Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Big Dance, Church Edition

6pm Eastern, the Sunday before the Third Thursday of March….

Sure, it might be a "Rose Sunday" in the church... but for even more folks than hit our pews this weekend, this night is just the start of a joyous annual solemnity of the first rank.

Indeed, friends, this is Selection Sunday, and the hour at hand sees the traditional nationwide broadcast (livestream) where the match-ups that'll decide this year's NCAA basketball championship -- the famous "March Madness" -- are revealed.

Meanwhile, much along the same lines, the church on these shores currently faces "one shining moment" in its long and storied pilgrimage -- B16's appointment of the prelate who, roughly a year from today, will step into the leadership of more American Catholics than any cleric ever to come before him.

The process was supposed to have wrapped by now, but with the stakes (and the documentation) through the ceiling and the pontiff's choice of the next head of the 5 million-member archdiocese of Los Angeles still on its way, this unprecedented season -- and, sure enough, our kind's venerable tradition of rejoicing, wherever possible, in the ways of this world -- calls for an ecclesial twist on the traditional office-pool.

Ergo, gang, welcome to the Biggest Dance the Stateside church has ever seen... be sure, don't wish the job on anyone, but have at it nonetheless.

(As for the rest, if only you knew where the idea was birthed....)

On the rules front, it should -- but, given the hysteria surrounding major appointments, can't -- go without saying that, just like the tourney it echoes, once a case reaches its Vatican stage these days, anything (and everything) is possible. (Unlike what happens on the hardwood, though, the Thursday Table or The Apartment is completely at liberty to choose away from any terna, reach beyond any bracket, etc.)

What's more, to be clear, any betting on the Spirit's movement in the coming weeks is emphatically frowned-upon. Still, in the sneaking suspicion that some of you won't be able to resist (and, indeed, considering the luxury of spending time on such things, especially in this economy), you're under trust to send any, er, proceeds either to aid the continuing CRS relief efforts in Haiti or, closer to home, the LA church's Catholic Education Foundation, of whose pressing challenges Cardinal Roger Mahony recently wrote, and his successor will inherit.

Fittingly enough, Thursday's Round of 64 tip-off coincides with the next meeting of the Congregation for Bishops (i.e. the Pac 1's "Final Four" stage). As things progress, feel free to send your picks this way... and if competent authority deems 'em of use, the findings are theirs for the asking, gladly.

As this is the kind of thing we could never get away with anywhere else, don't forget that these pages' ability to keep plugging along comes solely by means of your support. Above all, grazie mille to the Selection Committee for its eminent guidance in preparing the bracket.

For the action as it unfolds, as always, stay tuned... and good luck... and before anything else, pray:
Lord God, you are our eternal shepherd and guide. In your mercy, grant to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles a shepherd who will walk in your ways and whose watchful care will bring us your blessing. In your love for us, give us the joy of receiving a shepherd who will be an example of goodness to your people and who will fill our hearts and minds with the truth of the gospel.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.