Saturday afternoon, April 1, 2017.
The Vows of St Aloysius of Gonzaga. Theodor Boeyermans. 1671. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Final Four tonight.
You probably knew that.
None of my teams are in it. Mainly because I don’t have any teams. I don’t follow college sports except during March Madness. I don’t fill out a bracket because how would I know? Usually I just root for the teams from the Catholic schools all the way through. Nostalgia dictates it more than religious loyalty. I do it for the nun who taught us back at good old SHS. As the Catholics begin to fall by the wayside, I pick other schools to root for. Sometimes I base my picks on if there are any players or coaches with interesting backstories or who just strike me as likable characters. Sometimes I'll root for a team if I think I’m watching some future doctors, lawyers, engineers, and even some artists and academics along with future NBA stars. Last year one of the teams I rooted for had a political science major. I forget his name and what school (Yale?) but I hope he reminds me in 25 years by becoming the first former player who played in the NCAA Tournament to become President. (Of course, she might have just played in the Women’s Final Four.) Sometimes I’ll go with a team just because they’re fun to watch play. But for the most part, I go with the Catholics. Last year it was Villanova all the way. I was rooting for them again this year, in memory of Old Father Blonde, Class of 1952. He was so happy last year, and I can’t tell you how happy we all are that he got to see them win one last time. Too bad Wisconsin took them out in the second round.
By last weekend I was down to Xavier and Gonzaga and was torn because they were playing each other. I went with Xavier, not sure why. Maybe because I’ve been to Cincinnati and will probably never see Spokane. Might also be that Xavier is more fun to say than Gonzaga, especially since I learned it’s pronounced Gon-ZAY-ga and not Gon-zah-ga. Why is that? St Aloysius Gonzaga was Italian and the long a sound in Italian is carried by e. A is ah. The school’s run by the Jesuits. You’d think they’d be sticklers. Americans. Or Aymericans. Go figure.
It may also be the case that Xavier, the name not the school, has more Catholic resonances for me. As a former altar boy, A student in my grade school religious ed classes, and proud Parvuli dei medalist as a Cub Scout, I’ve always prided myself on my knowledge of the lives of the saints. But St Aloysius isn’t---or wasn’t---in my memory banks. Thanks to this story from today’s New York Times I now know all there is to know about him (There isn’t much. He died very young.) and more about Gonzaga itself.
In the 1980s, as H.I.V. and AIDS ravaged sections of Manhattan, a Jesuit priest named William McNichols hit upon the perfect saint for that troubled time and place.
His name was Aloysius Gonzaga. Born to an extremely wealthy and powerful family in mid-16th-century Italy — Aloysius is the Latinized version of his given name, Luigi — Gonzaga felt a calling different from his family’s aristocratic leanings. He renounced his inheritance and became a Jesuit. When a plague broke out in Rome in 1591, he devoted himself to caring for its victims, contracted the disease himself and died. He was 23; he was soon canonized and became the patron saint of youth.
“I had seen a statue of him in a book, in which he was carrying a man who had the plague, and it struck me that he’d be the perfect patron saint for people with AIDS and also people working with people with AIDS,” said McNichols, who was based in Greenwich Village. (He now lives in New Mexico and is no longer a Jesuit.)
“I think most people don’t know” who Gonzaga was, said the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, author of several books and editor-at-large at the Jesuit publication America. “Most Catholics don’t, either.”
Interesting, but like I said, not much more to know about him. I was more intrigued by this:
Gonzaga’s life story of service is reflected, according to Michelle Wheatley, the university ministry director, in the student body, which the university said sends more students to the Peace Corps than any university of its size.
Now, that’s pretty Catholic. But, oddly, I’m not rooting for them. I’m rooting for South Carolina. I don’t know anything about this team or the program, but I like the Gamecocks’ style of play and I liked it that they beat Duke. I also tend to root for the giant killers.
Doesn’t matter to me, though, which one wins, South Carolina or Gonzaga. I’ll root for either one over the winner of the other game. Nothing against Oregon but everything against North Carolina. I’d root for Duke over North Carolina and I’d root for anyone else over Duke! North Carolina represents one of the reasons I don’t follow college sports. That’s the subject of my next post. But let’s just say for now that when I watch the Tar Heels play, I’m pretty sure I’m not watching any future doctors, lawyers, engineers, college professors, or future Presidents. And that’s the coaches’ and the University’s doing.
Brandon Sherrod! That’s the player whose name I was trying to remember. Brandon Sherrod. And he did play for Yale. Thank you, Google. And he was a political science major. He was also a Whiffenpoof. In fact, he took a year off from basketball to tour with the Whiffenpoofs. He graduated but he’s playing basketball professionally these days. Doing pretty well apparently. With the Reseto Sharks. In Italy. So he would know how to pronounce Gonzaga properly.
If he does run for President someday, he won’t be the first former NCAA Tournament player to do it. That would be Bill Bradley.
I don’t know if he could sing. But he was a Rhodes Scholar.
You probably knew all that.