Lent & March Madness

From Mychael Jones, Director of Liturgy

For Catholics, March aligns with the liturgical season of Lent, 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving where we take the time to reflect on and renew our relationship with God. Another ritual that I practice during this same time each year: March Madness.

I have learned to become a basketball fan. First growing up with the revered Lute Olson and his University of Arizona Wildcats and later the Fighting Irish of the University of Notre Dame.

College basketball fans know that the NCAA tournament each March, where 68 college teams battle for the national championship, is often the most exciting time of the entire basketball season. Likewise, Lent and Easter are incredibly important and, arguably, the most important part of the liturgical calendar as well.

Besides just the overlapping time period, I realized my feelings and actions during March Madness and Lent coincide.

Before Selection Sunday, the day when college teams find out their appointed position in the tournament, I am excited and nervous at the same time. I optimistically anticipate what potential enjoyment or shock the tournament will bring. Will my team get the seed number I think they deserve? What caliber of team will they be matched with in the first round? How far will they make it?

Similarly, in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, I’m eager but also anxious about the upcoming season of Lent. What should I give up? What intentional practices should I focus on integrating into my life? How will I be able to keep up my Lenten promise for 40 days?

As the NCAA tournament and likewise Lent unfolds, my excitement fades. The enthusiasm I had at the beginning is tested when my team loses, or when I forget to do whatever I had promised at the beginning of Lent. I’m disappointed in my team—and in myself—that this year wasn’t any different than the last. My team again didn’t make it to the Final Four, and I didn’t, miraculously, start praying the rosary every week.

It’s called March Madness because, quite literally, anything can happen during the tournament. Low ranking teams can beat national favorites and rivals can face off while the entire country watches.

Lent also carries that feeling of excited unpredictability, the prospect of personal and spiritual renewal on the horizon. However, for many of us, we feel the same on Holy Thursday as we did on Ash Wednesday, unable to implement any significant changes into our daily life.

We set certain expectations for our teams, and ourselves, and when we fail, it’s upsetting. But for some reason, year after year, when March rolls around, we forget about the previous year’s failures. We fill out a NCAA bracket and choose what to give up for Lent. Maybe our team loses, or we don’t fulfill our Lenten promise. But the next year, we try again.

It’s that spark of hopefulness that keeps us excited each March. Lent provides us the opportunity to keep trying until maybe, one day, we do change. After all, we are practicing—not perfect—Catholics. This Lent let us be a hopeful community by choosing to:

Pray the Rosary & Divine Chaplet of Mercy before Stations of the Cross on Lenten Friday evenings at 6:30pm in the chapel
Celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at our Lenten Penance Service on Tuesday, March 14, at 11:00am & 7:00pm
Retreat yourself at “Living During Times of Change & Transition” with Sr. Joanne Dehmer on Saturday, March 18, from 9:30am-12:30pm
Attend our Lenten Fish Fry on Friday, March 24 from 5:00-7:00pm
Participate in any or all of the many adult faith formation presentations that have been lined up in March and April

Full Lenten 2017 Schedule