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Spiritual Detachment and Cardinals Baseball

Baseball Heaven. Not the real Heaven.

The Cardinals lost. And it hurts. What you are about to read may hurt even more.

You have to hand it to the Cubs. They showed they were the better team in the series. Their pitching was better and their hitting literally pounded the Cardinals into defeat via the homerun ball. The friendly confines of Wrigley Field finally hosted a playoff series victory (the first in franchise history) and the amazing prediction from “Back to the Future” is one step closer to reality. In the first-ever playoff series between the two clubs, the “loveable losers” are now winners – at least for the time being.

This is the time most fans of any losing team across all sports begin to question their team’s performance, production from key players, the manager’s decision making, and ultimately its future. However, there is an alternative: to simply not care.

Before you close out of your browser in disgust and chalk me up as a half-hearted Cardinals fan, please allow me to explain.

To “not care” about worldly things is, in the spiritual sense, a good thing. St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits and well-known for his Spiritual Exercises, calls this idea “holy indifference” or “spiritual detachment.” In modern language, this could be called “balance.”

So, perhaps the point is not so much to simply “not care” as the point is to “not care as much” and move on.

But you’re a die-hard Cardinals fan. You’ve been there for Opening Day every year for as long as you remember, no matter the weather. You never gave up on the team in their improbable Game 6 comeback in 2011. You have jerseys from Ozzie to McGwire to Pujols to Carpenter (Chris and Matt). This is your team, your city, and you do care. A lot.

If that sounds like you, or if you’ve spent more than 10 minutes since Tuesday night sulking about the bitter end to the 2015 season, or if you’ve posted at least one (or two… or three) long and frustrated rants on social media, it’s going to be OK. But you may need to spend (at least) 15 minutes making sure you come back to your spiritual center, which is the understanding that we are “created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord,” and in doing so save our soul.

Will the St. Louis Cardinals get us to Heaven (the real Heaven, not “Baseball Heaven”)? Probably not. And we could be hindering ourselves in that endeavor by making disparaging and uncharitable remarks about the Cubs or being distracted from more serious responsibilities in life.

As difficult as it may be for us to accept, we have absolutely no control over the things that occur on the field. We have even less control over the things that happen off the field. Yet, how much time in the past week have we spent thinking about the Cardinals, debating strategy, criticizing the manager, arguing with friends about statistics, and watching the actual games? In contrast, how much quality time have we spent with our kids, our spouse, and Our Lord and Savior?

Stop and consider this for a moment. Can you afford to care a little less about the things that matter, and a little more about that things that do? For most of us, the honest answer should be an emphatic “yes.”

“For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it… desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”

(The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” Principle and Foundation)

St. Ignatius understood what he wrote. It hurts to lose. But it hurts even more to let go. That’s what Ignatian spirituality demands that we do. We can learn a lot from sports, but perhaps the most important lesson we can learn is how to be spiritually detached from the game and spiritually attached to God.