The Archdiocese of Detroit has announced that it will no longer hold required sporting events on Sundays, in an effort to refocus the day on prayer, family and rest.
In a reflection on his 2016 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Allen Vigneron issued a pastoral note on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of “the Lord’s Day.”
He said Sunday is ultimately a time for faith, family, and rest, announcing that Catholic grade and high schools in the archdiocese will cease sports practices and games on this day.
“Sunday [is] a day set apart for the Lord, for family and for works of mercy,” he said. “In our time, 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.”
“In shifting away from the hustle of required sporting activities on Sunday, we will reclaim this holy day and create more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” he added.
The change in the archdiocesan sporting policy comes in response to a local synod in 2016, which included lay Catholics, religious, and clergy members. The archbishop’s pastoral letter soon followed, calling Catholics to embrace greater conversion and efforts of evangelization.
In his recent pastoral note, Archbishop Vigneron emphasized the importance of Sunday as a day of holy rest. He said it is a weekly celebration of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the disciples and Christ's resurrection, making it a mini-Easter and mini-Pentecost.
“First and foremost, Sunday is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus to new life. It is the day that definitively marked Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and it is the day that represents that in Jesus we too share in this same victory through our baptism,” he said.
“Finally, Sunday is the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in power upon the disciples of Jesus. In fact, John Paul II called Sunday a ‘weekly Pentecost,’” he added.
He said the holiness of Sunday should, first, be exercised by participation in Mass. Beyond that, he said, it is appropriate for families to pursue other faith-based activities together, as well as “technology-free family time.”
“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,” he said.
The archbishop also noted the importance of rest, saying that society has a “cult of busyness,” which has created false identities. He warned that an overemphasis on work can accentuate what Pope Francis calls a “throwaway culture.”
“When work becomes the most important thing in our lives, we value ourselves and others by what they can contribute rather than by who they are,” he said.
“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.”
The new regulations will take place in the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year. In upcoming months, the archdiocese will be issuing additional resources for families to embrace the Lord’s Day.
“Ultimately, by removing the requirement of sporting activities, we leave more time for families to choose activities that prioritize time spent with each other and our Lord,” the archdiocese said.
Several other local schools have held Sunday as a holy day of rest, including Calvinist schools and the Michigan High School Athletic Association. The Frankel Jewish Academy also does not host games from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.
Archbishop Vigneron said this time of “missionary conversion” requires radical opposition to the culture. He said setting aside Sunday as a Holy Day will be part of doing this and will be a source of additional graces.
“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,” he said.