Tag Archives: Catholic Mass

Baseball as Partaking in the Sacred

9 Jul

Baseball. The American past time. The All-American sport. The sport I knew nothing about until I had a son. The sport I didn’t even know my husband cared about before we had a son. It all began one fateful evening when our son, who was about 15 months old at the time, dragged our coffee table book about the history of baseball to his Dada and insisted they look at it together.

Baseball as Partaking in the Sacred - Nell Alt

Fast forward a few years to our three year old. It’s a sacred thing, now, the ritual of listening to the game on the radio every day, of putting on my brother’s 25-year-old Twins striped shirt. It has purpose, meaning, an intellectual impact as well as emotional. When they lose, he is disheartened—but vows they’ll win the next game. When they triumph, it is as personal as the blueberries in his oatmeal that are not for his little sister.

I see that same rapt attention at the baseball game at Mass, too. His studied expression when he slowly mimes the pitch, or when he pretends to be incensing the altar. His shrieks of delight when Dozier hits a home run, his eager and earnest whispers when our pastor holds up the Blessed Sacrament and says “Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum [This is My Body].”
What is this correlation between baseball and the sacred?

Both boast fascinating and vivid characters: a myriad of rollicking players from Babe Ruth to Dizzy Dean, Joe Mauer to Sam Deduno; Jesus and his burly crew of apostles, Saint John Berchmans who died as a young altar boy to Saint Stephen the first martyr who was stoned to death. Both capture the essence and imagination of his identity: he is a baseball player who will someday be an altar boy when he gets bigger and bigger {actual quote}. He loves both so fiercely. First it’s baseball, then it’s church. Good altar boys have to train as baseball players {another zinger from the 3 year old}.

When one thing, in this instance baseball, helps lead a little mind to something truly eternal and infinite, we simply have to be grateful as parents. I had scoffed at parents who let their children wear sports jerseys as TACKY! UNCULTURED!—and now he is one of them! He loves baseball, he loves being Catholic, and somehow the one leads into the other in a sacred and mysterious way. I’ll take it. So take me out to the ball game, and let’s hope the Twins win big time this year. I’ll even drink to that.

-Nell Alt


Words at Mass

11 Dec
 The New Translation
 I have been thinking about the new English translation of the Mass (that’s right the words are a little different on Sundays but the Eucharist is as good as ever). There is something comforting about repeating the same thing every Sunday, but is our rote usage of the same prayers just about comfort? Why is it that Catholics are so obsessed with saying the same things in unison repeatedly (try the Rosary, couldn’t we just say one “Hail Mary” and be done with it?) Why can’t I just pray using my own words?

I have a suspicion that these questions miss the point. The namesake of one of our Twin Cities (not Minneapolis) had something to say about prayer, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” So maybe Paul is trying to tell us that we should just groan at Mass but that seems unpleasant. The point is that there is a deep prayer in all hearts whether they be Catholic or non-Catholic hearts. That prayer is for communion with God whether it is experienced in a yoga studio, a concert at First Avenue, or kneeling in a pew. Even if we think we don’t believe in God; we all want the divine.

Are we supposed to give up words? No. People were made for language; we are speakers and listeners. The scriptures are full of prayers. Paul tells us to pray with words, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. . .as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

So, we have the deep desire in our heart (that’s the Holy Spirit working) and we should use words, but do we have to repeat them? Yes. Our hearts are formed by the words we use (which is why I shouldn’t swear at cars when I am biking). At Mass, the words we say and the words we hear, teach our hearts how to love; they teach our hearts who it is we are groaning for: the Word Incarnate. Augustine advised his monks, “When you pray to God in psalms and songs, the words spoken by your lips should be alive in your hearts.” Those outward words will transform us (if we let them). This transformation leads us to love our brothers and sisters who are groaning for God; they bring us into communion with the Divine, and help prepare us to eat the Word in the Eucharist. So the next time you go to Mass respond, sing, listen, and maybe even groan (quietly); you may find yourself transformed by repetition and love.

– Terence Sweeney

Beyond Boredom the Beauty of the Mass

13 Sep

He then is beautiful in Heaven, beautiful on earth;…beautiful in ‘laying down His life’; beautiful in ‘taking it again’: beautiful on the Cross.

    – St. Augustine

  There is one objection often raised by many as to their absence in the pews on Sundays. Some perhaps object based on stringent definitions of theological concepts and contentious dogmas. Others perhaps object based on a historical tradition that has been at times marked by petty infighting and even violent conflict. But there may be one objection that eclipses all others in both its strength and regularity.

  There are few criticisms more insidious and damning than this: boring.

  The objections most mentioned are that Sunday Mass is profoundly dull and uninspiring, that, in reality, nothing ever “happens.” Our church experience thus can very often see the center of our life of worship as both unimportant and unequivocally ugly.

  It may be true that your local parish might lack in even a moderately competent choir, and the homily preached might border on coma-inducing. But the essence of the Mass is something so outrageously paradoxical, earth-shattering, and beautiful, that it should and must eclipse these occasionally weak moments that may distract us from its center, its true heart.

  If, in the midst of the stupor you may experience during your Sunday church experience, you should open your eyes and ears to the reality of the Mass, you will find yourself transported to an event. You are no longer now in the safe confines of your pew but, in fact, at the historical moment when God decided to forever make humanity–including yourself–right and just again. In this moment, when God expressed his penultimate love for humanity by his paradoxical death on a cross, he forever shocked us out of our slumber. He forever released his splendor on to the world which, perhaps at times too beautiful to bear, we could scarcely now live without if we knew of its awful and transformative power.

-Tim DeCelle