Honouring baseball’s moral champion

Sunday was Blue Jays day at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., with former general manager Pat Gillick and second baseman Roberto Alomar inducted. The first Blue Jays to make it to the Hall, they were key figures in Toronto’s back-to-back championship seasons in 1992 and 1993.

I tease my American friends that so traumatic was it for a Canadian franchise to win two consecutive championships in their national pastime that they cancelled the World Series the next year. They blame it on the players’ strike, but the conspiratorially-minded know better. Who had the best record in baseball when the 1994 season stopped? The Montreal Expos. Three Canadian championships would have been too much. Continue reading

With the passing of Cardinal Swiatek a glorious time in Church history closes

Cardinal Kazimierz Swiatek died on July 21, bringing to a close one of the most noble chapters in the history of the Church. He was 96 when he died, having been ordained a bishop at 76 by his eventual successor in Belarus. Made a cardinal at age 80, he served as archbishop of Minsk until he was 91. His was one of the heroic lives of our age.

I encountered the great cardinal only once, in Wroclaw, Poland, during the 1997 international Eucharistic Congress, and then at a distance. As part of the congress, dozens of bishops administered the sacrament of Confirmation to thousands of young people in an enormous Mass at the local arena. With such a large crowd it was a somewhat noisy affair, but there was total silence when Cardinal Swiatek addressed the newly confirmed at the end of the Mass. He spoke in Polish, but even without understanding a word I could see that his story was enormously powerful, with teenage eyes widening, and many filling with tears. He was telling them what it meant to be a Christian witness, to fight for the Church, to remain faithful. Imprisoned in the Soviet gulag for nine years, he did brutal labour by day and whatever clandestine priestly work he could by night, including offering the Holy Mass secretly, using a matchbox as a ciborium. Continue reading

An extreme solution to a vicious war

July brings us the national days — our own Canada Day to begin with, and then American Independence Day and the French Bastille Day. We can add another to the list this month — July 9, upon which the new country of South Sudan was established. One hopes for that beleaguered people the peace, order and good government promised (and delivered) by the British North America Act rather than the bloodshed brought by the French Revolution. The Sudanese have had too much of that. Continue reading

Marshall McLuhan and the divine message

‘What do you think Marshall McLuhan ought to do if he wants to be taken more seriously in the world today?” asked a television interviewer of the man himself.

“Marshall McLuhan is taken far too seriously,” he replied.

The centenary of his birth is July 21, and we take him seriously still. In the Internet age, his ideas appear more relevant than ever. The mark of a great idea is that it is obvious once stated. That how we think and act is shaped by the mode of communication itself is now obvious to all. Continue reading

Beijing’s war on Christianity

Four Catholic bishops in China have been abducted this past week, forcibly taken to unknown locations by the Chinese regime. Bishop Liang Jiansen of Jiangmen, Bishop Liao Hongqing of Meizhou and Bishop Paul Su Yongda of Zhanjiang were dragged off by government officials. Bishop Joseph Junqi of Guangzhou has been missing for days and also presumed abducted. Priests have gathered in the house of Bishop Paul Pei Junmin of Liaoning, both praying with him and serving as a bodyguard, hoping to prevent him from being seized. Continue reading