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The lighter side of a bishop's life

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Feb 07, 2013

Even as I mourn the death of Bishop John D’Arcy, I can’t help remembering the morning that we had breakfast together, and I saw a different side of the life of a Catholic bishop.

It was a Monday: October 20, 1986. (How do I remember the date? Read on.) I had moved to Indiana almost a year earlier, to become editor of Crisis magazine—which at the time had its editorial headquarters in South Bend, under the aegis of the late, great Ralph McInerny. As I settled into my new job, I sent a note to the bishop, asking for an opportunity to introduce myself. We made a date, rescheduled once or twice, and settled on that day in October.

My intent had been to speak with Bishop D’Arcy about my plans for the magazine, which had already stirred up more than its share of controversy in Catholic circles. I feel sure he was planning to focus on the same subject. But those plans ran quickly off the rails.

After the preliminary introductions had established that we were both from the Boston area, Bishop D’Arcy asked me—in what I thought was a somewhat strained casual manner—whether I was a Red Sox fan. Absolutely, I replied. The bishop instantly dropped the casual approach. His shoulders hunched forward; his eyes lit up.

The previous night, you see, the Red Sox had beaten the New York Mets to take a 2-game lead in the World Series. Bishop D’Arcy was not a casual follower of the Red Sox; he was truly a fanatic, as was (as am) I. We spent the next hour happily discussing the likelihood that the Sox would finally win their first championship since 1918. We commiserated over Bucky Dent’s home run in the 1978 playoff. We exchanged views on whether the Rocket Man could outduel Dr. K again, whether the Mets would dare run on Dewey’s arm, whether Oil Can would be reliable in the clutch.

Was Crisis magazine discussed at all during that breakfast meeting? I don’t recall. I do remember that when we parted, Bishop D’Arcy remarked on how refreshing it had been to have a good, long talk abut the Sox. He had come to love Indiana since his appointment there, he told me, but he still missed two things about Boston: the autumn foliage and the Red Sox.

Within 10 days after that breakfast meeting, the Red Sox had completed an epic collapse, losing the Series, and I had been offered a chance to return to Boston. I moved out of Indiana in November, after barely a year there. Bishop D’Arcy would remain, a baseball exile, until his death last Sunday. I never had another opportunity to speak with him at any length. But during that hour with him I had come to realize that sometimes when a bishop is appointed to a new diocese, the transplant is not complete; a little part of him remains in his native place. And by the way I’m pretty confident that I know what Bishop D’Arcy was doing on the night of October 27, 2004.

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  • Posted by: DrJazz - Feb. 07, 2013 10:55 AM ET USA

    The best Oil Can Boyd line, uttered after a 1986 game in Cleveland postponed by fog: "That's what happens when you build a ballpark by the ocean." May Bishop D’Arcy be on to a good reward.

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