Monday, May 5, 2014

Sports & Spiritual Halls of Fame: Welcome JPII

Coach Ladouceur:
To be inducted 5.6.14 with Tony LaRussa,
Bob Lurie, & other
I picked up the program for the Bellarmine College Prep Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, looked through it and said to my colleague "I wish we held our own one of these. I love these events."

Before he could comment I said "it's that time of year. If you're a sports fan and like digging deep into the hallowed history of high school, collegiate and professional sports, it's not just the NBA or NHL playoffs that might capture you're attention—it's Hall of Fame season! Old Time Athlete's Association of Northern California is one I just learned about last week!"

Tomorrow night, the great Bob Ladouceur will be enshrined in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame with five other men. Among many other things, this means you will now see a bronze plaque of Coach Lad in SFO until it is placed at the venue of the honoree's choice. Knowing Lad that will be in the least conspicuous locale on De La Salle's campus. His life and story has been made into a movie to be released this summer. More on "When the Game Stands Tall" in another posting.

Instead of our own ceremony at St. Ignatius, we support the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame. I attend because I love hearing the stories told by a range of personalities about the coaches, athletic directors and athletes who have shaped the fabric of prep sports in "The City." It's that much more special when you know the man or woman being honored. 

For example, when John Duggan SI '92 was inducted just last year, it was as much fun hearing what his uncle had to say about his nephew as an athlete, competitor, and holder of four WCAL Basketball League records (that still stand!) as it was to hear those by John himself —sorry JD! For those who saw John play in high school and later at USF, it felt like it all took place just yesterday. And for those of us who never got the chance, we wish we had.
All that John learned to succeed in basketball applies to running a great business. San Franciscans love Original Joes's
Thus, it is in this seasonal context that I thought it appropriate for the Catholic Church to induct two remarkable men into a great hall of fame. One week after Easter—Divine Mercy Sunday—John XXIII and John Paul were canonized; they are Saints (capital "s.")

I woke up on that day with the same excitement and anticipation that I do for any great day—a dear friend's wedding, a playoff or championship game, embarking on a big trip, running a marathon (which a very close friend did! on this very day. Still so proud of him).

I opted out of playing golf with a friend that Sunday afternoon because I wanted to attend mass at my parish community—St. Dominic's. Why? The word "liturgy" means "celebration." I knew this community of faith would honor and give thanks in that spirit through the message of the homily, prayer and song. I was not disappointed.

Father Isaiah reminded us of the Gospel reading's message: the Risen Lord's first words to His disciples were "Peace Be with you" and St. John Paul II's were "Be Not Afraid." At his invitation, I started to think of the relationship between the two commands.

JPII was able to give his message—one that is echoed throughout all of scripture—because he lived with the Peace that only Christ can give. 

As many people know, on May 13, 1981 Mehmet Ali Agca tried to assassinate John Paul II "as the pope rode in an open car in St Peter's Square. The pontiff was hit in the abdomen, left hand and right arm, but the bullets missed vital organs." (The Guardian) Even my students know that John Paul met Agca in Italy's Rebibbia prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. Truly, the Holy Father modeled for us the importance of forgiveness and the theological virtue of love enables us to do so. What many of us don't know however, is the the extent to which the Polish Saint preached and practiced the first three words of his papacy. 

It would have been very easy for St. John Paul the II to withdraw from the world and play it safe. He could have easily limited his travel and focus his efforts on writing and the ever demanding duties of administration. Instead, the Holy Father embraced a missionary spirit that drew him to places like Zaire, the Congo, Cuba and even San Francisco. He prayed in a Mosque and a synagogue, a jail cell with his assassin and in front of an armless musician, Tony Melendez in Los Angeles. He sought to bring the message of Christ to all people. When you have the peace that Christ has given to all of us, you need not live in fear. Be Not Afraid!

Our sports and spiritual Halls of Fame, remind us not only of the gifts and talents of special people, but what we can learn from their life's story. Keep your eyes and ears open for those around you. It's that time of year...

Photo Credits
Sports H of F

Two John Duggans

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