I remember when it “clicked” for me and I started enjoying baseball. This happened pretty recently, just last year. Up until that point, I was mostly bored watching baseball and couldn’t see beyond what seemed like the silliness of a grown man trying to hit a ball with a wooden stick. A couple priest friends of mine started taking me to Indian’s, wait...no, uhm...Guardian’s, I mean...the uh, Guardindian’s...okay, hold it, let's go with the, uhm, the Cleveland Baseball Team games, and I started listening to a podcast and watching some Jomboy breakdowns. I forget which game it was, but somewhere early in the 2022 season, I was at a ballgame and I felt the tension amp up, the mind games between the pitcher and batter clarified, the runner on first added pressure, the now-no-more shift in place added its own factor, and the team effort that is baseball revealed itself. My baseball sensibility went from “oh, hotdogs and a nice day with friends at a ballpark” to “oh, this is intense!” It didn’t happen overnight. It took time and I’m thankful for my buddies’ willingness to field my very stupid questions with passion and patience. These experiences help me see the chess game of baseball and a bit more of the game within the game. It didn’t hurt that the Guardians (Indians) had a rockstar season. It was heartbreaking to watch the weather in cahoots with MLB and the Yankee’s market base work to end our run. There’s always next year! Maybe you feel sad for me that it took this long to get into baseball. Maybe you’re sad for me that I’m “wasting” my time with baseball. Either way, I think there’s lessons in this story for us about evangelization.
We do not usually “get into” something without experience, insight, and the help of others. This is true for baseball and it is especially true for Catholicism. Getting to the ballpark, watching the start of the game, experiencing the ups and downs with the crowd, trying to figure out what Slider is and why Ketchup never wins (always bet on Mustard), and overhearing what is still mostly baseball-gibberish of my friends, Patches and KJ, all worked together to help me appreciate and learn to enjoy baseball. My Catholicism followed a similar pattern. My family introduced me to the Church. I ended up not practicing my faith much, I was a maybe-CEO (Christmas and Easter Only) for a little bit. Then, at the end of high school, a friend, who, for the sake of anonymity I will call “Rick Turkey,” invited me to a youth group event. I accepted the challenge and, upon arrival, felt like I entered a land of strange music and weirdos. But, the Christian “gibberish” - like the baseball gibberish – ended up moving my heart and I opened my life up in prayer to Jesus, and the rest is history. I entered RCIA in order to receive Confirmation and had more questions answered to help turn the Catholic “gibberish” into an understandable language. I gained more insights and experiences while attending Mass and reading my Bible. It was a whirlwind of a conversion. But, to my surprise, and perhaps to the surprise of those who knew me at the time, I really enjoyed my faith and got hooked on the truth, goodness, and beauty of Catholicism. Everyone needs a Patches, KJ, and Rick Turkey in their life. We all start out not really “getting” stuff and our knowledge grows over time when people patiently walk with us. Experiences help open up new questions and confirm what we’ve come to know already. It’s a continuous cycle of maturation with any passion in our lives.
Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, take a moment to think about something you are passionate about. How did your passion start? Who taught you about cars, crafts, cooking, or cattle? When did you experience that hobby or passion for the first time? What opened your eyes in such a way that you wanted to dig deeper into that aspect of your life? Odds are you’ll discover in the story of your passions some experiences, insights, and the help of others. Now ponder this: I had a Rick Turkey get me back into my faith, and I had a Patches and KJ get me into baseball. What makes you think you can’t be a Patches, KJ, or Rick for someone else when it comes to faith. “But...but...I don’t know enough. I’m not holy enough. I’m not...” Well, Patches doesn’t know everything about baseball. KJ doesn’t have the game figured out. And, I’m pretty sure Rick wasn’t a canonized saint when Monsieur Turkey got me to a youth group event at a church. If you love Jesus and love your faith, then you’re ready to share it with others. You don’t need to be a “professional” any more than I needed KJ to work in the back office of the Guardians in order to teach me about baseball; KJ does not work for the Guards, KJ simply likes baseball, that’s all it took. Too often we think “I’m not the one” to evangelize, and make all sorts of excuses. But I think that humility only qualifies you more. People don’t want experts and finished products bringing them to Jesus. They want friends and disciples who know they need a Savior and who aren’t done growing. That is, hopefully, you!
Fr. Jacob Bearer is a Catholic priest. He's about 6' to 6'4'' tall depending on which Convenient Store he's exiting. Although he enjoys kidney beans in chili, Fr. Jacob does not like baked beans and counts this as one of the toughest blotches on his character. He's been the administrator of SS. Edward's and Lucy's since January of 2022. Thank God for the Hatchery...this is a place where the author can share thoughts and ideas that don't quite seem right for the bulletin and won't exactly make for a homily (except for the times when the homily is posted with a sound file or used for a blog post). God bless you...and the hatchery.
SS. Edward & Lucy Parish
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