the word “gradiamur” gives a sense of trudging along through adversity. I doubt that St. Paul would have watched much TV, but he enjoyed the greatest contest of all: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Fr. Rutler is pastor of the Church of Our Savior in New York City.

No comments: