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March 20-22, 1998             SECTION ONE              vol 9, no. 57



MARCH MADNESS!

     We're in the midst of the bedlam known to all cage fans as "March Madness" - an epidemic that spreads through the land this time each year. But this time is also Lent and so few acknowledge why we commemorate the time of Lent, so few fail to call on God for assistance...for "Divine Intervention." In this weekend's editorial, we address this, tying March Madness and our own experiences with basketball and how "The real Madness of March is that not enough are willing to be on God's Team!. Click on this weekend's CATHOLIC PewPOINT

The real Madness of March is that not enough are willing to be on God's Team!

     The trilogy of weekends that one either loves or hates; the time when wagering reaches its zenith in the office pools with the pairings; the time when Almighty God must be working overtime: We're speaking of course about the NCAA Basketball Tournament, otherwise known by all as MARCH MADNESS. It begins innocently enough with a round of sixty-four teams from over a thousand universities throughout the country from a bevy of conferences and leagues; from enrollments topping 40,000 to under 3,000. By Friday evening, the tournament is whittled down to 32 teams and by Sunday the line-up for the "Sweet Sixteen" is set. That is what we're in this weekend and if you've ever been there or cheered with all your heart for one of your teams in this set, it's akin to the way you felt when you were sixteen and puppy love struck. Again, by Friday night the teams are down to the "Elite Eight" who slug it out, sometimes literally, for the extreme privilege of reaching the "Final Four." The latter will then be played out on two days in San Antonio next weekend. Only one team will emerge as the National Champion. Everyone else goes home a loser.

     That's the sentiment of those who take it so seriously, those who spend a bundle either to put a bob on their hunch or to travel to the various sites throughout the country and live the experience. That's the sentiment of those coaches and players who, for the most part, consider it a business - big business - rather than a game. That's the sentiment of college presidents who bank on millions in the coffers from accommodating alums, but that usually only comes if their team wins. So the pressure turns into a vicious circle. And in this pressure cooker of college sports - both mens and womens, God is so often forgotten, except when throwing in a Holy Mary from half-court. Yet there are a few this year who haven't forgotten the Heavenly Presence, even attributed the Latter to helping them win. Invariably there is always a "Cinderella" team, and this year is no exception. Also, invariably that "Cinderella" team will give credit to a "Higher Power" for getting them there and winning the game with an "impossible shot" that defied all odds, and this year, of course, is no exception. One player even attributed an "angel to guiding the ball into the bucket" when it looked like it would be well short of its target; it was like it defied the laws of gravity and stayed airborne another foot until it found its mark between the netting as the game clock expired. To some that may seem far-fetched, but take it from personal experience, we believe it!

     Against all odds, this editor coached his sons and a group of teammates from the Boys Club league in Bentonville, Arkansas to the State Tournament in Arkansas five years ago, the same year the Razorbacks won the NCAA. In fact, just after the Regionals we took the whole team to Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, thirty miles south of Bella Vista, to watch the Hogs practice before heading for the Final Four. It was quite a thrill not just for the boys, but coaches and moms, as well. Though we got blown out in the first round of the State Finals in Little Rock by a Little Rock school rated ninth in the nation whose style was run n' gun playground ball, we had a ball and the kids lived a great experience. But back to "Divine Intervention." It wasn't meant that the Bentonville "Gators" go further in the State Tournament, but it was important that they got that far. Two weeks earlier we had to win the last four in a row at the end of the regular season just to qualify for the local playoffs. Then we had to win three more in the playoffs to earn the right to go to State. Not an easy task, many said "impossible," but we believed. Not only in this ragamuffin group of eight to ten-year old lads, but also that if it were God's Will, they'd go further. That they did partly because they started playing better as a group, but largely because of mystical occurrences on the court similar to the NCAA shot last week that was, by all accounts "short" and yet still went in. Credit prayer and lots of it. While yours truly paced the hardwood shouting encouragement to the boys, calling out instructions to switch from zone to man-to-man to a box and one trap, my better half was high in the stands giving the Rosary beads a steady workout. While others were shouting from the top of their lungs, and sometimes things not too nice, my bride and the boys' mom was calling on Heavenly intervention, invoking her guardian angel "Joseph" to perch himself on the rims and swat away opposing shots while guiding the Gator's attempts into the net. Mind you, it didn't always work, but it did enough times that I was a believer! We can't begin to explain the phenomenas that enveloped this team which no one expected to even make the playoffs, let alone win it all in Northwest Arkansas. There were shots taken by opposing teams that couldn't miss, but somehow they did; there were shots, ill advised I might add, taken by our team that I would scream out "Nooooo!" and then give an emphatic "Yes!" when, defying all logic and probability, it banked off the glass and in or swished through the chords. If you have ever seen the movie "Angels in the Outfield" it gives you a good indication of what was going on out there on the court back in 1993. Many called it a "magical year;" we called it "miraculous!" After my wife convinced me it was the prayers, not the talent, I really started to believe and transfered that confidence to the kids. Everytime the other team missed a sure bucket, I'd look up and say "Thank you, Joseph!" Everytime one of our kids made a play that seemed impossible, I'd give Cyndi a wink in the stands and we'd mouth together "Thank you, Joseph!" Those who caught on to what we were doing after awhile thought we were crazy. It didn't matter, we knew what Jesus said, "Knock and it shall be opened to you." We also knew God didn't like our team better than the others, or want us to win more than the others, just as He doesn't favor any special team in the NCAA's. But He does like acknowledgment of Him, He does appreciate when we pay attention to Him and call on Him and that we did that spring of '93.

     The point is those shots last week that were attributed to "Divine Intervention" were not "luck" but an answer to their prayers. Does that mean God wants them to win it all? Hardly, for we'd bet they don't get out of the Sweet Sixteen. Let me rephrase that, we'd count on them not getting to the Final Four. After all, we don't wager on games, because then God sure isn't going to respond. He's not going to contribute to anything that promotes the Seven Deadly Sins. But He sure appreciates any attention to Him when the mass majority are thinking about everything but God. He intended the game to be for recreation, to learn teamwork so that man could work with one another, grow and love one another as He asks. He didn't promote the slam dunk, the Nike phenomena, the "in-your-face" style of ball that permeates the game and society today where almost every player flaunts and taunts, forgetting that whatever talents he has have been given to him by God. Without God, he or she would be NOTHING! How many of the players and coaches, and fans, for that matter, realize or recognize this fact? That's what makes March so maddening that so many have forgotten God's role in life, His vital and necessary participation in the daily lives of everyone. The Triune Divinity is impartial when it comes to one team or another, but They are not impartial when it comes to recognizing Them. Maybe that's why the Father is the fair Ref, the Son the "Great Recruiter," and the Holy Spirit the masterful Coach Who will guide us through the Master Game Plan. Those who do, move to the head of the class; those who don't...well, wait in line and think about it. Think about why God isn't answering their prayers. The reason is very simple. God doesn't stack the deck, but He does deal the right cards to those who put their faith in Him by living as He Wills. Whether it's at work, prayer, or play - or the NCAA's - remember to remember Him and thank Him and His chorus of angels and saints whether or not your team wins or loses. But before you hang your head in despair if and when your team comes up just a little short in the big "Dance," remember that you can never lose with God on your side. After all, playing on God's team assures us of victory! It's a sure bet! It's sad so many don't realize this, because win or lose, the real Madness of March is that not enough are willing to be on God's Team!

Michael Cain, editor

REJOICE! It is LAETARE SUNDAY!

     This weekend is the great midpoint of Lent when we put away the violet or purple vestments for a day and break out the rose-colored ones for the Introit is laetare which is Latin for "Rejoice." Flowers may adorn the altar and music fills the air on this day which is similar to Gaudete Sunday during Advent. In fact, only on the latter and Laetare Sunday are rose vestments ever worn. So on this special day, let us all rejoice as we round the bend and head down the back stretch toward Holy Week, the Easter Tridiuum, and and the joy of Easter Sunday. For all the readings, meditations and liturgy from Friday through Monday, click on THIS WEEKEND'S LITURGY

FRIDAY, March 20, 1998


SATURDAY, March 21, 1998


SUNDAY, March 22, 1998


MONDAY, March 23, 1998

FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIO ALFONSO DE MOGROVEJO

     Born in 1538 at Mayorga, Spain Saint Toribio Alfonso or Turibius taught law at the University of Salamanca where he caught the attention of King Philip II who appointed Toribio as chief judge of the Inquisition at Granada. Though still a layman, he was further appointed to the Archbishopric of Lima, Peru in 1580. Upon the announcement he received the Sacrament of Holy Orders before setting sail for the new world. There he discovered that his diocese stretched from Panama to Argentina and under his jurisdiction whom he counseled and encouraged were such luminary saints as Saint Rose of Lima, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint John Macias, and Saint Francis Solano. His greatest achievement was reforming the way the Indians were treated, fighting for the poor by founding many churches, schools, hospitals and clinics as well as the first seminary in 1591 where, within a few years, it was packed. Archbishop Toribio studied extensively learning the various dialects in order to better reach the people. It was on his way back to Lima from a pastoral visit to one of the Indian villages that he died in Santa, Peru on March 23, 1606. In 1726 Pope Benedict XIII canonized him.

Thou art a priest forever...

     Those words taken from Hebrews 5: 6, fit Father Richard Simon, a pastor in a Chicago parish who realized the true importance of priesthood was in his devotion and loyalty to Jesus Christ first and foremost. Thus, he gives his logical reasons for restoring Jesus to His rightful place behind the altar, front and center. Sister Mary Lucy Astuto brings us his stirring and inspiring letter he wrote to his parishioners last Summer in her first of two parts. She shares his words with all this weekend in True Story of a Priest's Conversion. Click on GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER

TRUE STORY OF A PRIESTíS CONVERSION

      On June 24, 1997 a Chicago priest, Pastor of St. Thomas of Canterbury Church, sent this letter out to all of his parishioners, concerning reverence for the Holy Eucharist. I want to share it with all the readers as inspiration and encouragement, a sign of Hope during this time Lent 1998.

      Dear Friends in the Lord,
I was alarmed by a statistic I heard this weekend. Only 27 percent of Catholics in the United States believe in the Real Presence. The doctrine of the Real Presence is at the very heart of the Catholic faith.

      The doctrine of the Real Presence is the belief that Jesus is really, physically present in the form of bread and wine. This idea draws together all the central teachings of Christian faith. It is the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Resurrection, the unity of the Body of Christ, and the promise and foretaste of Heaven. If we don't believe in the Real Presence, we might as well close the church.

      In fact, we are facing a generation of young people who are largely lost to the church because we have not given them the precious gift that is at the heart of Catholicism, that is the Real Presence of Jesus. Mass has become simply a drama, a vehicle for whatever agenda is currently popular. The church building is no longer a place of encounter with the Lord but a sort of a social center--not a place of prayer, rather a place of chatter.

      In many churches, including our own, the tabernacle was moved from the center of the church to add emphasis to the Mass and the presence of the Lord in the reception of Holy Communion. The experiment, however, has failed. We have lost the sense of the sacred that formerly was the hallmark of Catholic worship. The behavior of many in the church is outrageous. When Mass is over, it is impossible to spend time in prayer. The noise level reaches the pitch that one would expect at a sporting event. The kiss of peace seems like New Year's Eve. Christ is forgotten on the altar.

      You may counter that He is present in the gathering of the Church, and though this is true, it should not detract from the Lord present on the altar. If the Lord is truly recognized in the congregation, it should serve to enhance the sacredness of the moment. This is simply not happening. The sign of peace in most churches has all the sacredness of an Elks convention--no offense to the Elks. We are teaching our children by what we do and the way we are behaving that there is nothing special about that little white round thing, it's just a piece of bread. Usually wedding photographers set up their equipment right in front of the tabernacle and I have to ask them to move. They have no idea what that little box is for.

      Worse still, I remember walking into church one afternoon to find some of the men of the parish smoking and drinking beer directly in front of the tabernacle as they worked on some "liturgical" project or other. After Mass on Sunday the church is littered with cigarette butts, gum, wrappers, the refuse of snacks, broken toys brought to entertain unruly children, and all manner of filth.

      Therefore, I have decided to restore the tabernacle to its former place in the middle of the sanctuary and to begin a campaign of re-education as to the sacredness of the meaning of the Real Presence. This means that I will nag and nag until a sense of the sacred is restored. I will be reminding you that a respectful quiet will have to be maintained in church. Food and toys and socializing are welcome elsewhere, but the church is the place for an encounter with the loving God.

      It will not be a popular policy, but this is unimportant. If you object, please tell me why. I will not begin this change until July. Let me know what you think. I can hear one objection already. Where will the priest sit? I will sit where the priest has traditionally sat over on the side of the sanctuary. Here as in many churches the "presider's" chair was placed where the tabernacle had been. I am sick of sitting on the throne that should belong to my Lord. The dethronement of the Blessed Sacrament has resulted in the enthronement of the clergy, and I for one am sick of it. The Mass has become priest-centered. The celebrant is everything. I am a sinner saved by grace as you are and not the center of the Eucharist. Let me resume my rightful place before the Lord rather than instead of the Lord. I am ordained to the priesthood of Christ in the order of the presbyter, and as such I do have a special and humbling role. I am elder brother in the Lord and with you I seek to follow Him and to worship.

      Please, please let me return Christ to the center of our life together where He belongs.

      In the Lord,

      Father Rich Simon

      Next week I will continue with his follow-up response for it is so refreshing to see those chosen by God finally seeing the Light and enforcing what Our Blessed Mother has been seeking for lo these many years. True reverence for her Divine Son. Isn't it interesting that he wrote this letter on the feast of St. John the Baptist, the same day Our Lady first appeared to the visionaries of Medjugorje sixteen years before. May God bless you.


Ridiculed and Railroaded

     In the second part of Lesson 8, THE TRIAL OF THE SANHEDRIN we see Jesus spat upon and dragged before the court who already have passed judgment without even hearing His side. It is a sad commentary on society, one that has not changed in 2000 years. These meditative lessons, imparted by Our Lady to the Hidden Flower of the Immaculate Heart during Lent of 1993, are meant to inspire and prompt a greater understanding of the season of Lent in helping us all prepare for His Passion and Death, and ultimately the glorious Resurrection. By reading these meditative lessons, it is hoped we can be properly prepared when we stand before society ridiculed and railroaded because of our loyalty and obedience to Christ. Click on "IT IS CONSUMMATED!"

Meditative Lesson 8:

THE TRIAL OF THE SANHEDRIN

part two

      Pandemonium reigns. The Sanhedrin has its sought-after victim and its justice shall be done. These men are now safe! These men have no concept, so blinded are they by the demons which swirl around them, of how short-lived this feeling of safety will be.

      I see these demons, hideous, ugly, monstrous beast-like beings of varying sizes and purposes. Some demons scream, other spit, other dance obscenely, while all move with incredible speed going from one to another of the assembled Sanhedrin, and they stir these men into a higher and higher hate-filled frenzy.

      Yet not one demon will approach Jesus Who stand bound, His head bowed in humility, which only incites the men to vent their hatred. Yes, the demons press them forward and the men willingly respond.

      Caiphas, having achieved his victory, strides from the chamber as if he had just saved all of Israel from irreparable harm. The moment he is gone, the demons push various scribes and elders forward.

      Our Dear Lord is treated in the most inhuman manner. The insults fly from every mouth and each one is a wound to the Sacred Heart, His Sacred Ears, even to His Mind, which is wounded over and over by the most vile remarks man is capable of.

      Those who are charged to guard Him are assisting in His torture. I see demons sitting upon their shoulders, clamoring for them to yank Jesus first one way and then another. With each jerk of the ropes Jesus meets with human spittle, a hard fist crashing against His innocent flesh, a slap which is of such strength there remains the imprint of a hand upon our Lordís holy face.

      These men, these so-called leaders and learned men of the Temple see only the wreck of the man who proclaimed Himself "Son of God." They cannot see beyond their own naked fury, nor is there any stillness in their being which might enable them to "see" Who truly stands in their midst.

      At length, after Jesus has fallen, twisted to and fro by the ropes, the doors swing open and a contingent of Temple guards marches in.

      Jesus is pulled to His feet. His hair is tangled and partially blocks His vision.

      "He is to be taken to Pilate," the head of the Temple Guard announces.

      "Yes," shouts the assembly. "Let justice be done!"

      And our Dear Lord, still silent, humble but in great pain, is forced from the room. The Temple guards deliberately move so quickly that Jesus, already weak, is dragged along the rough floors while demonic, hysterical laughter echoes in the hall of the Sanhedrin!

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Three of Lesson 8: Our Lady's Meditation on THE TRIAL BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN


PROVERB OF THE DAY

"My son, if your heart be wise, my own heart also will rejoice; and my inmost being will exult, when your lips speak what is right."

Proverbs 23: 15-16

Medjugorje Monthly Message for February 25th

      Dear children! Also today I am with you and I, again, call all of you to come closer to me through your prayers. In a special way, I call you to renunciation in this time of grace. Little children, meditate on and live, through your little sacrifices, the Passion and Death of Jesus for each of you. Only if you come closer to Jesus will you comprehend the immeasurable love He has for each of you. Through prayer and your renunciation you will become more open to the gift of faith and love towards the Church and the people who are around you. I love and bless you. Thank you for having responded to my call! For more on Medjugorje, click on MEDJUGORJE

ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

Events that happened this weekend in Church History

      For events throughout the centuries that are memorable in Church history, click on ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

651 - 650 - 649 and counting, hoping and praying..



Click here to go to SECTION TWO or click here to return to the graphics front page of this issue.


March 20-22, 1998 volume 9, no. 57         DAILY CATHOLIC