Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mid-Summer Classic Reading: Sports & Spirituality Style

Traditionally the All-Star break brings a lull to the sports media cycle. While this year's home run derby was actually worth talking about, SportsCenter's reel is running thin. No ball scores to relay, Wimbledon is complete and we are in the holding pattern for The British Open, as it begins on Thursday. The best the NBA can offer is its D-league and with summer temperatures in full swing, it's hard to think about Fall and Football. I have to admit, ESPN knows what it's doing by hosting the ESPY awards on the final night of the break offered by the mid-summer classic. And with this year's honoree, Caitlyn Jenner, the buzz is real. I'd like to think that I will pass, (although I probably won't). If that's your plan I'd like to offer three articles worth reading to keep your own sports and spirituality reel running strong.
1. The Dunk Project by Michael McKnight

I love that the author and narrator Michael McKnight decided to undertake a nonsensical yet impressive and alluring physical goal. It's one that many utter as a benchmark of respect—the slam dunk. McKnight integrates history of the game and this physical feat, a game plan for what this will task of him and why. I love that he's 43 years old and going for it. I love the personal inventory he takes to reach this goal. He writes,

The things I had going for me: an understanding spouse; a modicum of leaping ability; proximity to one of the world’s best training centers; and, again, an understanding spouse.
And I love that he has a great sense of humor about it all. He says,
Because a Snap Back wasn’t always available, local residents may have spotted a sweaty forty­something man rubbing Vaseline on his hands in the corner of their child’s favorite playground last year. Sometimes he wore a weight vest that made him look like a jihadist. What I’m saying is, Thanks for not calling the cops.
Hey Mike, there's a man who looks like a jihadist at my gym too. I don't think he's trying to dunk though.

This piece is lengthy, but you will appreciate the Dunk that much more and I bet you will start thinking about a non-sensical yet impressive goal you too can strive for.


2. Blue Skies Ahead by James Keane


I wish I could tell you I will read Pope Francis' new encyclical "Laudato Si," but I know myself and the best I can offer for the good of my students and as someone who is committed to on-going education in my Catholic faith, is that I will read the executive summary. My parish provided a handy "Beyond the Headlines" brochure and it is also offering small group sharing, Intentional Seeks: Care for Creation. I'll see what I can do. I have to admit, however James Keane's article "Blue Skies Ahead" certainly wet my appetite. 
Keane, an Angelino (what a great term. I hate LA but I can still admit folks from the second largest city in the US have a good name) was at the 1988 World Series. The last of the Dodgers' World Series titles comes by way of something that even Hollywood couldn't script. How? Why? The backdrop would never be used on the silver screen. He writes,
The smog is so thick and viscous that the city seems to exist at the bottom of a bowl of broth. Everything is some shade of brown. The image would not be out of place in a shock-doc about China’s callous disregard for the environment and for human health or in a dystopian film about a future when we all wear masks.
Fortunately, today is a different story. He explains how. We ought to know why. Pope Francis would urge us to do more.

3. Guided by the Rule of St. Benedict by Kevin Coyne (see page 24)

I don't know what is more strange: that I receive Seton Hall University's alumni magazine or that I read it. My friend the late Msgr Jim Sheehan died of colon cancer four years ago. Jim was in residence at the Cathedral in Newark, NJ which is affiliated with Archdiocese's seminary—set on the SHU campus. I think I made a donation in his memory. That gift has proven to be a gift...and that is by way of the story "Guided by the Rule of St. Benedict" by Kevin Coyne.

Folks may know of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark because of their outstanding basketball program or the school's history through the race riots on the '60s but this article is worth reading because of their simple yet effective philosophy.
this is a movie I'm excited to watch.
Among the vows that Benedictines take is a vow of stability. “It’s the exact opposite of most religious congregations,” Father Leahy said. “We make a commitment to a place.”

In a world that is transient as well as ever-changing, it's remarkable to me that the Benedictine way is to put down roots. Given the population they serve, this is that much more important.  
The 12-acre campus straddles both sides of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard — the former High Street — and includes a 60-room dorm that is home to students whose own homes are plagued by too many risks.
Wow.

Hospitality is a virtue that precedes the reputation of the Order of St. Benedict. This school affirms that truth.

Every magazine I read offers "summer reading recommendations." They are books for taking to the beach or sitting poolside. I thought I would offer three articles instead to a) inspire b) care for creation and c) consider practicing virtues like stability and hospitality in our own communities. Enjoy!

Photo Credits
Dunk Project: from the article
Kirk Gibson

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