Friday Five: March Madness miracle, faith at the movies, newspaper layoffs and more

Go ahead and enjoy the video.

It's MercyMe's official music video for the "I Can Only Imagine" movie, which opens in theaters nationwide today.

Speaking of which, USA Today has an interesting story on how that song became the biggest Christian single ever (selling 2.5 million copies) and inspired the movie.

Promoters showed the trailer at the Religion News Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., last fall, and it looks interesting. The film stars Dennis Quaid, who talked to Parade about finding inspiration in the real-life story.

As we dive into this week's Friday Five, we'll highlight another faith angle on a Hollywood hit.

But first, a bit of March Madness:

1. Religion story of the week: A divine 3-pointer won the game at the buzzer. That's how the Chicago Tribune characterized 11th-seeded Loyola's 64-62 upset win Thursday over No. 6 seed Miami in the NCAA Tournament.

Enter Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, whose admirers include former President Barack Obama:

As the players partied Thursday afternoon, a 98-year-old nun who serves as the team chaplain was pushed onto the corner of the hardwood in her wheelchair. With TV camera crews trained on her, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt folded her hands in her lap and smiled, waiting for an embrace from each player as he exited the court.

The New York Times has a wonderful profile on Loyola's biggest fan, headlined "The Nun in Loyola-Chicago’s Huddle Has a Few Things to Say." It's definitely worth a read.

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Keeping with the March Madness theme, my post on holy ghosts in the Washington Post's profile of Virginia men's basketball coach Tony Bennett occupies the No. 1 spot this week.

In case you missed it, the Post accomplished the near-impossible, writing 1,850 words on Bennett — whose team enters the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed — without any reference to terms such as "faith," "Christian" and "prayer."

Why is that so remarkable? I explain.

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): Here's one that we should have mentioned earlier: Washington Post religion writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey's excellent piece on the deep faith of "A Wrinkle in Time" author Madeleine L’Engle.

That book, of course, has been adapted into a Disney film starring Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and Zach Galifianakis. It's in theaters now, but really struggling at the box office.

"What can I say?" said a reader who emailed GetReligion. "It's just really good religion reporting, both broad and deep. Given the journalist, not surprising."

No, not surprising at all. Did we mention (since we like to brag about this) that Bailey is a former GetReligion contributor?

While you're at it, you may want to check out our own tmatt's Universal syndicate column this week -- in which he flashes back to a lengthy interview he did with L'Engle in 1989 about (wait for it) the essential parts of the novel that would need to be in a movie version of her classic novel.

4. Shameless plug: The Religion News Association is organizing a Twitter chat at 9 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday concerning how religion reporters can find new story ideas for the same holidays that come up every year.

I plan to participate, and I believe the hashtag will be #ReligionReport.

Come on, you know you want to join the discussion!

5. Final thought: It's been a rough week for the newsrooms of the Denver Post and the Chicago Tribune, both of which experienced layoffs.

Sadly, such layoffs are an ongoing trend for newspapers.

"The world needs more journalists, not fewer," tweeted Brian Haas, a former reporter for The Tennessean. "We're worse off with these folks being shown the door."


Anyway, enjoy the weekend, folks, and if you don't already, subscribe to your local newspaper.

See you back in this same space next week!

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