In honor of this year’s Georgetown Hoyas, who face Vanderbilt tonight in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, I republish this excerpt from a homily delivered over twenty years ago. Its author, former Georgetown President Timothy Healy, S.J., is no longer with us, but this is what he had to say at St. James’ Cathedral in Seattle, the day before Georgetown won its 1984 NCAA championship:
“[L]et us look at what brings us here today. Of course it’s a contest and a big one, and of course everybody associated with it wants to win. But let’s look deeper. Just for a moment let’s forget the hoopla and the noise, the excitement and the lust of victory, and see all our being and all our doing here with the eyes of faith. If we do, we will see that for all our wanting to win, we have also come here to celebrate together three great goods.
The first good is the good of discipline, as we watch men like us, indeed men who are our own companions and friends, men who have trained and worked for this moment for the whole long year. What we see is the translation of idea and plan and preparation into motion, into action. These young men will do what universities seldom do for all of us. They will show us men working together, and they will show us the translation of idea into act, the integration of mind and soul and body, the oneness that makes all of us whole.
The second celebration is the celebration of mastery, of great human skill, and the joy of watching anyone do anything well opens up all our souls. Swift movement, accuracy, skill and courage are human and spiritual skills of major moment. On a limited ground and in a prescribed way, they show us how much a man, even a young man, can do. They stir our sense of achievement, and that for all of us is an enrichment of soul.
We have a further celebration, the celebration of beauty. What we see is not only mastery and skill, but a kind of poetry in motion, at times almost a denial of gravity, the raising of men’s mind and body beyond its normal plodding run run, to something that takes our breath away, and that leaves even the dullest of us understanding that any great beauty leads by the draw of its nature to God.
. . . Even basketball? Of course, even basketball. It is a human joy and we should joy in it; it is a human celebration, and we should join the celebration.
(P.S. — Hat tip to the 1984 Georgetown Chimes for preserving this homily excerpt on their album of that year. And if any of you are wondering, “What’s a Hoya anyway,” the correct answer is “Yes.”)