I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun researching a topic.
You know you’re a celebrity when the world knows you by your first name. In the case of Jean Dolores Schmidt, it’s “Sister Jean.”
As the world now knows, this ninety-eight-year-old nun is the chaplain for the Loyola University Ramblers men’s basketball team. The Ramblers are the Cinderella story of this year’s playoffs. And Sister Jean is their inspiration.
What Sister Jean gave up for Lent
She has been interviewed on Good Morning America and featured in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. ESPN says that she has been mentioned in more than twenty thousand media stories.
On Monday, the university announced a series of merchandise bearing her name and image. You can buy socks, T-shirts, collectible toys, and more. One T-shirt is emblazoned “AIR JEAN” with a silhouette of her as Michael Jordan.
And you can get the “Sister Jean Bobblehead.” The company has made around five hundred different bobbleheads over the last three years. In just thirty hours, hers became their bestseller.
Note that she is not profiting personally from any of this. The university says she “gave her blessing” to using her name and image for items for sale and “didn’t ask for anything for herself.” Proceeds support the Loyola Athletic Fund and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the religious order she joined in 1937.
Sister Jean has become especially famous for her wit. When an interviewer asked her what she gave up for Lent, she replied, “Losing!”
“I love being with people, spreading God’s word”
We know her for her presence at Loyola’s basketball games, but Sister Jean has been supporting the university since she moved to Chicago in 1961.
She directed Loyola’s neighborhood reading clinic, tutoring primary and secondary students. She counseled the student government regarding social justice initiatives and serves at orientation to help students and parents navigate the school. She works to match students with senior adults living in a nearby high rise.
According to a Loyola administrator, “Sister Jean is always found mingling with students whether they are waiting for the campus shuttle or walking to class. She greets students from her campus office in the student center, offers encouragement during final exams, gives out small slips of paper with words to inspire, talks with faculty and staff about issues that are bothering them.
“For someone so small, she often appears ubiquitous, showing up in the spaces she is most needed: ‘I love being with people, spreading God’s word. And you do that not by talking all the time, but just by your presence.'”
“Unite my heart to fear your name”
How can we manifest the presence of Christ as she does?
Yesterday I was reading in the Psalms and found this unusual prayer by King David: “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). The Hebrew words mean that David prayed for God to focus his entire being–his thoughts, attitudes, actions, and resources–on glorifying and magnifying the Lord in every dimension of his life.
Note that this was a prayer rather than a commitment. David did not testify that he could do this himself because he knew that human beings cannot change human hearts. He knew that he would become holistic in glorifying God to the degree that God made him so.
But David also knew that he had to make this his prayer before God could make it his reality. It’s been said that the Spirit is a great gentleman, entering only where he’s welcomed. As Jesus told the Laodicean Christians, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).
Philip Yancey was right: “God goes where he’s wanted.”
In David’s case, God was wanted. The Lord answered his prayer, so that David could next pray: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever” (Psalm 86:12).
Now it’s our turn.
Practicing the presence of God
Today in Holy Week is called “Silent Wednesday.” Jesus did nothing recorded in Scripture on this day, apparently spending it in Bethany with his disciples and friends as he prepared for what was to come.
If our Savior needed to pray, meditate, and commune with his Father, how much more do we?
Like Sister Jean, you have a kingdom assignment, a ministry unique to you. The best way to prepare for tomorrow’s service is to spend time with God today. Start every morning with him in Bible study, prayer, and worship. Pray about your challenges and opportunities all through the day.
Sister Jean is showing the world: if we practice the presence of Jesus, we will manifest the presence of Jesus.
NOTE: First15 is the best way I know to begin the day with the Lord. This life-changing daily devotional is a partner ministry with Denison Forum. On Friday, May 11, First15 is having a night of worship, teaching, and prayer at The Heights Church in Richardson, Texas. Attendance is completely free.
You can register by clicking here. I invite you to bring your friends, family, and small group to go deeper into God’s presence with First15.