Towards the end of March every year, we are swept up in the madness of College Basketball. My team, Notre Dame, did not make the NCAA tournament, or even the NIT tournament. Rough year. We will have to wait until September 2, 2109 to see the Irish battle Louisville in football.
Madness may not be a word to throw around lightly, since it means, “A state of mental illness, especially severe; state of frenzied or chaotic activity.” Those who are mad are sometimes described as being out of their minds (or gourds, if you prefer the squash analogy)! Or if one is “mad with love,” one is swept up on passion and cannot be relied upon for reason. Come to think of it… fans are like this.
Fan comes from the word fanaticism : “quality of being filled with excessive and single-minded zeal; obsessively concerned with something.” Excess and obsession. Fans can be out of their gourds (!) over a particular team, game or decision. Phillies fans went crazy after Bryce Harper was signed: sold out the stadium this year! Last fall, many Eagles fans held strong opinions (understatement) in the Wentz-Foles debate… or should I say Foles-Wentz debate?
Although I consider myself a sports fan, I do sit on the sidelines when the passions and frenzy are high. After all, it’s just a game. Kids play baseball and football for fun, for diversion and exercise. I cannot fathom how anyone could make hundreds of millions of dollars to play a game. Bogles the mind. Madness. But fans support it!
We have heroes and heroes. Some might be sports heroes, but our true heroes are the Saints. And often these Christian heroes were considered mad, irrational, excessive, or obsessed… not with games, but with God, with Jesus and with sharing their intense love of God. Saints are those who are crazy in love with God! Moderation in all things, but in love of God excess. We can never love Him enough… all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, all our strength.
The all-encompassing desire of the Saint shines forth in the words of Saint Philip Neri: “He who wants anything other than Christ does not know what he wants.” In other words, God is our all in all. When he is not embraced as first, it signals a confusion in what we love.
The full embrace is mutual. The 20th century Spanish priest, Saint José Maria Escriva wrote, “Jesus is never satisfied sharing. He wants all of you.” And our happiness and fulfillment comes through fully entrusting ourselves to Him, handing ourselves over completely. When we are divided, life is complicated. When we have one focus, life is simple and God occupies center stage.
He is the answer to life’s deepest longings. Hence Saint Catherine of Siena’s advice, “There is nothing we can desire or want that we do not find in God.” And the confident abandonment of stigmatist Saint Gemma Galgani: “Only God can make me happy, and in Him I have placed all my hope.”
So upon deeper consideration, fanaticism and madness ought to be reserved for our good Lord! We do not have enough energy to go crazy for many things. He is the one true passion of the human heart.
To summarize: Leave no room for sin. Be moderate with everything that is not God, and with God be obsessed. Make him the one true passion of our hearts - that is the madness of the Saints!
Make it a great Lent!