Fifty years ago a mad March Miracle for college hoops


The 1963 Ramblers of Loyola University Chicago. The Ramblers will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. (Photo from Loyola University Chicago)

Last week and this mark two of America’s great national obsessions: baseball’s Opening Day and college basketball’s Final Four. Seasons in North America — and just about everywhere — are marked as much by the hallmarks of sports as by the first days of weather seasons and religious holidays. Most people know that Christmas is on Dec. 25, and most Christians know Easter follows Lent, but they would be hard pressed to tell you when exactly it falls. But the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and the Masters — those are another story. The rise and fall of civilizations would have to be scheduled around these.

Such is the power of competition and sports. Sports can get a black eye across the board — we spend too much time, too much money and too much capital of youth on our international obsession. We sure do. But sports is also a bellwether of social change or, even more importantly, an agent.

Such was the case with the remarkable 1963 basketball team the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. In November, the Ramblers will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

In the 1963 NCAA tournament, the Ramblers  faced off against the Maroons (as they were then known) from Mississippi State University. No one would blink today, but then the Ramblers had four African-American starters. Members of the Maroons were all Caucasian and were barred from playing integrated teams. It was a historic meeting.

Reporter Steve Christian talks in Inside Loyola about what has become known as the “Game of Change.” How did the game turn out? Check out the story. It was a remarkable example of sportsmanship on both sides, and a handshake that perhaps changed college basketball for good.

This month also marks the anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” (CNS will have a couple of stories about this great moment in history later this week.) It’s good to remember that there were giants of the civil rights era, and sometimes, there were a few college kids from Illinois and Mississippi who changed the world.

Pope Francis: Back to the crosier with crucifix

ROME — At last evening’s Mass at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Pope Francis carried a crosier that most people associate with Blessed John Paul II.

Pope Francis carries the Scorzelli crozier at Mass last evening. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries the Scorzelli crosier at Mass last evening. (CNS/Paul Haring)

As a matter of fact, though, Pope Paul VI commissioned the work from Italian sculptor Lello Scorzelli in 1963, and used it for the first time Dec. 8, 1965, at the official closing of the Second Vatican Council. Formally known as a “ferula” in Italian, the pastoral staff was unusual not only because it was rough-hewn and silvery, but because the cross included a corpus. Popes John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI later used it.

In 1990, Scorzelli made Blessed John Paul a second cross, similar in design, but lighter. The office of the papal master of ceremonies said the crosier used by Pope Francis last night was the original made for Pope Paul.

Almost exactly five years ago — Palm Sunday 2008 — Pope Benedict began using a pastoral staff topped with a cross, not a crucifix. The golden crosier had been a gift to Blessed Pius IX in 1877 to mark the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. In November 2009, Pope Benedict was given a new crosier, based on the same design, which he used at liturgies until his retirement.

Rosary from Pope Benedict.

Rosary from Pope Benedict.

However, Pope Benedict continued to use Scorzelli’s design for the crucifix on the rosaries he handed out as gifts.