Faithful citizenship

On Oct. 3, a Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates closed out the baseball season with their 83rd loss. Contrasted with their 79 wins, this marked their 20th straight losing season. Yes, that’s a record. 

In other news, my daughter called to tell me that one of my grandsons got in trouble for raising a ruckus of some sort in first grade at Catholic school. She reminded me that my son got in trouble for raising a ruckus of some sort in first grade at Catholic school. And she recalled the story I told about when I got in trouble for raising a ruckus of some sort in first grade at Catholic school. 

You have to appreciate three generations of a Catholic family tradition. 

I was driving home from work the day the Pirates pulled the plug on it all. They went out with a whimper, shut out in an afternoon game with the Braves.  

The stadium was empty, the lights were out. I noted a vending machine for soda on the third deck, and wondered where vending machines go when the season is over. 

Nothing looks lonelier than a ballpark after the last game has been played. 

A few miles later and I was out in the country. The sun was in its final moments warming a fall day. The trees had just begun to turn and the sun reflected a bold orange off the early color. It will be a painting in a week or two, but this evening it was still a charming hint. 

I forgive the Pirates, chuckle at three generations of men and boys, and thank the Lord for his tender mercy of fall at dusk. 

We’ve been busy tearing each other up out here over the election. Southwestern Pennsylvania is usually a congenial Catholic area — a solid majority when the pollsters bring the fallen-away back into the fold — but presidential elections set people to grumbling. 

Park your car in a church lot and you’ll find somebody’s idea of the secular messiah smiling from a trifold pamphlet stuck under your windshield wiper when you get back. Political trafficking on church grounds is banned by the diocese, but there are no rules for the True Believers. 

I always wonder: Do people think I’ll take a leaflet off my windshield, read a few sentences, then smack my forehead and proclaim, “By God, I’m convinced!” It will be a relief when the campaign is over and the leaflets will return to discount coupons at the local car wash or fundamentalist tracts explaining why the pope is the Anti-Christ. 

The campaign this year is permeated with the informative rhetoric of our Twitter and Facebook culture: Mitt Romney hates the poor and doesn’t believe in Jesus because he is a Mormon; Barack Obama hates Catholics and … well, I can’t say the rest, as we are a family newspaper. 

We are called to faithful citizenship; active participation in the process. I have my conditions, my deep concerns, my baseline.  

I try as much as I can in a conscience struggling with the effects of original sin to ground my politics in my faith, not my faith in my politics. I have my non-negotiables and try to judge accordingly without bowing to the secular propaganda. 

Maybe I’m just getting older — could that be it? — but I’m exhausted this year. Exhausted by Catholics going for the mutual jugular. 

We’ll all be approaching the Table after the election. Let’s hope we can grant each other peace when that time comes. 

In the meantime, I’m trying to remember a few basics: my grandchildren are always good for a laugh. There’s not much prettier than an orange setting sun teasing the color out of a bank of trees. 

And in a little under six months, pitchers and catchers report for a new beginning. 

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.