Yorgo Sarris/Contributing Writer
This is an opinion column.
The Jesuits have failed the Roman Catholic Church once again. The Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in a crushing defeat to the Baylor Bears in the NCAA Tournament championship game, 86-70. I did not watch a second of the game; I got March Madness fatigue early on; as in, when Alabama lost and was eliminated.
But Gonzaga had a nobler task than just winning the basketball test. Rather, this was a Reformation game.
Gonzaga is a Catholic school; nay, more, a Jesuit school. The Society of Jesus, aka the Jesuits, founded the Spokane institution in September of 1887. Little did they know that the school would become a basketball powerhouse as of late. Yet, they have never won the “Big Dance,” having only reached the NCAA championship game.
Baylor, located in Waco, Texas, was founded by the Union Baptist Convention in 1845. The university is named after Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, a Baptist preacher and apparently a district court judge and representative in the United States Congress from the great state of Alabama. Baylor’s Baptist theology department is formidable. It loves Texas and the Baptist Church, simply look at their motto “pro ecclesia, pro Texana.” I was not aware the ancient Romans had a word for Texas, but apparently they did.
The Gonzaga versus Baylor matchup would be a Reformation Game, between the Catholics and Protestants. But Gonzaga had more avenging to do than Baylor. History lesson in a sports opinion column; that seems untoward. The Jesuits were founded by Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish-born priest. He served in the army, and after being wounded, went through an intense conversion during his recovery. Years later, he and Francis Xavier (of Loyola and Xavier universities) found the Jesuit Order. Their prime assignment would be in the Counter-Reformation; that is, the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation. They would participate in the Council of Trent, and promulgate their own spirituality. The Ignatian Spirituality would be set forth in his “Spiritual Exercises.”
Many of the efforts would be successful and Trent would bring forth some of the greatest statements of the Faith and of course later the Tridentine Mass. “O happy fault that merited for us such…” great reforms. The Jesuits went evangelizing still, yet, the Protestants won out in America, and have also made significant gains in Latin America and much of Asia. The Argentine Pope Francis is a Jesuit, but Argentina is becoming less and less Catholic.
There is a good joke in Catholic circles. The Dominicans were formed to thwart the Albeginisans, and the Jesuits were formed to thwart the Protestants — which have you heard of? The sense is that the Jesuits have ultimately not been quite effective in their methods. The modern Jesuits are known to be notoriously, say, non-rigid. The Jesuits are now known to be “beige,” the color of “meh.” Beige has no impetus; it’s just neutral and unnoteworthy.
The Jesuit Bulldogs have followed in the footsteps of their current leaders— absolutely being outscored by the Protestants, due to a real lack of offense and playing lackadaisical, expecting to win because they had a historic year. It would have been nice if the Baylor Baptists had to play a team like St. Bonaventure (the Franciscans) or Mount St. Mary’s (an independent Catholic school with the patronage of Jesus’ own Mother). But alas, the Jesuits have failed us again.