Who would play first base if I put together a baseball team of priests and religious?
Naturally, I spent the better part of a day thinking about this while I was on retreat at the wonderful St. Louis Abbey, a Benedictine abbey in western St. Louis County, this past week. (Side note: When I was younger, the monk's high school was my first choice, but , as providence would have it, I did not get in. I went to another school and thrived, but, who knows, had I not been such a goof ball as a child and teen, I might have been a monk.)
Upon returning to the world of information and technology, I watched Abbott and Costello's timeless skit about baseball players' names and it got the ball rolling.
What follows is my dream baseball team put together according to my stereotypes of religious communities. As my student master was fond of telling me my first year in St. Louis, "Comparisons are odious things." I admit that my team is based solely on my opinion and is compiled in a spirit of charity and admiration.
Starting Pitchers -- Diocesan Priests
Every team needs a stable of starting pitchers who are willing to go out there day after day to compete and battle for the team. Starters come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide variety of skills and talents. There are power pitchers like Venerable Fulton J. Sheen and Nolan Ryan, who grip and it and rip it, always trusting in their fastball, and never backing down to a challenge. There are finesse pitchers like St. John Vianney and Greg Maddux, whose precision and unbelievable consistency give every team a chance to win every fifth day. The comparisons could go on, but, like a good starting rotation provides a team a chance to compete every day, our diocesan priests make it possible for the vast majority of Catholics to meet Our Blessed Lord each day in the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church.
Catchers -- Dominicans
Catchers are oftentimes fat, slow, and horrible hitters. Yet, they are responsible for handling the pitching staff, managing and implementing the game plan, and organizing the defense. Charles Johnson, who won four consecutive Gold Gloves in the late 90s, was a career .245 hitter, yet an invaluable member of his teams.
In today's game, though, catchers are being asked to play a more important role on offense than they had previously. To point, Buster Posey won the NL batting title as a catcher last year, just the second catcher in the history of the league to do that.
Coincidentally, many Dominicans are fat, slow, and all-around poor athletes, but our dedication to the study of the Truth, rooted in the Sacred Magisterium of the Church helps us to provide guidance and direction to others while remaining mired in the trenches of esoteric books, endless distinctions, and ceaseless prayer for the defense of the True Faith and the progress of the New Evangelization. And, if our increased vocation numbers are any indication, our Church is asking us to play more of front line role in building up the Church in the modern world.
First Base -- Contemplatives (Benedictines, Cistercians, Trappists, etc.)
Every team needs a first baseman who will show up for work every day, hit for power, play good defense, and be hospitable to any guests of first base. First basemen are notorious as the iron men of baseball. To point, Wally Pipp took a day off of first base in 1925, Lou Gehrig took over and did not take a day off until 1939.
Contemplative orders, particularly those that follow the Rule of St. Benedict, show up every day (five to seven times a day, actually) and provide the power of contemplative prayer that our Church and world sorely need. In addition, should anyone find himself near an a monastery, they are are renowned for their hospitality, just like former all-star (and my fellow University of Richmond alumnus) Sean Casey.
Middle Infielders -- Franciscans
Every team needs a pair of middle infielders who are willing to get down and dirty and "wear one" for the team. Any shortstop or second baseman who finishes a game with a clean uniform is simply not trying hard enough. It's a dirty job that requires a lot of effort and a willingness to sacrifice at all costs.
In the Catholic Church, we have the disciples of St. Francis of Assisi to fill in these roles. They are willing to go anywhere, do anything, and live in the most meager of conditions for the salvation of souls and spreading of the Gospel.
Everybody loves a scrappy shortstop and everyone loves a good, old-fashioned Franciscan.
Third Base -- Teaching Communities
In baseball, playing third base is often referred to playing the "hot corner" because balls come flying at the
third baseman at such speed that their defense is a mix of skill, luck, perseverance, and sacrifice. In so many ways, teaching children the Catholic faith requires a similar skill set. A teacher must be charitable, quick, simple, and willing to do whatever it takes.
Outfielders -- Jesuits
Outfielders are the most varied and wide-ranging players on the field. Defensively, they cover the most ground and have the most diverse skill set with speed, arm strength, and timing. Offensively, they are asked to hit for power and average.
Jesuits, for as much as they were historically wrong about grace, are the most diverse and wide-ranging of the male Catholic religious communities. They traditionally serve in schools and universities, but they have a wonderful history of missionary work and service to the poor. They cover all fields and provide cover in many areas. It doesn't hurt that Our Holy Father Francis is one of their confreres.
This is my team. What is yours?