Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Every coach or teacher realizes that he/she instructs their charges in more than just an intellectual discipline or physical ability – they are instructing their students or athletes in life itself. We have all heard it said that the classrooms, fields or courts are microcosms of life. The lessons that we learn are transferred to our encounters in the world.
As a former high school basketball coach, I cannot remember a more enjoyable “March Madness.” This year’s college tourney had drama galore. The men’s bracket had human-interest stories and a great fan figure in Sister Jean, the 98-year-old cheerleader and chaplain for Loyola University in Chicago (my alma mater). I’m told that Loyola’s coach was so intent on building support for his team, that he sold soft drinks in the stands during the season.
The regularly acknowledged powerhouses were falling. You could hear the sound of NCAA brackets crumpling and being tossed into the wastebasket. But, in the end, the season’s traditional powerhouse, Villanova, achieved the crown. I was hoping for a Loyola/Villanova final – all Catholic, all the time.
But, as exciting and unpredictable the men’s division was, even more so was the women’s division. Notre Dame’s victory emerged from two, three-point, last-second shots by their guard, Arike Ogunbowale. Arike is a Milwaukee product of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School (DSHA). I have to believe that a few votive candles were lit by Our Lady’s Shrine for the ND women’s basketball team. (They should have lit a few more for the men’s team.)
There are a number of prayerful signs used in sports. Recently, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee produced a short commercial, which is airing on Fox Sports Television during Milwaukee Brewers’ baseball games. It depicts young ballplayers invoking their faith as they assume their positions on the field or in the batter’s box.
Their hands are folded in prayer, their eyes and head raised to heaven. Some professional athletes will add a finger pointing up to heaven. But, the most recognizable symbol is the sign of the cross, sometimes accentuated by the kissing of the cross that hangs around the neck. These are important images, signifying that God and faith are involved in everything that we do.
At the end of the NCAA game, the players lined up and shook each other’s hands. It was a great gesture of sportsmanship. I can only imagine that, as the player shook the hand of the person who made the last second shot beating his or her team, they couldn’t help but think if only the game were one, three or five seconds shorter, we would have been the victor. But, as I alluded to earlier, the game is a microcosm for life. One gives it all until the buzzer sounds, the bell rings, or in life, as the last breath is taken.
We are called to incorporate our faith in everything we do until our last breath is taken. We live in the name of Jesus, proclaiming that we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the April 10, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.