The readiness is all. This famous quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet can be spun in many ways. Ironically, the times I've heard this quote used most, directly and indirectly, is in the context of sports. Having worked in education environments as a major part of my ministry, I often hear student athletes share with me the importance of off season programs and how games are not won or lost on the field of play, but in the weight room, the video room, and the daily 5 mile run.
A good friend of mine, Kendra Pagel, is a wonderful school counselor and a successful women's volleyball coach I had the honor to work with while I was chaplain at Regis High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. In 2013, she coached the Regis Ramblers volleyball team to a Division 3 State Championship in the state of Wisconsin. When I left Regis, Kendra always invited me to her volleyball games when Regis was playing a match close to my new assignment. One time, while sitting behind the team bench, I listened to how Kendra coached her team. There was a point during the match I could feel the team was losing focus and Kendra, predictably, called a timeout. I was curious what she was going to say to her student athletes. I was stunned when all she said was, "Settle down.... figure it out... figure it out... okay?... let's go!" The team then went on to win the match. I was a bit stunned. I was waiting for the dry-erase board to come out with quick sketches of formations trying to "coach them up."
Kendra and I went out to dinner shortly after that game and when I mentioned what I observed I asked her, "Why was your simple encouragement so effective?" Kendra explained that the players already knew what they were doing wrong because they knew the game plan through and through from practice. All Kendra was doing was calming them down to help them remember the game plan. "Father, if I have to coach them during the game, it isn't the players who fail, but I who failed because I didn't give them the tools they needed to win during practice." The readiness is all! I was happy to hear upon my return to Eau Claire that Kendra was hired to the high school in my parish boundaries, allowing me to cheer for my friend again!
I was reminded of this story while watching the latest updates on the OSIRIS-REx mission. As you know, I've been following this mission ever since we visited the mission center at the University of Arizona as part of the first Faith and Astronomy Workshop. It has been exciting to watch the slow process on this ground breaking... or should I say "dust sucking" event! At the same time, I would also empathize with those who feel "Come on already, drop the asteroid vacuum cleaner, suck up the dust and come home.... What's taking so long?!" The simple answer: The readiness is all! Similar to my friend Kendra, NASA is taking the approach that if the mission fails, it wont be because of a lack of readiness. When NASA released the below video equating the OSIRIS-REx mission to preparation for a professional basketball season, the connection of Shakespeare's oft used quote came to mind. To put it another way, perfect practice makes for the best possible outcome for a game... and space missions!
(To read my previous posts on ISIRIS-REx, you can follow the hyper links to these articles: (Infancy and Urgency: What Can We Learn From ISIRIS-REx and God, Goddard, and Asteroid Dust: An Update On OSIRIS-REx and the Parker Solar Probe. Also check out these wonderful pieces by Bob Trembly, OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission Arrives at Bennu, Dr. Brenda Frye's piece, The Symphony Recored OSIRIS-REx, and Br. Guy's piece, Relics of Space to name a few. Just type OSIRIS-REx in our search engine for even more! )
A brief video explaining how the OSIRIS-REx mission team is preparing for the extraction of dust from the surfaced of asteroid Bennu
A brief video of NASA practicing their "touch and go" mission on Bennu. The mission equivalent of shooting free throws!
The quote, The readiness is all, not only is applicable to sports and NASA missions. In many ways, this timeless quote is deeply embedded in the practice of authentic faith. As I shared with my students and now share with my parishioners, Christian faith in not an "all-nighter" reality. We don't see faith as something we do in brief moments, but is a slow, daily process of taking what we have learned and then put that knowledge into practice. This is why Catholics so emphasize daily prayer, reception of the Sacraments, and a commitment to weekly attendance of Mass. In many ways, prayer, study, and the Sacraments are our version of "shooting free throws," preparing our hearts to live our faith in the world around us.
Similar to my friend Kendra wanting to instill in her players the tools they need to be successful on the court, so, too, we can infer that if we don't commit to the formation needed to live our faith, our ability to make the right decisions in the "game" of life will be limited. Instead, we need to be intimately aware of God's love and presence, allowing our hearts to be formed to understand what that relationship means for how we live our lives. Yes, we need to have people walk with us in faith to help us refocus and "figure it out" when we forget the "game plan." Yet, much of our ability to be faithful is found not in the fire of the world's moments in front of us, but in the calm waters of when we are alone or in community, placing ourselves in God's presence. Whether it be Kendra's volleyball team, OSIRIS-REx's mission objectives, or living authentic faith, The readiness IS all!
Spiritual Exercise: What is the "readiness" you know you need to do today to live your life of faith? Have you prayed today? Have you taken some time for sacred reading? Take these questions to prayer and let us be inspired by athletics and scientists to embrace one of the most fundamental lessons of living a good life - Ready your heart for the Lord through a daily commitment to the "practice" of your faith!
Here's a wonderful interview conducted by Michelle Thaller going over the basics of the OSIRIS-REx Mission.