Free Throws, Fraternity, and Faith - Saint John's Seminary
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Free Throws, Fraternity, and Faith

February 25, 2022

Miller Gym on a Saturday night is nothing but love.

Love of basketball. Love of fraternity. Love of the Lord.

Having bowed out in the quarterfinals of the St. Francis de Sales Invitational seminary basketball tournament in Milwaukee, my teammates and I snagged courtside seats inside the iconic brick-walled thunderdome-of-a-gym and witnessed an all-out slugfest of a semifinal between two juggernauts: St. Paul’s (Minn.), and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Neb.), who’d won seminarian basketball national titles the last three years running. When the final buzzer sounded, Guadalupe had pulled off a last-second win that left a gym filled with hundreds of seminarians from across the country hootin’ and hollerin’ in approval and admiration of both teams’ displays.

Then the iconic moment happened.

The two teams met at the center circle and kneeled, and the love came pouring out.

Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae:

Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve…

Within seconds, the entire gym sang the Marian hymn in unison, each note carrying a gravitas that reverberated off the brick walls and filled the heart with pure goodness and joy.

On a Saturday night. In a basketball gym. Honoring Mary and thanking her Son for such a blessed, almost mystical experience. I felt a part of something beyond myself.

They don’t tell you about these kinds of experiences when applying to seminary. Shaking Father Salocks’ hand last spring upon being accepted into Saint John’s, I could have never anticipated this scene of sports serenity … or the one from a few hours prior: my body aching and utterly spent after toiling through four grind-it-out games in less than 24 hours — an athletic and spiritual rise-and-descend repetition that left me in a blissful haze by Saturday’s end.

How fitting though. After months of training, our SJS basketball team enjoyed an unforgettable weekend rooted not just in layups but liturgy and the Lord. Sharing a campus, a weekend, and a common experience with my brother seminarians and men from nearly a dozen other seminaries around the country similarly being formed for the priesthood brought more blessings and gratitude than I ever could have imagined.

The joyful charity and hospitality of St. Francis de Sales seminarians, priests, and staff; the on-court strive toward excellence and unceasing sportsmanship of all teams but most notably the champs, Our Lady of Guadalupe (Congrats on the four-peat, fellas!). Friendships formed with some great dudes studying out at Denver’s St. John Vianney during Saturday night’s post-game social. The list goes on. Every place, every person, every moment … these were utter gifts from God.

Chatting about the experience with team captain Peter Schirripa the Monday after the tourney once back in Boston, he put words to the truth I’d been feeling: What we experienced in Milwaukee — competition, sacrifice, the ups, the downs, fraternity, laughter, and a healthy push for glory — are all goods that can come to enrich not just our prayer lives but, down the road, our priesthood (please God), if we let them. We take these people, places, and experiences to pray and give God thanks. And in turn, these prayers of thanksgiving, joy, and praise will feed our human and spiritual appetites to continue pursuing goodness, hoping and trusting that God will continue to make us into our fullest selves and allow us to share the fruits of free throws, fraternity, and faith with others.

Just as in that moment of bliss inside Miller Gym, love will abound.

— Joe Jasinski, Pre-Theology I seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Boston who’s already counting down the days to next year’s tourney

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