Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt

Friday Five: YouTube shooter, Pearl Joy, Trump's Latino adviser, a mom's Easter Taser and more

Friday Five: YouTube shooter, Pearl Joy, Trump's Latino adviser, a mom's Easter Taser and more

After a woman named Nasim Najafi Aghdam shot and wounded three people at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Calif., before killing herself this week, the San Francisco Chronicle had an excellent angle for a meaty religion story.

The Chronicle reported on what its headline characterized as "a troubling rush" by social media users to view the shooter as "driven by faith."

To some extent, this was a typical "Muslim backlash" story — the kind that often make headlines after someone of the Islamic faith is involved in an attack such as this.

But there was a major problem with the online rush to judgment, as the Chronicle noted: 

In the end, investigators said the shooter, Nasim Aghdam, was angry about YouTube’s “policies and practices” — a message echoed by her family. And her videos reportedly included messages describing herself as of the Baha’i faith — a religious minority in Iran.
The same pattern has often emerged following mass violence — a wave of presumptions that the incident is linked to a perpetrator’s religious practices, assumed to be Islam. Muslim Americans, and others, see a profoundly unsettling routine.
“It’s sad to see how some people are literally giddy rather than somber after a shooting when they can exploit the tragedy to further their racist agenda,” said Dalia Mogahed, research director for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that seeks to empower American Muslims.

It's an interesting piece, although I wish the paper had identified the social media offenders rather than referring to them in vague, anonymous terms.

Meanwhile, let's dive into the Friday Five:

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Why are Catholic schools so good at hoops? New York Times cites several good reasons

Why are Catholic schools so good at hoops? New York Times cites several good reasons

If you've been online during the final stages of March Madness you have probably seen people chatting about this question: Why are Catholic schools so good at basketball?

The question will linger after Villanova's smashing 79-62 win over Michigan in last night's title game. This is the second national title for Villanova (with its ties to the Augustinian Order) in three years. And, of course, Notre Dame won the women's final four, on a shot that was called -- with some reason -- a near miracle.

Yes, it's easy to joke about the prayers of hoops-loving nuns and saints.

However, there is an interesting story here, one linked to culture, theology and economics. Kudos to The New York Times for producing a serious feature-length piece that dug into the substance of this topic. The #DUH headline: "Why Catholic Colleges Excel at Basketball." Here is a crucial transition passage:

Excelling in big-time college basketball sits easily at mission-oriented institutions. Sports are not only these universities’ front porch, but also the faith’s emissary.
Villanova’s president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, hosts an opening Mass for athletes every year, where he reminds them they are ambassadors for the university’s mission. “To have our charism move on,” he said, using a dogma-tinged Greek word for spirit, “the banner needs to be carried.”

Whoa. "Dogma-tinged"? I think it's enough to say that this is a theological term. Also, that definition is a bit off. The word "charism" has a much more specific meaning, one that would have done a better job of supporting this story's thesis. Dictionary.com says:

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Friday Five: Sister Jean's rising celebrity, Bill Hybels' #ChurchToo accusers, Pence's bunny and more

Friday Five: Sister Jean's rising celebrity, Bill Hybels' #ChurchToo accusers, Pence's bunny and more

In this space last week, I highlighted Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt — 98-year-old nun and team chaplain for Loyola-Chicago — after her 11th-seeded Ramblers won in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday night, Sister Jean's team improved to 3-0 in #MarchMadness and advanced -- in yet another last-minute win -- to the Elite Eight.

"I don't care that you broke my bracket," she quipped after Loyola's latest victory.

With each game, Sister Jean's national celebrity just keeps growing.

Among the countless stories about her, the New York Times' Jeff Arnold had a really interesting feature this week on "A Day in the Life of Sister Jean, Media Darling." A note from the piece:

William Behrns, Loyola’s eeassistant athletic director for communications, is one of two staff members who have been assigned to sort the requests for time with Sister Jean since the Ramblers’ success thrust them — and her — onto the national stage last week. Behrns estimated that as of Monday evening, his office had received 75 requests for interviews with Sister Jean, from outlets including “The Tonight Show,” newspapers, radio stations and cable television networks.

Here on the religion beat, we do love this kind of detail:

Sister Jean wakes before dawn, an hour earlier than usual, and immediately spends time in her daily prayer and meditation. She routinely, and almost ironically this week, asks God for a peaceful day. She then meditates on a gospel story; lately, her choices have centered on reminders of God’s love for his children. “Whether we win or lose,” she said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday morning, “God is still with us.”

Loyola will face Kansas State, a No. 9 seed, in the South Region final Saturday night. USA Today calls it "an epic underdog battle." 

But enough about Sister Jean and Loyola -- for now anyway. Let's dive into the Friday Five:

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

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 fans include former President Barack Obama:

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