I’m not a fan of sports on Sundays. I’d like to stay home, go to Mass at my local parish, then spend the day relaxing with friends. Instead, I’ll be at a tournament this weekend, watching one of my top favorite athletes in the world do her thing. Also, she and I will be going to Mass. If you’ve ever had a child involved in competitive sports, you know that’s not as easy as it sounds.
Should You Even Be Playing on Sundays?
There are two questions every Catholic parent of an athlete ought to ask:
- Should we, as Catholics, even be participating in Sunday sports?
- Should my child in particular be involved in such sports?
The first question has been answered, for the moment, by silence and logic: I’ve never heard any priest or bishop forbid the faithful to watch the Olympics, professional football, or any other sport. These activities take place on Sundays, and furthermore they require a decade or decades of training that involves, almost invariably, playing or practicing on Sundays. If it’s moral to participate as a spectator, it’s moral to participate as an athlete — you can’t have one without the other.
That said, if at some point the Church should study the matter and determine that it is in fact immoral to play sports on Sundays, there we’ll be. (I don’t mean kickball at home with your friends. I mean the kind that dramatically interrupts church and rest for all involved.) Until then, we have a conditional green light to play on.
So long as Question #1 remains a tentative yes, Question #2 is up to you as the parent to discern: There are many good reasons not to play sports on Sundays. Some of those reasons may well apply to you. Discern thoughtfully.
Plan Ahead. Way Ahead.
Let’s imagine that for some good reason you’ve determined that your child ought to participate in a sport that plays or practices on Sundays. I hope if you had another option (a team with Saturday games only, for example) you took it. But say this was your only realistic choice: How do you make sure you’ll still get to Mass?
Answer: Talk to the coach before you sign up with the team.
Sooner or later, you are going to find yourself in a corner. You’ll be playing in some town that only has Mass the same hour your child is scheduled to compete. Your coach needs to know before you join the team that if push comes to shove, your player will be at Mass.
At that point, the coach might let you know that you should look for another team. So be it. It’s one thing to stretch the very limits of our freedom as Catholics; it’s another to abandon the faith altogether. But chances are your coach will be willing to accommodate you, if you hold up your end of a fair deal. What does that look like?
Don’t Be Obnoxious
You don’t have to make a big scene to the other families on the team about what amazingly holy people you are. Come on: You’re playing sports on a Sunday, not fasting in the Adoration chapel. You aren’t that holy. Put together a list of parishes within striking distance and all their Mass times. Then, when you get a break in the schedule, quietly head down the road to church.
Go to the first-available Mass opportunity you get. You don’t want to miss your one chance to get to Mass free and clear, only to have to hurt the team later by skipping out on a game.
If you have more than one child playing at the same event but with different play times, ask around and find out if there are any other Catholic families also trying to get to Mass. If your children’s breaks should line up just wrong, sending one child with another (trusted) family may be the only way you can get all children to Mass.
If you know you’ll have to skip a game, talk to the coach. Have your list of Mass times laid out in a way that’s easy to understand, and let your coach pick which game your child should miss.
Be willing to accept any consequences that go with missing a game. Charitably assume your coach has good reasons for having to bench your child if you miss a game. If you don’t trust your coach’s decisions, look for a different team.
Be Ready to Do the Unreasonable
When you make your list of potential Mass times and locations, include every possible option, even if some of them are just horrible. So you have to spend three hours on dirt roads getting to and from the Ancient Slobovian 10 pm Mass on your way home after a long weekend? If it’s a safe possibility, the fact that you’ll be inconvenienced is beside the point. If you want convenience, competitive athletics is not for you.
There can be times when there is no safe way to get to Mass. Weird things happen. In the winter you might, for example, be playing at a venue that is on well-maintained roads just off the interstate, but the nearest Catholic parishes are deep in the hinterlands with long stretches of dangerous ice patches. Likewise, don’t be on the road later than you can safely stay awake to drive. It’s better to skip a game and go to Mass during the day than to risk your life taking one for the team.
But if there is a way to get to Mass without missing any games, take that option even if isn’t your favorite choice. Don’t put the team dinner, touring around, or a relaxing morning at the hotel ahead of your obligation to attend a Sunday Mass. Save your miss-a-game cards for when you really need them.
The How-To’s of Finding a Mass
- Look up your event location, then search Masstimes.org for nearby parishes. If your hotel is in a different area, look for parishes near your hotel as well.
- If you will be traveling home on Sunday, look up parishes along your route home in addition to those near the event.
- Click through to the parish websites, and confirm that the Mass schedule is up to date. Watch out for holiday schedules in particular, as Mass times can get irregular.
- Make yourself a list of parishes and their Mass schedules.
- Either include each church’s address in your list so you can get directions on the fly, or print out directions from the venue or your hotel (or both — whichever you are most likely to be leaving in order to attend Mass).
If you know the tournament schedule in advance, you might be able to pick out which Mass you’ll be attending ahead of time. Otherwise, watch for an opening as the weekend unfolds. When you get a chance head to Mass, out you go!
Sabbath 101: Giving Up the Work Habit (I know! I wrote that! And I still believe it, even if my life interferes.)
What Happens When You Go Out to Eat on Sundays (So do what you can to minimize your impact, however imperfectly you pull it off.)
Copyright Jennifer Fitz 2017. If you would like to reprint this article for your parish or diocesan publication, you may. Please credit the original link.