Pastor Walter Mitty had been watching C-SPAN a lot lately. What got him hooked was the debate in Congress about funding the war in Iraq and whether there should be a timetable for redeploying the troops.
At first, he bought Carl Levin’s contention that we should withdraw immediately. McCain’s argument, however, was beginning to make sense to him.
“If we lose the war in Iraq,” he thought, “McCain could be right. There could be devastating consequences for both the Middle East and for us.”
Losing had always been a touchy subject for the pastor of Poplar Park Community Church. He still winced when he remembered the playoff game in May, 29 years ago in Manitowoc. He had never been a gifted athlete, but he had gotten a chance to pitch for the high school baseball team.
The team had moved into the sectionals, and Coach Granitz decided to start Walt in the first game against Fond du Lac. If Walt were able to pitch his best game of the year and get a win, they would be able to use their star pitcher against whoever won the other semi-final game.
Mitty’s biggest asset in those days was his control. Beyond that he had an average fastball at best and a nickel curve. The game was tied, one to one, as he took the mound for the start of the third inning. That’s when the bottom fell out; Fond du Lac scored four runs, and Coach Granitz took him out of the game. Mitty could never figure out why losing that game still troubled him.
Last Tuesday, Pastor Walt walked the mile and a half to St. Mary’s for his meeting with Fr. Sullivan. The weather report said the temperature would plunge to below freezing on Wednesday, and he wanted to take advantage of the temporarily spring-like weather.
“Come on in, Walt,” Fr. Bob said as he led Mitty into the kitchen. As the two friends started planning the community Good Friday service, Mitty realized he had neglected to ask the priest how he was doing. “You OK?” he asked.
“OK? Oh, you mean about our school closing at the end of this semester?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, losing that struggle would make me feel terrible,” Mitty replied.
“I guess I don’t think of it as losing,” said Fr. Sullivan. “I don’t think it’s a matter of winning or losing.”
“I don’t understand.” The thought of walking off the mound 29 years ago went through Mitty’s mind, and he felt the old twinge.
“What I mean,” Fr. Bob continued, “is that religious education isn’t about winning and losing. See, we touched the lives of a lot of kids during the 56 years we were in business, but the school just isn’t working anymore. So, we simply have to find another way to give our kids a good religious formation.”
Mitty walked back to the church after his meeting at St. Mary’s, and as he was unlocking his office door he heard Dorothy Aschenbrenner’s voice calling, “It’s just me, Pastor. I’m picking up the palms that were left in the pews Sunday.”
“I’m sorry, Dorothy,” he said as he entered the sanctuary.
“Sorry about what?”
“Well, I feel bad that you worked so hard on your activity. Making crosses out of palms was such a good idea, and only three people stayed after church to participate.”
Dorothy looked puzzled. “I don’t keep score, Pastor. The four of us had a wonderful time.”
When he got home, Mitty turned on C-SPAN and there was John McCain again, arguing that setting a timetable for redeployment was the same as surrendering, that we had to achieve victory in Iraq. Pastor Walt wondered how Fr. Bob and Dorothy would respond to what the senator from Arizona was saying.