New pastoral note — fourth in a series supporting Unleash the Gospel — includes policy ceasing CHSL, CYO sports on Sundays

DETROIT — From the earliest days of the Church, Sunday was a day sanctified and set apart as a time for prayerful worship, rest and family togetherness, but in modern times, it’s easy for Sunday’s significance to become lost in a sea of errands and obligations, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said.

In a new pastoral note released May 15, Archbishop Vigneron called upon the faithful and pastors of the Church in Detroit to “keep Sunday holy” by “setting aside this day as much as possible for God-centered pursuits.”

The pastoral note, “The Day of the Lord,” is the fourth in a series of episcopal teachings that support the central tenets of the archbishop’s landmark 2017 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel. The first three in the series, released in June, August and October of last year, focused on Christ’s victory over racism, St. Paul VI’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, and the centrality of the Christian faith in burial and funeral rites.

In “The Day of the Lord,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote that the call to “reclaim Sunday” was a foundational conviction of the Holy Spirit following the Archdiocese of Detroit’s synod in November 2016.

“One of the clearest calls from Synod 16 was for our Church to reclaim Sunday as a day set apart for the Lord, for family and for works of mercy,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote. “There are many necessary and worthwhile pursuits which occupy our time and energy all throughout the week, but from the earliest days of the Church, Sunday was unique for Catholics.”

Keeping Sundays holy and family-focused

As the day when Jesus conquered sin and death by rising from the grave, each Sunday is a “mini-Easter Sunday” deserving of special reverence and commemoration, the archbishop wrote.

Catholics attend Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn. (Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

Since the twelve apostles gathered in the upper room at Pentecost, the Church has celebrated Mass on Sundays — an obligation the Church extends to all Catholics who are able.

“The first way we keep Sunday holy is through our worship of the Triune God,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote. “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.”

Whether during the Saturday evening vigil or on Sundays, the obligation to attend Mass is “the most essential way we individually and collectively worship the Lord who gave himself for us,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

But while Mass is indispensable to keeping Sunday holy, a Catholic’s obligation doesn’t end there, Archbishop Vigneron wrote.

“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,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “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.”

In today’s hyper-busy culture, Sunday has “slowly lost its pride of place” as a day for rest and works of mercy, with many treating the day as a chance to catch up on errands, do chores around the house or even pick up extra shifts at work.

A woman kneels with her two children during Eucharistic adoration at Ste. Anne Parish in Detroit. (Naomi Vrazo | Detroit Catholic)

“Too often in our world we are valued by how busy we are,” the archbishop wrote. “This ‘cult of busyness’ is not of the Lord. Taking the Lord’s Day not to be busy with the affairs of the world but rather to rest in more important pursuits honors God and helps us to show him more perfectly to our world. Southeast Michigan needs men and women who can manifest the presence of God through their work and through their rest.”

Work is not inherently bad — on the contrary, God shows the value of work through the six days of creation and through the works of his Son — but when it becomes life’s most important pursuit, it can lead to a warped valuing of human life, Archbishop Vigneron said.  

“We are not valued by what we can contribute to society. Instead our worth comes from what God has done for us: We are made in his image and likeness, and Christ has died for us. When we choose to make Sunday a day of rest, we choose to renounce these false cultures and live as part of Christ’s band of disciples,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote.

Quoting Matthew’s Gospel, in which Jesus tells his followers to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides,” the archbishop pointed out that an over-busy schedule leaves little time for recalling one’s eternal 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,” he wrote.

Instead of work or mandatory sporting events, families might instead participate in service projects or parish-sponsored activities together on Sundays, Archbishop Vigneron said. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo) 

Beyond Sunday Mass, among the most important reasons God ordained Sundays as a day of rest is to allow families time to reconnect, free from the distractions of daily life, Archbishop Vigneron said.

Instead of allowing technology, television or smartphones to dominate a family’s time together, the archbishop recommended making Sundays a “technology-free family time.” Instead of a screen, families might pray the rosary together, read Scripture, share a meal or attend parish-sponsored activities.

It’s also a great time to practice being intentional disciples by participating in catechesis and faith-formation activities as a family, or by looking for opportunities to share one’s faith with others, the archbishop said.

“We do this in our words of kindness, by sharing our faith with others and through works of charity, especially to the less fortunate,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote.

Archdiocesan schools, parishes to cease sports on Sundays

While family leisure time that involves sports or athletics can be life-giving, Catholic parishes and schools should not require such participation of student-athletes on Sundays, Archbishop Vigneron said.

Therefore, “(a)fter 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,” the archbishop wrote.

“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,” he continued.

Shrine's girls basketball team plays in the CHSL championship game at Calihan Hall in Detroit. Traditionally held on Sundays, the championship game was moved to a Saturday this year. (Tim Fuller | Special to Detroit Catholic)

The new policy, which goes into effect Aug. 1, will affect parishes and schools that participate in Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) or Catholic High School League (CHSL) athletic competitions during the coming academic year, including those taking place between a Catholic and a non-Catholic school.

“Athletics are a means for building up virtue, discipline and camaraderie. Sports have an important place in the life of our schools, non-school parishes and in many families in the Archdiocese of Detroit. In sum, sports bring great value to the life of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Detroit,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote.

See also: Pastoral note calls for CHSL, CYO to cease sporting events on Sundays

“With this in mind, we are confident that by ceasing sporting events on Sunday in our Catholic athletic programs (Catholic Youth Organization at the grade school level and the Catholic High School League), we will be able to better serve all of our families and help them more appropriately integrate all of the blessings of athletic competition into their lives without compromising their far-greater obligation to follow Jesus Christ,” the archbishop continued.

The new policy is the outgrowth of a two-year process involving consultation with pastors, coaches, families, principals and representatives from the CYO and CHSL, according to a frequently asked questions document accompanying the new policy.

“Evangelization and discipleship are the highest priorities of our local Church; therefore, they are also the highest priorities of our athletics programs,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote. “We are committed to accompanying our coaches, athletic directors, parents and young athletes as they each journey to encounter Jesus Christ, grow as his disciple and witness to the power of his mercy in their own lives.”

In the coming months, the archdiocese will offer resources to coaches, athletic directors, parents and families to help them implement the new policy and to offer advice “in their own practice of keeping holy the Lord’s Day,” the archbishop said.

“Evangelization and discipleship are the highest priorities of our local Church; therefore, they are also the highest priorities of our athletics programs,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote. “We are committed to accompanying our coaches, athletic directors, parents and young athletes as they each journey to encounter Jesus Christ, grow as his disciple and witness to the power of his mercy in their own lives.”

The new rule is further evidence of the Archdiocese of Detroit’s commitment to living out the principles of Unleash the Gospel, the archbishop said.

“In the Foundational Conviction section of Unleash the Gospel, I wrote that ‘this missionary conversion’ calls for a ‘strikingly countercultural way of living,’” the archbishop wrote. “Living Sunday more radically and intentionally as God’s people will help us do this. It will help us to root our lives in prayer and the sacraments. It will create the space for us to demonstrate unusually gracious hospitality and to include those on the margins. And it will remind us of God’s presence even in difficult and stressful times, so that we can be Jesus’ band of joyful missionary disciples in southeast Michigan.”

Read 'The Day of the Lord'

Archbishop Vigneron's fourth pastoral note, “The Day of the Lord,” along with other teachings to support Unleash the Gospel, can be found at unleashthegospel.org/pastoral-notes


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