No More Competitive Sports on Sunday in Detroit!

church, priest, ordination

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.”

The Plan

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.

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9 thoughts on “No More Competitive Sports on Sunday in Detroit!”

  1. If the athletic leagues were operated as parish fund raisers, would this justify them? (see response about parish festivals, etc.)

    1. Ron, as I stated, competitive league play has a singular purpose – winning. Even if admission was charged and the proceeds and all the concession profits were donated to charity or the parish this would not change the singular purpose of competitive league play. The charitable donation aspect would only be a poor attempt to justify the competition.

  2. CYO sports are out on Sunday but no restrictions on K of C or other groups pancake feeds and fundraisers. No limits on parish bazaars or events on Sundays either. Hypocrites. So CYO activities games and practices must now be squeezed into weeknights i.e school nights thus restricting time available for homework and study. It would be just as well to just eliminate CYO sports altogether to give families and children time to pray and grow in faith throughout the week. To suggest that CYO games are not family activities is also untrue. It is true that families and kids may be overscheduled but that is not a function of CYO activities but the overall lack of control by parents in setting reasonable limits on their children’s activities. If bishops and priests are concerned about time spent on CYO activities the limit the number of practices and games that can be scheduled per week i.e no more than 3 games/practices combined per week.

    1. You are entitled to your opinion on the matter, CJ, but I think calling those who disagree with you hypocrites is a bit harsh. Equating a KofC pancake breakfast, a parish festival, or another type of fundraiser event aimed at supporting the parish or acts of charity (God’s work), with a baseball game, a basketball game, etc., where the singular purpose is “to win” is a stretch.
      Calling a baseball game, soccer game, etc., a “family activity” is also not a completely honest or accurate assessment of the activity since only one member of the family is actually participating in the activity. (A team practice, does not qualify as a family activity in any sense.) At a scheduled game, the other members of the family are there to support and cheer for the participating family member, and for the team, in the hope that the singular goal – winning – will be accomplished. At the conclusion of the game, half of the participants are going to be happy. But recognize, too, that half of the participants and their supporters – the losing side – will feel down, dejected, unhappy, depressed, and so on.
      I get it that kids like to participate in sports. I did and my three sons did and still do. But society has crossed a line. That line needs to be re-established.

    2. You missed the point, it is not our beloved “Bishops and priests concerned about the time spent on CYO activities”, it is the Almighty God who taught us what we shall not do.

  3. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  4. Yes, this topic has long weighed on my mind. Sunday practices came to our Catholic high school when our 41 year old son was in sports. At first it was just ‘shooting practice’ or ‘batting practice’. We objected, withheld our son from Sunday practice, and he paid the price on the bench. This has currently degraded into some junior sports being played primarily on Sundays.

    My husband and I are dismayed at the schedules of our adult children and their children. No time to rest the body, much less the soul and mind. Families have never done more together and yet been so far apart – dragging from here to there with multiple kids in multiple activities. The diocese of Detroit is onto something vital and it is my fervent prayer that their mission catches on.

  5. Gene, Thank you for this story. I agree – it might not be a bad idea. It brings to mind the true story, Chariots of Fire, in which Olympic Gold medalist Eric Liddell refuses to run the in the 1924 Olympics because the heat was being held on a Sunday. The way I look at it: holding events on Christmas or Easter would more easily be seen as an abomination; therefore, why not also the Sabbath? If it is not OK on Easter, then it should not be OK on any Sabbath.

    1. I think there are larger issues here, by buying tickets to professional sporting events held on Sundays, we are essentially “aiding and abetting” in sin. This is a step in the right direction to begin to tackle all these issues…no pun intended. Ultimately, we are responsible for every “click” we make on the internet – each “click” is an endorsement – sending a message that we want more similar stories. This will likely be the best story I read all day.

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