July 31, 2020

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Indy 500 run during pandemic is a reminder of what is most important

Sean GallagherFans of the Indianapolis 500 might remember the 104th running of the historic race as being very different from most that they remember.

Many of those differences were brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, which has made 2020 such a different and disruptive year for all of us.

Because of the virus, the race this year took place on Aug. 23 instead of the Sunday before Memorial Day in May. And in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, the race was run without the hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world who ordinarily fill the grandstands of the 2 ½-mile oval.

The race also finished in a way that disappointed many fans. With five laps to go, racer Spencer Pigot crashed his car. IndyCar race officials determined that, because of the few laps left in the race, they could not stop the race, clean up the track from the wreck and then re-start it to allow competitive racing until the end.

So, the winner was the leader at the time the crash occurred—racer Takuma Sato. Coming in second was Scott Dixon, who had dominated much of the day’s race, leading 111 of its 200 laps.

But it was Sato who led the field during the last five laps, which were run under a yellow flag when racers drive at a reduced speed and are not allowed to make passes.

The ending of the 2020 Indy 500, then, seemed fitting for this year of disappointed expectations. (Well, maybe except for Sato and his team.)

But in a year when much of what is so important to us was taken away for a long time—receiving the Eucharist, going to confession, spending time with loved ones in their final days and attending their funerals, visiting friends and relatives and, for many people, their jobs—maybe race fans can find satisfaction simply in the fact that the race was run at all.

It’s a reminder for us to seek security in God alone, whose protective love for us stands unshaken by the tempests and tumult of our broken world.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson called this to mind for those present at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 23 and the millions who watched or listened to the race as he prayed its invocation minutes before the green flag dropped:

“God of all times and all ages, we turn to you again this day to once again ask your divine blessing. In good times and in bad, you have shown us your loving kindness.

“In these last few months, we have experienced many disruptions, and we have a renewed vision of our brokenness. But we know, with you at our side, that’s not the end of our story, not the finish of the race for us!”

Each of us privileged to have been baptized into Christ has a race to run that will not end until our dying breath. There will inevitably be moments in our race when difficult hardships will make our course to the finish line seem impossible to find or complete. We might even be tempted by our daily crosses to quit the race altogether.

However, God’s enduring faithfulness to his people shown time and again in sacred Scripture, throughout Church history, and in the history of our own lives calls us to trust him.

But no matter how objectively clear his faithfulness to us may be, it can still be hard in our broken world to say yes to him.

So, even when it’s hard to trust God, take the chance in living by his promise that his grace is always present to help us to persevere in the race of our lives.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter and columnist for The Criterion.)

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