Mollie Hemingway writes about the way the media addresses the late Stan Musial’s religion. Most of the obituaries ignored it completely, but she focuses on how it’s handled in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Here we are told that, yes, Musial was religious, but that he practiced it privately, never pushing it on anybody, and avoiding public displays. But Mollie (I can call her by her first name because I know her) then raises a question that transcends baseball: What constitutes a public display of faith?
The article surveys Musial’s 72-year marriage, the kindness and respect he showed to others, and all of the other good qualities he was known for. Then it says this:
“He remained a devout Catholic all his life, but never pushed his spirituality on others. He never crossed himself at home plate or pointed to the heavens after a hit. For all of his harmonica-playing frivolity and social accessibility, he was an intensely private man who held family dear and valued loyalty.”
I have two thoughts on this. Equating the crossing of one’s self to “pushing” spirituality is questionable, of course. But I always wonder why we say that someone living his life as Musial did is practicing one’s faith privately. To me, it’s a very public display of one’s faith to remain married in a beautiful marriage for 72 years. It’s a public display of one’s faith to treat others with respect. And what could be more public than Musial’s regular attendance at Mass?
We tend to neglect the ordinary spirituality of vocation (marriage and parenthood, how we go about our work, how we treat our neighbors, going to church), even though these are precisely the realms in which we are to live out our faith in love and service to our neighbors!
Indeed, we sometimes neglect them because we are pursuing some other agenda that we think is more “spiritual”!