Purgatory, All Souls Day, and the Chicago Cubs

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When Game 7 of the 2016 World Series landed on All Souls Day 2016 I knew it would be interesting.

Like many rural Illinois kids, I grew up a Cubs fan; it was simply part of the social fabric, like American vehicles, violent thunderstorms, and lots of carbs. Our house only received a few TV stations, one of them WGN, home of the Chicago Cubs. Perhaps I would have liked the rival South Side White Sox, but we didn’t “have cable” (remember that?) and so I couldn’t follow them. Like most Cub fans, I felt and grew used to the anxiety of the team’s constant mediocrity and meltdowns, but I didn’t really know why, until November 2, 2016. You see, I now know that being a Cub fan in that era was a kind of purgatorial experience; one that, at least for the moment, has passed.

We can talk now, in fact, talk about a “Pre” and “Post” Nov. 2, 2016. The “Post” 2016 fans to come will perhaps never know the suffering of the “Pre” community, and maybe it’s better they don’t. To be a Cub fan in the 108 years of waiting (68 years more than Moses!) was a time of real purification, perhaps not from sin in the classic sense, but definitely from human weakness that results from sin. To lose year after year, with no foreseeable knowledge when the losing would end, yet filled with that pesky hope and surety that one day it would end, was a taste of Purgatory, if only on a human level.

That’s why as All Souls Day had to set the stage for the last game of the 2016 World Series. A Cubs victory would bring relief from the bonds of waiting and anxiety. The bizarre rain delay at Midnight, at the beginning of the 10th Inning, provided an almost “baptismal” moment from which flowed the victory, and with it, “redemption”. While fans now know about the now historic and inspiring Rain Delay Speech by Jason Heyward in the clubhouse, I like to think the intercession of the souls in Purgatory being released into Heaven on All Souls Day  (perhaps many, many of them Cub fans) had something to do with it as well. For us, who by geography, history, and technology found themselves connected to the experience of patience that is rooting for such a seemingly hopeless cause, mercy was granted. Who knows? I guess it will all come together at the Big Victory Parade at the end of time, when God raises the final “W” on history. But we might have to wait a lot longer than 108 years for that.

This museum in Rome features relics of visits the dead have made to the living. It’s a good commentary on the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory.

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