I’ve been a baseball fanatic for as long as I can remember. Love of the National Pastime was passed down in the generations of my Irish-Italian family like our love of carbohydrates, and the start of spring training always meant fresh beginnings and renewed hope, no matter the outcome of last season.
So it is for the Easter season. We made it through six weeks of Lent — a sort of spring training for the soul. As ballplayers stretched their limbs, we stretched our limits. We tightened up our lives, giving up daily pleasures and adding spiritual workouts. We shed our off-season pounds in the confessional. We pushed ourselves into a deeper relationship with Jesus as we prepared for the agony of his crucifixion and the glory of his Resurrection.
Now, with the triumph of Easter upon us, it’s suddenly opening day! We get a fresh start as we marvel at the miracle of the Risen Lord. For those initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil — is it wrong to call them rookies? — Easter begins a new way of life. Their welcome into the Church is just the beginning of their lives as active members of the Body of Christ.
Sometimes, though, this transition isn’t easy. I’ve spoken with many Catholics over the years who said they felt a void after their RCIA formation ended. Suddenly their regular support system had disbanded as it focused instead on another year, another set of initiates.
In a news analysis this week (Page 5), Michelle Martin interviews those in parish ministry about how they engage new Catholics into parish life. They stressed the importance of integrating candidates and catechumens into the entire community — not just the RCIA program — from the first moment they walk through the door.
As Catholics in the pew, that task is part of our Easter challenge. As we continue our paschal journey, keep an eye out for those recently baptized or confirmed who might now be sitting alone at Mass. Invite them to join your small faith group. Encourage them to become a lector, to sing in the choir or to help organize a pro-life walk. Personal invitation is the key to making someone feel welcome and wanted.
Easter might be a good time for us, too, to take a good look at our involvement in parish life. Join a ministry, volunteer on a committee. Perhaps, on a more personal level, integrate morning and evening prayer into your daily schedule. (There’s an app for that!) Emulate our effusive Pope Francis and spend time with the poorest and weakest among us. Or emulate our wise Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and pick up a good spiritual book.
Ballplayers often comment on the length of the 162-game season: It’s a marathon, not a sprint, with plenty of time for improvement. The same is true for us as we enter more deeply into our own new season.
An opportunity for revival and renewal is upon us. Let’s play ball.