National Catholic Reporter
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Inside NCR
Issue Date:  October 3, 2003

From the Editor's Desk

Passionate about peacemaking -- and making par

While most of you know Colman McCarthy as an unflagging pacifist and current NCR columnist, what you may not know is that he is almost equally as passionate about sports. He loves baseball. One of his sons, John, played minor-league ball for the Baltimore Orioles and runs a summer baseball camp each year in a field across the street from the McCarthy household.

Colman’s real love is golf, a passion that began when he was a kid caddying on Long Island. McCarthy went to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. “I had 18 reasons for going there. It had a golf course on the campus,” he told me recently. “In exchange for passing grades, I gave the Jesuits golf lessons. My average score in my junior year was 69.5, the same score I got in the classroom. I maintained a perfect balance between sports and academics.”

He was so good, in fact, that he turned pro in 1960, his senior year, played two PGA tournaments and made the cut both times. “After college I had to do some atoning for being a golf bum, so I went into the Trappist monastery for five years.” He came out and, in his version, continued his atonement by starting as a freelance writer for NCR, “at a half a cent a word.” That’s an exaggeration, but probably not by much.

He was recruited by Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps. He worked for him for two years before heading off to 29 years as an editorial writer and columnist for The Washington Post.

As major-league baseball heads into the playoffs, his story about Sr. Lenore Gibb calls up images of the best sport has to offer.

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Last week I asked for your thoughts on hope. Joni Woelfel, author of The Light Within: A Woman’s Book of Solace, sent me this lovely reflection on the matter. “As of late, hope to me is revealing itself as an image. In her book, Reflections in the Light, Shakti Gawain writes, ‘We expect to hit bottom, but instead we fall through a trapdoor into a bright new world. We have discovered the world of our spirit.’ Hope as that trapdoor is a symbol we can all relate to in our personal and collective struggles. To hit bottom through suffering, injustice, grief and travesty -- and to believe that there is no way out or help is unthinkable.

“Hope is a spiritual instinct that insists that the trapdoor is there. During our darkest times, even when our best efforts and prayers seem to bring dismal results, envisioning that sacred trapdoor gives us something to hold on to that we can be sure of. In our heart of hearts, through commitment to faith, we know it is there. It is our greatest privilege through our various ministries to give witness to its reality, through whatever other names and images it is revealed to us. As Jesus said in John 14:2, ‘If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ ”

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At press time, there was considerable buzz about a Vatican document (see story) reportedly discouraging use of altar girls, distribution of Communion under forms of both bread and wine, as well as dancing and applause during Mass. We’ll have more later, but I think it is well to note that at least one report said the document was a draft and had already been withdrawn and, further, that the pope himself would be in violation of some of the rules at liturgies over which he has presided if these changes are put into place.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2003

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