Monthly Archives: March 2014

Saint Mickey (?)

                   

When I was 5 years old I was introduced to baseball; it has been a love affair ever since. Wood, leather, dirt and grass; there can be no better combination of elements to form the life of a little boy.  With several young boys and girls in my area about the same age (we lived on a cul-de-sac), there was no choice; it was inevitable that we should all become baseball players somehow. Another related rite of passage in my day was “the allowance”.  One thin dime per week, allotted with ceremony every Friday night; and when you were a young boy who loved baseball with a pocket full of cash, there was only one thing to do. Every Sunday after Mass, then a quick trip to Ralph’s Luncheonette in order to pick up my weekly ration of hero worship- a pack of Topps baseball cards. A dime purchased a thin slab of impossibly sweet and hard pink bubble gum along with the real object of purchase- five or so full color baseball cards (I cannot remember the exact amount).

 These cards, with their powdery slick surface and smelling of cardboardy sugar, were the medium of exchange in my world. A short hard prayer, and off came the paper covering- then the feverish shuffling began. While all cards had value for flipping, trading or even placing on our bike frames with clothespins to emit a satisfying motor-like sound, there existed the elite few cards that constituted the iconography in our world. Among us all was the acknowledged pantheon of immortals that were held high for all; yet each of us had our own special Hero, one adulated individually in our own special sanctuary. For one it was Willie Mays; another perhaps Roberto Clemente, yet another Hank Aaron: but for me, there was only one real ballplayer- Mickey Mantle.

To affirm that Mickey was my hero was an understatement.  I played first base because he did. I batted from both sides- the Mick did. I posed like him, my stance was as his- my favorite number was “7”. He even had a peculiar swagger in the on deck circle that I tried to copy. I did not pray to Mickey Mantle, but I venerated him in the truest sense of the word, and his cards (I was lucky enough to have THREE of them) occupied prominent places in my bedroom.  As a young boy I understood the power of images and how they can affect ones lives for the better. Constant reminders of our heroes both in word and representation give us both consolations in hard times as well as goals to strive for in good ones.

As a child I did NOT worship or adore Mickey Mantle—and no one ever suspected that I held him as worthy of Deity; yet as an adult there are many who feel that these same actions when it comes to Catholic Saints- especially Our Lady- constitute foul Idolatry. Wrong. Ask any normal, healthy, American boy and he will tell you who his hero is and why; and there will be pictures of that hero all around the room- perhaps even some second or third class relics. Young proto-athletes, be they Catholic, Protestant or heathen, have a healthier understanding of iconography than many so-called adults nowadays. To paraphrase- unless one be as a child, one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 Even today, Mickey Mantle is the standard that I measure all baseball players by—just as Mary the Virgin Mother of God is the standard by which I measure all Christians.


Behold Your King; Cavalry and Calvary pt4

 

 

I dropped my reins in shock; I never drop my reins. In a sudden panic I grabbed for them as my horse began to move forward at the release in pressure. Out from a tunnel on the dais staggered Iesu; such a mass of carnage I had rarely seen in all of my days campaigning. He was literally soaked in blood from head to toe with a purple robe draped over His shoulders and a horrific mass of rose branches woven into a crown was jammed down upon His head. Instantly the crowd erupted into a frenzy like one I had never seen or heard before or since. This, my friends, was a true mob.

 I checked my mount and drew my spatha; the infantry commander shouted, “Pila iace!”, and the infantry brought their javelins to bear for combat. Things were shaping up nicely. Pilate was shouting at the Chief Priest, and he, the Priest was responding, but I at the moment was so concerned with the crowd that I was distracted with exactly what was being said between the two of them. Pilate was becoming visibly agitated, I could tell by the tone of his voice; and he was not the type of person to cross. I heard him growl like a bear and turned to see him jump up out of the judgment seat, point to Iesu and shout, “Ecce Rex! Ecce Rex Judea!” Now was not the time to insult the Temple party- especially now, as it was instantly apparent that every member of the Temple party happened to be standing in front of him.

 The mob literally exploded into the loudest, foulest, most disrespectful mass of humanity I had ever seen… and I have seen my share. Even my horse was un-nerved; and he was a seasoned combat veteran. Grown men began to act like possessed children, eyes bulging out, veins throbbing in their necks; they were all screaming “nostrum rex est Caesar!” This was a novelty which bespoke devilment- Temple Jews shouting Latin phrases: even one Latin word was enough to ritually defile them according to their priests, yet here they were shouting that they had no king but Caesar? Sin upon sin, some of them would say, yet here was a convenient dispensation in accordance to their present wishes.

The noise was indescribable, and it continued for quite awhile. Here and there scuffling broke out in the crowd, yet it was so thick nothing could be made of it. Once in a while someone in the mob would get pushed against the shield wall, and was rewarded with an animated prick from a pila. That kept them back for a good bit. Then to my horror, a chant was taken up; well modulated, loud and piercing, “Crucifigerent! Crucifigerent! Crucifigerent!” Crucify Him? Why? What has He done, but good and wonderful things? What is this madness?

I then saw something I never thought would occur. Pontius Pilate, the toughest, bravest, and hardest Roman I had ever met, started to turn a bit pale. He was a ruddy man when upset- and these were upsetting times- yet I could clearly see the color drain from his face. He turned and gestured to his side, and a lackey brought out a basin of water. He ritually washed his hands and as much as told the Priests that he was their obedient servant in this matter.  A fine way to weasel out of a tight spot when principles would not do- many was the time when we in the Army would deride such a cowardly act: yet here was supposedly one of our finest, bowing and scraping like any political donkey-carrying the burden for the sake of a reward later on.

The die was cast.