Saturday, October 17, 2015

Of the Chicago Cubs, the Communion of Saints and the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

A fine piece on the Daily Beast website at", by the Rev. Nathaniel Katz, an Episcopal priest in California. The web address, which is also the headline, sums it up better than I could.

Mike Royko, back when the Chicago Tribune pretended to be a real newspaper, had a similar column. He said growing up on the Northwest Side and cheering for the Cubs was a spiritual discipline, kind of like having Lent all year around. I'm pretty sure I saw it in the Rock Island Argus in the fall of 1984.

Katz' column in the Daily Beast was similar. He said he finds a commonality between being a Cubs fan and being a Christian.

"Fundamental to both," he said, "is the deeply held belief that someday all the pain and suffering we have experienced in this life will come to an end through a great act of reconciliation. Cubs fans anticipate the moment when their dreams of a World Series title will be realized. Christians anticipate the return of Christ, when God will 'wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,' as is promised in one of my favorite scriptural passages found in the book of Revelation."

Katz said he's a fourth-generation Cubs fan, beginning with his great-grandmother Edna Blaesing, who "was born in Chicago in 1900, among the first generation of her German immigrant family to be born in the United States." He added:

She came of age as jazz and prohibition arrived in the Windy City. She joined the thousands who marched through her city’s streets demanding that women be granted the right to vote. And in the midst of all that, she came to love a baseball team that made its home on the north side of town—a team that brought glory to the city in her childhood by winning a World Series title."

In time the family moved to Michigan, and Katz never knew his great-grandmother. But he grew up with stories of her "devotion to the church where my mother had been baptized, and where my grandmother served as organist for decades," and of "her devotion to the Cubs." He added, "It was the telling and re-telling of these stories that shaped my own identity — both as a Christian and a Cubs fan."

Katz said the last game of this year's World Series, should it go to five games, will be Nov. 1, which is also All Saints' Day in the Episcopal liturgical calendar. He added:

... All Saints’ is a feast day that celebrates a time of nearness to those saints who have touched our lives — those who have nurtured us and shaped our ability to recognize ourselves, and one another, as children of God.

On this All Saints’ Day, I will lead an evening prayer service for students and young adults that I was given the honor of establishing just over a year ago at the Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles. We will gather in the darkness to read scripture and offer prayers by candlelight. That light will remind us of the constant presence of God’s radical and unconditional love—a love that dares to shine in the darkness and guides our way through life’s uncertainty.

Toward the end of the service, we will read the names of those women and men whose lives have taught us that we are recipients of God’s radical and redeeming love. Among the names that will be read that night is Edna Blaesing.

I believe that I will feel my great-grandmother’s nearness that night, as I have felt it many times before. And, who knows? This time we may find ourselves united in a new way — as Cubs fans who have witnessed our team crowned as World Series champions. Whether that reconciliation should happen this year or in a fall classic yet to come, it will have been worth the wait.

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