Did the headline get your attention? It was meant to do just that. But it does not mean that the Detroit Tigers, Redwings, or Pistons will no longer be playing on Sundays, even though, in my opinion, that might not be such a bad thing. For Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) and Catholic High School League (CHSL) athletes in the Archdiocese of Detroit, however, things have changed.
On May 15 Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron released an episcopal letter to the archdiocese entitled The Day of the Lord. In the letter, Archbishop Vigneron announced that as of August 1 competitive sports programs that are part of Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic grade school and high school CYO and CHSL activities will no longer be playing games nor having practices on Sundays. It’s all part of the plan to Unleash the Gospel in the Archdiocese of Detroit (first commented on here at CS, when it was announced in 2017).
This is the fourth episcopal letter issued by Vigneron since the Unleash the Gospel plan was released. The first three letters, Agents for a New Creation, Living Christ’s Love, and An Act of Mercy and Faith, addressed the topics of racism, St. Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, and the importance of the Faith in burial and funeral rites, respectively. (All four letters can be found here.)
Keeping Sunday Holy
This latest letter, as the title implies, is on the importance of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, and our duty as Catholics and Christians to “keep Sunday holy.”
“In our time,” says Vigneron, “Sunday has slowly lost its pride of place. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, we are committed to setting aside this day as much as possible for God-centered pursuits.
“The first way we keep Sunday holy is through our worship of the Triune God. This is done most perfectly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, where we offer back to the Father the very life of the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, the disciples of Jesus made it a hallmark to gather as a community of believers on this day. The Code of Canon Law and the Catechism of the Catholic Church state that “on Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.” This obligation to attend Sunday Mass-either on the day or on the vigil in the evening—is the most essential way we individually and collectively worship the Lord who gave himself for us.
“Our communal worship flows out from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass into many other areas . . . Eucharistic adoration, personal prayer, reciting the Rosary, time for catechesis and Bible studies, faith sharing groups and the like all are ways families and individuals honor the Lord’s Day beyond Sunday Mass. We are called to live this whole day in recognition that we are God’s people, intimately united to him through the blood of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Putting Aside Worldly Pursuits
Keeping Sunday holy, going to Mass, making Sunday a day of rest from the “cult of busyness,” and focusing more on God-centered family activities, says Vigneron, “allows us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We put aside the worldly pursuits which are necessary for this life but too often become a distraction from what is ultimately important: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.” Sunday is a day to rest from work so that we have the time and leisure to pursue things that do not have worldly utility. Unless we take this regular time away from these matters, we will easily and quickly lose sight of our ultimate destiny. Our attention needs to be intentionally interrupted from our earthly work to call to mind the reality that we are joint heirs with Christ of the things of heaven.”
As one of the endnotes following the letter states, ceasing sporting events on Sunday is one of the action steps called for in Unleash the Gospel. It is a “theme that had been brought up by parents and pastors for many years, and it emerged again as a clear direction for the Archdiocese of Detroit during Synod 16. To allow for this new policy to be implemented smoothly, a timeline was set for it to take effect at the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year.”
Athletic Directors were notified of the change in 2017. A task force was then put together consisting of “pastors, coaches, families with and without children in sports programs, principals, representatives from the Catholic High School League (CHSL) and the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), and the Office of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools.” The task force spent time reflecting on the action prior to putting together a plan to implement it. The policy and plan were then presented to and reviewed with the Presbyterial Council in February 2019, per Canon Law, and both were ultimately approved.
The decision to cease CYO and CHSL sporting events on Sunday was not made in a vacuum, as the note on how the new policy was derived explains. Even so, there may be some (primarily the student-athletes) who may not be too thrilled about this decision. (I loved participating in sports as a kid and would have happily played baseball seven days a week.) This decision should, however, be used to reinforce the importance of the Faith in the lives of children in the Archdiocese – God must be first in our lives, especially above our own selfish wants and desires.
Why Are We Here?
Even today, as an old codger, I still golf, play softball, and tennis. I could even be pretty easily persuaded to hit the slopes and downhill ski again given the right circumstances. But despite what some may read into it, Archbishop Vigneron’s letter does not say such activities are no longer permitted on Sundays. It only says Catholic league competitive sports events will no longer be held on Sunday.
I, for one, fully support this policy. As the endnotes point out, “Other dioceses and leagues have moved toward limiting sports on Sunday or encouraging coaches to schedule activities on other days.” This does not mean though, that after going to Mass together, a family can’t have fun playing a game of volleyball, a game of cornhole (or ‘bags’ as we call it), horseshoes, darts, or even a rousing a game of Monopoly, before having dinner together and saying the rosary as a family.
As I’ve written here at CS before I think it is absolutely atrocious that professional sporting events are held on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday. I stopped short of saying “and on all Sundays,” but as I mentioned at the outset of this article, maybe that might not be such a bad thing. Society has become far to self-indulgent and “entertainment-oriented.”
It might not be a bad idea for all Catholics and Christians to do some serious soul searching. A simple question can start the ball rolling: Is God first in my life, above all else? We are, after all, on this earth to love and serve Him.