Opportunity Missed

As a religion teacher and a head coach at a Jesuit high school (and an amateur athlete myself), I was excited to receive the Oct. 20 issue with the cover photo and headline “The Soul of Sports.” Unfor-tunately, I was disappointed by what I found inside.

None of the articles addressed the essential issue alluded to on your cover. What is the proper role of athletics in Catholic schools, especially Catholic universities? The lack of discussion was made all the more pronounced by your cover photo, featuring two African-American basketball players. On so many Jesuit campuses, minority students are woefully underrepresented, except in our athletic departments. The tremendous amount of money that Catholic universities accrue as a result of these “amateur” student athletes raises weighty issues about race, class and privilege.


The Oct. 20 issue also failed to explore the impact that sports figures have on our culture. The young people I teach and coach are astonishingly aware of the exploits and accomplishments of athletes at the professional and collegiate levels. We live in a culture where athletes are heroes.

Finally, Patrick Kelly, S.J., spends much of his article “Sports and the Spiritual Life” discussing the idea of “flow.” But there was very little about the educational and spiritual formation that can be brought about by physical fitness and competition. The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is this: How will we measure success? At the end of the season, were my boys more loving than when we began? Were they more generous? Did they grow in compassion for others? Or did they simply run faster and win more than in past seasons?

What can we do to help student athletes develop their physical and spiritual abilities? Working with them to make and deliver sandwiches for the hungry, having senior captains offer the Gospel reflection at a team liturgy, praying with our rivals before a race—all of these moments are profound opportunities for our students to see that the spiritual life is not lived simply on retreat, during Sunday Mass or in their one hour of religion class each day. When they can bring their faith to all aspects of their lives, their religious imagination and our entire faith community are enriched.

Chad Evans

San Francisco, Calif.

Study War No More

I appreciated the recent articles concerning war and military chaplaincy (“Show-ing God’s Face on the Battlefield,” by John J. McLain, S.J., “The Chaplain’s Dilemma,” by Tom Cornell, and “One War at a Time,” by Gregory D. Foster, 11/17), but I was concerned by Father McLain’s argument in favor of military chaplaincy. He notes that Christ is present on the battlefield, but he fails to mention that where he is most vividly present is in the dying people who are directly affected by the destruction of war.

I agree that it is essential to “minister to those who need God.” Such ministerial duties involve evangelization—speaking messages like “don’t kill” and “love your enemies” while denouncing messages like “kill other people” and “destroy your enemies,” both favorites of the military.

The church might well consider many women opting to have an abortion as candidates for those “most in need of God,” yet I wonder how many chaplains are sent to minister in abortion clinics, where Christ also can be found?

Dan Cosacchi

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Caesar and God

Re Tom Cornell’s article on military chaplaincy (“The Chaplain’s Dilemma,” 11/17): By about 30 A.D., the Roman army had conquered much of the then-known world. They weren’t nice guys, and their methods of subjugation would make Abu Ghraib look like a Boy Scout camp. Nevertheless, when a Roman centurion reached out on behalf of his dying slave, Jesus acted and saved the slave. The Gospel of Luke reports that Jesus was amazed at that centurion’s faith. The Lord judged the individual soldier, not the whole army.

Similarly, Catholic chaplains are needed to help individual service members who are struggling to serve both Caesar and God.

Michael E. Kennedy

Groton, Conn.

A Writer’s Life

Thank you for a beautiful tribute to Jon Hassler (“The Last Catholic Novelist,” 11/3). Having lived and worked on the Saint John’s University campus in Collegeville, Minn. for 30 years, I felt honored to know Jon as a friend. We often talked about his forthcoming novels. When asked how he chose names for his characters, he told me he walked through cemeteries and read names on tombstones. I once asked him how he got his plot ideas and, with a quiet chuckle, Jon said, “I sit in greasy spoon restaurants and eavesdrop on the conversation of the folks in the next booth.” I believe that is what made Jon’s characters so real.

I will always remember Jon as a soft-spoken, humble and beautiful individual. It was sad to watch his health deteriorate so fast as he spoke of the many novels he yet had to write, stories that we will never get to read.

Dolores Schuh, C.H.M.

Davenport, Iowa

Author, Author

As I read the wonderful article on Jon Hassler (“The Last Catholic Novelist,” 11/3), I kept thinking that one truly Catholic writer is not mentioned, one whose sacramental imagery surprises and delights and even awes the reader, and that is the author of the piece, the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley. Bravo and many thanks to Father Greeley for the writings he has given us, where grace is to be found and celebrated and lavishly, freely given.

Gene Szarek, C.R.

Chicago, Ill.

Early Evidence

I think Tom Cornell raises some good points in “The Chaplain’s Dilemma” (11/17). Chaplains should be more supportive of believers who experience a crystallization of their conscience while serving in the military. As a conscientious objector myself, I am very thankful for the support I received from my base chaplain many years ago. His understanding of my decision and the reasons for it served to confirm the underlying principles of my convictions.

The fundamental problem with chaplaincy, however, is the witness it gives to the world; it gives the impression that military service is objectively compatible with Christian faith. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is, of course; but I question whether that teaching can be reconciled with the church’s earliest teachings on war. All the earliest evidence points to an ultimate reverence for the image of God in humanity and a total prohibition of bloodshed. St. Paul criticized the Corinthians for suing one another in court; what would he say about Christians killing each other in defense of their nation-states?

Jonathan D. Lace

Montclair, N.J.

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