In my most recent book, “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95), I take a look at the need for Catholics to embrace what they hear and whom they actually receive at Mass every week so that we can apply it to our everyday lives. What does our faith really mean to us if we merely are checking off a box, then going back to work or school without any noticeable change or impact?
In order to go beyond Sunday, we first have to reclaim the Lord’s Day and understand why God instructs us to take it so seriously. To discover this further, I was encouraged to see my archbishop, Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit, build on his powerful pastoral letter, “Unleash the Gospel.” This letter encourages Catholics to put their faith into strong practice, with a new understanding of Sunday leading the way.
In the Archdiocese of Detroit, this starts with the big leap — no pun intended — of Catholic schools and parishes eliminating Sunday sporting events. This major shift is outlined in his latest reflection of “Unleash the Gospel” that emphasizes the importance of the Third Commandment. The archbishop talks about a culture of busyness noticed not only by clergy, but by parents, who express how challenging it is to have their Sundays filled with running children from one activity to the next instead of with prayer and family time.
Prior to the release of “Unleash the Gospel” in 2017, the archdiocese held a major synod to reflect on input from local parishioners, pastors, various Church leaders and school administrators. “After prayerful consultation with the presbyterate of Detroit and responding to what I believe is the call of the Holy Spirit through Synod 16, we in the Archdiocese of Detroit will cease sporting events on Sunday. This means that competitive athletic programs in the grade school and high school levels are called to no longer play games or conduct practices on the Lord’s Day. In the months ahead, we will offer a number of resources to assist families in their own practice of keeping holy the Lord’s Day,” the archbishop stated.
In addition to sharing ideas on how families can reclaim Sundays, the archdiocese has been working with principals, coaches and school administrators to put the new, no-sports Sunday into practice starting this August. Sunday sports have become ingrained in parish life, but athletic directors and a diversified task force — including the Catholic Youth Organization and the Catholic High School League — were notified of the pending policy change in June 2017.
Hopefully this change will be good not only for athletic families at the local parish level, but for all Catholics. We may start thinking twice before spending our Sundays swallowed up in the culture of busyness at the mall, on our phones or in front of the TV. This message is not only about putting sports aside; it is about uncovering the true meaning of the Lord’s Day. As a result, as Archbishop Vigneron stresses, our Sundays will never be the same.
Sunday is a fitting day to grow in our faith. Catechesis for young people and adults is not out of place on this day. It also is a day to witness to our faith. That first Pentecost saw the apostles boldly proclaiming Jesus as Lord. As we seek to live a new Pentecost, we should be witnesses to God’s mercy, particularly on the Lord’s Day. This means we should look for opportunities to share our faith with others on this day. We do this in our words of kindness, by sharing our faith with others and through works of charity, especially to the less fortunate.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95).