There he was. Almost every Monday morning about 8:30 am. Bible in hand.
Most people know Tom Crean as the former head coach here at IU. I know him as the kind, considerate, prayerful man who makes a holy hour every Monday at St. Paul's. Rain or shine, game day or recruiting season, when Tom was in Bloomington on Mondays, he was invariably at St. Paul's with his Bible, on his knees, lighting candles for intentions in the Shrine of the Holy Family.
Oh, and once as our staff frantically tried to set up for a funeral on a Monday morning, he asked to help and he started to vacuum the Church.
Four years ago, I ran into Tom as he was lighting candles in the Church. The Hoosiers, a No. 1 seed, had just lost in the Sweet 16 to Syracuse. A great season, for sure, that came up short. We spoke for all of about 10 minutes and, frankly, Tom left a lasting impression on me. Was he disappointed to lose? Absolutely. Crushed, in fact. Was he proud of the season? You bet. What did he talk with me about? The development of character on his team that year.
The 2012-2013 team featured two lottery picks, a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, a Big Ten regular season title, the resurgence of IU as a national title contender. And the man at the top wanted, more than anything, to help the young men under his charge to become better men who contribute in a meaningful way to the IU community and beyond.
All too often in our society, we reduce people to what they give to us, what they produce, how they benefit me. For the basketball coach at IU, this is readily apparent. The expectations are high and clear: Win. Fail and you're out. This is a part of the business of college basketball, but it's a tragedy when we start to apply it to the man.
As Christians, we are called to a higher standard than wins and losses, than profits and deficits. Certainly, these things matter in our careers, but we are called to impact hearts, minds, and lives with the way we go about our work.
Here's the challenge for each of us: Am I more concerned with being a person of love and prayer, of generosity and kindness, than I am about profit margins, wins, etc.? If not, you have work to do.
Sacred Scripture is replete with references to the inadequacy, the eternal uselessness of money, wealth, earthly success. In the Book of Ecclesiastes (5:10), we read, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth, with gain: this also is vanity." Elsewhere, in the Gospel of Matthew (6:19-21), Jesus tells us, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Furthermore, the Catechism of the Catholic Church holds nothing back in explaining the importance of putting God and virtuous living before the things of this world: "The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love: 'All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability. . . . It is a homage resulting from a profound faith . . . that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second. . . . Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called "newspaper fame" - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration.'" (CCC 1723)
The stakes are high and real. We have a choice: our career or our eternity, our jobs or our souls. Here's the kicker, though. A saintly janitor, a loving teacher, a kindly manager make work, the office, you name it, a better place.
When we commit our hearts, minds, and souls to love of God and neighbor, the world is a better place no matter the outcome of our endeavors, jobs, careers.
I'll always remember Tom as the man in the third row. A man who, no matter the success or struggles, put his faith and his prayer at the top of his list of priorities; a man more concerned with forming good men than good players.
I pray I remember all of you this way.