The Death of the Cardinals

My St. Louis Cardinals are dead. The San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions. The quest for 12 in ’12 is over.

As I was watching Game 7 of the NLCS, I kept waiting for something extraordinary to happen. For those of you who don’t follow baseball, the Cardinals had one of the great playoff runs of all time last year, storming back at the end of the season to make it into postseason, knocking off two teams who were clearly better than them in the playoffs, and then using a truly stunning comeback in Game 6 of the World Series to set them up for victory in Game 7.

Defending their title this year, the playoffs started out much the same. An incredible comeback in the ninth inning of Game 5 against the Washington Nationals had everyone thinking the magic had not run out. Going up three games to one in this year’s NLCS had us all believing another World Series run was in the cards (pun intended).

Alas, it was not.

The Giants came back to win seven in a row, knocking the Cardinals out of the playoffs and completing a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series with a tenth-inning win for the championship.

The Giants were this year’s Cardinals, overcoming incredible odds to secure a seemingly magical championship.

After my sorrow subsided, I couldn’t help reflecting on that word, “magic”. It was thrown around so often during the Cardinals run last year and was applied repeatedly to the Bay-Area squad as they won it all this year. That’s the word that had so many people pulling for the Birds in 2011 and what had me secretly (and begrudgingly) pulling for San Francisco after they knocked my boys out this year. We wanted to see something magical happen.

Do you believe in magic?

That’s a touchy subject for a lot of Catholics. From the Salem Witch Trials to Harry Potter, there’s been much condemnation of magic from Christian circles. And to a certain extent, rightly so.

We must be aware of the fact that there is a real spiritual realm, and that part of that realm includes evil spirits. We believe in a real devil, Satan, the fallen archangel, who has a real impact on the world around us. We believe people can welcome Satan and demons into their lives and can participate in his evil work.

As Father Moore so succinctly says in the fantastic movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, “Demons exist whether you believe in them or not.” It doesn’t really matter if you don’t agree with me. A demon is like gravity in that respect: you can say it’s not real and go around acting as if it isn’t, but that doesn’t make it so. And if you act on your false belief, if you hold onto it long enough or believe it deeply enough and then try to test it out,  you’re going to get hurt. So, yeah, playing with Oija boards and practicing witchcraft are definitely no-nos.

Yet even a cursory glance at Christian and Catholic writings will reveal a healthy dose of magic. Some of the great science fiction and fantasy the world has produced have come from Christian and Catholic intellectual giants, from Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Chesterton’s musings on “fairy-land”.

And you will find no condemnation of magic there.

It seems that as Catholics, it’s okay to believe in magic in a certain sense. It’s okay to look at the mythologies of the ancients and see that there’s something true in them. It’s okay to look at the imaginations of children and acknowledge that they’re not far off the mark.

It’s even okay to look at the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants and think, “Maybe there really is something strange happening there.”

Part of being Catholic is looking at the world through the eyes of a child. We should see a forest and wonder what lives in its depths, look at the stars and imagine what might exist beyond them, gaze at a river or a field or a mountain and imagine what strange gods inhabit them.

We should do this because it helps us come alive to the beauty and mystery of this life.

I’m not saying Jesus snapped Hunter Pence’s bat and made the broken barrel hit the ball two more times to send the ball past Peter Kozma and the Giants on to victory (see video below).

But it at least gives me pause to wonder.

We must, as Catholics, no, as humans, believe that there are some things science can’t tell us. We have to be filled at times with wonder and awe, even by something as silly as a baseball game, if we’re going to come to know God at all. Because He is not controllable. He is not made for labs. He is The Variable, the one thing we can’t always account for, and he is that because He is a person (or, actually, Three Persons), and people are the magical part of this life.

He is alive in the trees and wind. You can hear His voice in the rivers. You can smell his breath in campfires and rainstorms.

Unlike my Cardinals, He is not dead. He lives.

We must not try to kill Him just so we can feel safe.

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One Response to The Death of the Cardinals

  1. John Ryan says:

    Shane,
    Thanks for helping me further along in the grieving process. You experienced it just as I did, It was destiny! Some years ago I heard a speaker, I believe it was Scott Hahn, who spoke of a bloke who decided he was going to break the law of gravity. He climbed to the top of a tower and jumped off. I’ll let your imagination take it from there. In the end, he didn’t break the law of gravity….the law of gravity broke him!” Thanks for the reminder to be open to the “wonder and awe” of life. And to find God in the little things. I will now do something those who are Cub fans cannot do- watch a replay of a World Series of wonder awe! Courtesy of our beloved Cardinals (that would be the 11 in 11 Gang).
    Uncle John

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