available in full graphics and/or textonly
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!
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.
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