Ask Fr. Jerry

With the success of the Milwaukee Bucks winning the 2021 NBA World Championship and then the disappointment of the Milwaukee Brewers being eliminated from this year’s MLB playoffs, is there something our faith can teach us on how to graciously handle success and how to cope with failure?


Your question hits close to my heart. As a huge sports fan of Milwaukee sports, I am right there with you with the experiencing of the highs and lows of our sports teams. The Milwaukee Bucks winning of the NBA championship was so fun to watch and to be a part of the excitement, but if you remember, it was quite the rocky road on their journey to the championship. They lost a number of games and made us all awfully nervous as to what the eventual outcome would be. It was a similar path for the Milwaukee Brewers. While the ending of the season and playoffs was very disappointing, the Brewers did have a fantastic season, winning 95 games during the regular season.

When it comes to success and failure, whether in sports or in life, we can never forget that it is part of the journey we take. The best baseball players fail in 70 percent of their at-bats, the best basketball players fail in 50 percent of their shot attempts. Life is filled with successes and failures, and faith can certainly teach us how to deal with these ups and downs.

There is no greater example than the Pascal Mystery: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He gives us the model to follow in understanding that success and failure is a part of life. Failures are a great opportunity for growth and development, which hopefully lead to experiences of success. I remember watching my nephew learning how to play baseball. When he first started playing tee ball, the success was simply being able to successfully swing the bat; then as the years went on, he was happy to hit the ball rather than strikeout. Now, as a teenager, he is trying to hit a home run each time he comes up to bat.

Our expectations have a lot to say about our successes and failures. God has high expectations for us; we are called to live lives of holiness but we are not expected to have perfect lives. When we do fail, it should not be a discouragement that leads us to quit; rather, we should see it as a chance to learn and improve. When we sin, we should not simply say that is the way it is; rather we should work to move away from that sin, knowing that we are human. A bit of advice I often give to parents when raising their children is allow your child to fail every once in a while, and then help them to learn from their failure.

Your question also raises a key point that when we experience success, we must also be humble. Jesus said the last shall be first and the first shall be last. It is always fun to win, but when we win, let us not forget how it feels to be on the losing side as well.

I certainly hope the day will come when the Milwaukee Brewers win the World Series, and if the Bucks and Packers win another championship as well, wouldn’t that be fun? But, the real joy comes in the journey, the wins and losses, the ups and downs, the successes and failures. That is the journey of life.