Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spiritual Lessons from Florida Gulf Coast University

Many sports fans- and even some non sports fans have heard of the darling team of this year's NCAA Men's Championship- aka, March Madness, Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU was a lowly 15 seed and they fought their way into the "Sweet Sixteen," one of only 16 teams let playing in the country. Makes this Jackrabbit fan jealous.

But there is an interesting spiritual lesson to be learned from FGCU. After their defeat, I caught some of the postgame press conference and FGCU's senior Sherwood Brown was giving a  sport's cliché: "We believed in ourselves and we did it." Or something along those lines.

The real lesson is a little different. FGCU tested themselves- not against their own belief but against reality. In reality they played and won against Georgetown and San Diego State (the other SDSU). They tested themselves against reality and they REALLY won.

In our own spiritual life, the challenge isn't simply self confidence but to test ourselves against reality. As a Catholic Christian, we test ourselves against reality all the time: Scriptures, Sacraments, accountability from friends, and the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. These are the real things by which we can measure ourselves and know: are we going in the right direction or not?

In the world of basketball, Florida Gulf Coast University entered the test and found themselves to be true and good- in the world of basketball. They faced real opponents in a real test: Georgetown, San Diego State, and Florida. They know they are going in the right direction. In your faith life, can you say the same? Have you tested yourself against Scripture, Sacraments, accountability from friends and the Risen Lord Jesus Christ?

Lord, save us from the trial and test of temptation but do not save us from the test of your truth and goodness.

"For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw --  each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." 1 Cor 3:11-15

Monday, March 11, 2013

On the Eve of the Conclave

On the eve of the conclave you could drive yourself crazy reading articles and blog posts about who the next Pope will be, what policies he should promote, and what problems he faces. You could read about the different factions or concerns in the college of cardinals. You can even make yourself busy with betting pools and bianco fumare parties.

I am tempted, and I gather other serious Catholics are tempted to worry or fret over the identity of the next Pope. Will he do everything we want him to? Will he defend the faith with the care and precision necessary in this mass media age? Will he work in the Curia to create an atmosphere that better promotes the New Evangelization?

In the midst of this, there is a lesson for the Year of Faith. In this time without a shepherd, we have to trust in the Good Shepherd all the more. We have no guarantee that our Popes will be confident. We have no guarantee that our Popes will be holy. History teaches us those lessons. But history teaches us another lesson. No Pope will sink the Church.

This is a time for us to have faith. No Pope will sink the Church, have faith. My good priest friend, Fr. Jim Mason likes to tell the story of Napoleon confronting the Archbishop of Paris: "Monsieur, I will destroy your church." The Archbishop responds, "Good luck. Priests and bishops have been trying for almost 2000 years."

I have a reasonable hope that the new Pope will do the things that, in my humble estimation, the Church needs. I have a sure hope, founded on revealed faith, that Jesus will care for and protect his Church no matter what. So in these days of intense prayer, remember, in the words of St. Augustine, quoted by Pope Benedict XVI in his document on the year of faith. "Believers are strengthened by believing."