Athletic Chaplain Reflections

Three bus trips with our men’s basketball team in the past week–a dramatic and ultimately sad ending to our season. As in other years, I found myself in three roles–one, as a priest and chaplain to offer support; two, as a member of the faculty to help represent the bond between studies and athletics; and third, this year, to enjoy the good company of Dr. James Walsh, now in failing health. I was disappointed that he was on board for diappointing losses at Lehigh and Lafayette, but unable to be present for our thrilling win at Bucknell last Wednesday.

I am always edified by celebrating Mass on gameday mornings with anybody who cares to participate–Dr. Walsh and Bob Fouracre always, Coach Kearney, and some of the coaches, managers and players. If it’s a small group, I make use of my room. Yesterday, being Sunday, we used a conference room at the hotel, sitting around a large table, almost as if we were figures in the famous DaVinci painting. Andrew Tanguay and Brian Zelesky, managers, gave the readings and helped set a prayerful mood.  For all of us, I hope, it helps create a context and add perspective to the trip, the group, the game, the tradition. Oh, for our Ash Wednesday Mass before the game at Navy, Andrew Beinert was at the end of the line as I distributed ashes; so I had him do me. I had many comments afterwards that the black cross he placed on my forhead was absolutely perfect. That kid has talent!

The bus rides provide the opportunity to attend to the reading that is part of my plan for this one-semester sabbatical. This week, I read Brian McGinty’s book, John Brown’s Trial, about the famous abolitionist who raided the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry in 1859 and was then speedily tried and hanged. McGinty takes his reader through the case with all the deftness and engagement of the old Perry Mason TV series, one really comes to understand the conflicting jurisdictions (VA vs the US) and the question of whether the charge of treason could be leveled against him since he was not a citizen of Virginia. I couldn’t put it down, and will make good use of it next year in the “Lincoln and His Legacy” course.

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