Thin Places

Celtic Christianity has a term to describe the times and places when we experience an especially strong connection with the spiritual world. It could be a time or place where a person strongly experiences the presence of God, or a time or place where a person experiences the presence of a loved one who has gone on before. The term the Celts use is “thin place” because it describes those times and places when the space between ourselves and the spiritual world, the space between heaven and earth, seems a little closer, a little thinner than usual. This past week, on November 2, many churches celebrated All Souls Day, a day where people remember the lives of those “whom they love, but see no longer.” It is a time to remember and give thanks for the lives of those we have loved and who have had a great influence on who we are today, but are no longer here with us to have and to hold.

In last week’s column I wrote about the “Church of Cubs Baseball." I received more responses to that column than any of the previous almost 400 columns I have written. I had no idea how many other “fellow believers” there were out there, and I had no idea how many other people also experience the connection between spirituality and baseball that I wrote about. I tried to respond to everyone who wrote me as I loved their stories as well, and I apologize if I missed anyone.

As I read the responses a common theme became apparent, as most people who responded wrote about how they had many cherished memories of going to Cubs games throughout the years with a loved one, be it their father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, brother, sister, dear friend, or spouse. In most cases, the loved ones being remembered had passed away and so the memories were now laced with both love and a tinge of grief and sadness. Baseball and loved ones were intimately connected.

Ever since the Chicago Cubs miraculously won the World Series late Wednesday evening, multiple stories have emerged of fans remembering loved ones whom they felt were with them in spirit both during the final innings of the game and during the celebrations that followed. One such story is of Wayne Williams, a man who drove 600 miles to an Indiana cemetery to listen to Game 7 on the radio at the grave of his father. He did so to fulfill a promise the two of them made years ago to listen to the Cubs together, if they ever made it to the World Series. Photos have also been shared of the thousands of Cubs fans who came to the corner of Clark and Addison in Chicago all week using chalk to write the names of loved ones who had passed away on the brick walls of Wrigley Field (see the photo above as an example). Online today I saw many photos of graves in Chicago area cemeteries proudly marked with Cubs pennants, staked into the ground next to the headstones of former faithful fans.

The “Church of Baseball” is a reminder that, “thin places” can occur anywhere and at any time-in a place of worship, watching a sunrise, in a sacred friendship, spending time with a loved one, watching a child grow, or even watching a World Series game.

And it is well worth noting that the Chicago Cubs won Game 7 of the World Series on, of all days, All Souls Day, a day dedicated to remembering the love and the bond we still share with those whom “we love but see no longer.”