Before each session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Chaplain Father Patrick Conroy or a visiting chaplain will open that session of the House with a formal prayer. Father Conroy can be seen in the image above, wearing a No. 1 jersey, standing in the center of kneeling representatives around second base before the Congressional Baseball Game Thursday night in the Washington Nationals Park. It was the same spot on the diamond where Majority Whip Steve Scalise was critically shot on a practice field Wednesday morning in Arlington, Viriginia.
But we never see a scene like this in the House Chamber, where members leave their seats, come down the aisle to the well of the House, get down on their knees, placing their hands on each other’s backs or shoulders and together, Republicans and Democrats, pray for the wisdom to draft legislation that will bring healing to our nation. It’s reminiscent of an old-fashioned gospel revival meeting. Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
And as the opposing teams take to the mound and the batter’s box, what if the clergy could be the umpires, calling the balls and strikes, keeping The Game fair according to the Rule Book – similarly as clergy did in our nation’s beginnings (or, might I say, “big innings!”). Sure, a batter might from time-to-time in the passion of the moment argue over a call, even kick some dirt and, God forbid, swear at the ump, but the game would play on. Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
And the fans, Americans all, adorned in their team’s colors, would cheer for their hometown heroes! Imagine the Capitol Police weren’t needed except to sing the National Anthem, pass out the beer, popcorn and peanuts or occasionally throw out the first pitch! Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
And, what if everybody played by the same rules, lived with the calls made and, win or lose, we’d all go home as Americans knowing that tomorrow was another day to meet our opponents on the field of America’s favorite pastime. And once the stadium was emptied, the streets and neighborhoods were a safe place to walk and play and live because there was only one team then. Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
I was moved to tears as I watched Father Conroy, like a shepherd with his flocked gathered around him at second base at Nationals Park Thursday evening.
As clergy, it is most often not what you say in a sermon or prayer that makes converts, but how you lead by your life that moves people to repentance.
I know Father Conroy personally, and he thinks of himself as a “chaplain to Congress,” but Thursday evening he was “America’s Pastor.” Not only were both sides of the aisle gathered at his feet like trusting sheep, but so was the nation. Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
A humble priest, with his head bowed and back to the camera, no one on TV could hear a word he said (they didn’t need to) because what he was doing said it, shouted it so that I needed to turn down the volume of the TV. There at second base, he quietly led the nation to the foot of the cross. And all of Congress, all America, followed him.
But that’s Father Conroy, a quiet, humble servant who leads his flock on the Hill by his Christ-like example – another hero of the day, certainly mine. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” Oh, that Congress, that America, could be like baseball again!
When the “Amen” was said, two opposing teams rose to their feet. With Godspeed and healing grace for Steve Scalise on their hearts and minds – before a record crowd of 25,000 raising over $1 million dollars for charity – they took to the field to “whip the snot” out of each other. And according to those calling the game and we who watched, the score (11-2, Dems winning) was not at all reflective of the enthusiastic play by both teams.
And in the truest manner of American sportsmanship, the winning Democratic manager said the championship trophy would be placed in Republican Steve Scalise’s office until he was well again. That, sports fans, is the real America we all know and love. Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!
It’s not unity America needs, not at all. What fun is the game if only one team were playing? I am afraid of governments where there are no differing voices. No free speech. No political or philosophical debate. In fact, diversity is our strength. But civility, honor and respect are the bonds of our national fabric. Without these our society cannot survive.
America needs two healthy, powerful opposing teams with strong hitters in Congress. Teams in which everyone plays by the same moral, ethical and constitutional rules, teams that bring fresh ideas and lasting solutions to all our nation’s problems. “Iron sharpens iron.” That is what has made America the greatest game on earth for the past 241 years.
Oh, that Congress could be like baseball again!