One of the biggest challenges congregations face when it comes to catechizing their children is the demanding schedule of sports and extra curricular activities. It’s commonplace for games, practices, recitals, etc., to be held on Sundays. When it comes to trying to do midweek services or catechesis, forget about it. There’s something going on every night of the week.
One reason for the Sunday morning conflict is the simple fact that people work Monday through Friday. This makes Sunday morning prime real estate, since nothing else (or nothing important, apparently) is going on. Saturday schedules are already crowded, so Sunday morning tends to work for busy families.
Another reason for this dilemma is the simple fact that the world hates the Church as much as it hates Her Bridegroom (John 15:18). The increasing secularization of our culture has taken us from one extreme—the blue law era, which bordered on Pharisaism—to the other, where parents or organizations that desire to keep the Sabbath are considered weirdos (e.g., Chick-Fil-A and the Hobby Lobby).
For some, it’s a no-brainer: gymnastics wins. But others really do want their children to be in church and lament this situation. Sadly, lament is often as far as it goes. When push comes to shove and parents are forced to choose between giving their children sports and giving them Jesus, footbaal almost always wins. Sportolatry has become so deeply ingrained in our culture that parents will sometimes even say their children have to miss church due to their athletic “obligations.” This devotion is nothing short of religious.
St. Paul describes Christians as living catechisms (2 Corinthians 3:2), and our Lord says a tree is known by its fruit (Luke 6:44). What are you teaching your children? What does trying to squeeze a little Jesus into an overcrowded schedule confess to them about priorities? What does participating in Sunday morning sports and activities suggest about the importance of going to church? That’s the catechesis that’s going to stick, even if they find a way to get all of their confirmation requirements done. And if there’s any doubt about what should win, take another look at the First Commandment.
What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul (Mark 8:36)? If you really want what’s best for your children, teach them to set their minds on things that are above, not on the things of this world (Colossians 3:1-2; Matthew 6:19-21). The problem, ultimately, isn’t the sports schedule. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.