Investing in the Domestic Church


Most weekend mornings during the summer I hear the echoes of cheers erupting from the crowds gathered at the little league ball fields about a mile from our home. All this hootin’ and hollerin’ can often be heard before 8:00 AM on any given summer Sunday. Seems a little early (and borderline sacrilegious) to require little Babe Ruth and his family to be up and at ‘em for ball game, no?

My children aren’t old enough yet for organized sports, but my husband and I have already declared that extracurricular activities will not be allowed to creep into our sacred Sundays. (Never mind that we are also that couple who said we would never ever ever allow our kids to watch DVDs in the car. And how’s that working for us? Well, let’s just say The Muppets and Veggie Tales have been on auto play in the car lately.)

Despite many parents’ best intentions, contemporary culture sure doesn’t seem to stop for family time. That’s why I’m hopeful a new policy implemented in my diocese will be a spark that ignites many to reclaim sacred family time each week.

Bishop Richard Pates, the shepherd for the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, recently instituted a policy that declares Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings off limits for everything but sacramental, ministerial, or catechetical activities. All Catholic schools, institutions, and organizations of the diocese must adhere to this policy. So this means no more extracurricular activities like sports, drama, and band on Wednesday evenings or on Sunday mornings. This edict also bleeds into parish life — pastoral council, finance council, liturgy committee, etc. cannot schedule meetings during this timeframe either.

In issuing this policy Bishop Pates said, “More and more research points to the Church’s wisdom regarding the need to pull away from the demands of our culture and give families the opportunity to pray, learn, recreate, and grow together in love. This is the Church’s opportunity to invest in building-up the domestic church, which is each family. This policy is our commitment to the sacredness of the Sunday Sabbath observation.”

I find Bishop Pates’ timing impeccable. This new policy goes into effect right before the start of the 2012-13 school year. Pope Benedict XVI has proclaimed the Year of Faith to begin on October 11, 2012 and continue through November 24, 2013. The initiative “is intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord, capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the ‘door of faith.’”

That door of faith Pope Benedict refers to begins in my home. God is entrusting me to be a “credible and joy-filled witness” to my children. In order to do that, I know me, and I need all the help I can get! I applaud Bishop Pates for stepping into the culture war and making an effort to support families in a tangible way. I pray this change will be the seed that allows families to grow together and discover the true meaning of  “Sacred Sundays.” At least it’s a start. I’ll keep you posted throughout the year on how it’s working here in Des Moines.

Questions: Do you set aside sacred family time each week … even if that means your children will miss out on activities? If so, how have you been able to win that battle? I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Copyright 2012 Lisa Schmidt


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  1. My 3 Catholic-schooled kids range in age from 10 to 20. I would love it if the CYO sports and school-based activities did not occur on Sundays. Right now I have to be happy that there are ALMOST no high-school sports events on Sundays, and for my grade-schooler, we can attend Mass at a different time in order to accommodate his track practices/basketball games. There have also been theatre commitments (both school- and community-based theatres) on Sundays.
    We don’t like to have to make it work; we like to attend Mass AS A FAMILY even though we’ve got some in the choir, one altar server…really only Dad is in the pew but we are all at the same Mass in the same church.
    Our kids know that Sunday Mass attendance is a priority–a MUST, unless they are ill, and that’s the way it is.
    I do appreciate that at the Catholic high school, in the theatre program, they celebrate Sunday Mass as cast & crew before the Sunday matinee performance. This has always been a keystone of the program and it is a very special moment of prayer, celebration and bonding for the students. It’s a wonderful way to build that community of faith in the school.
    But if we are willing to attend an earlier Mass in order to get to some event, we are still teaching our children that while other events are important, Mass is not optional.

    • Thanks for the feedback and positive witness, Barb (as always!). I’m going to share the example of your theatre troupe celebrating Mass prior to their productions with the chaplain at our local Catholic high school. Great idea!

      • Lisa,
        They do have Mass before many events at our local Catholic high school. (As the chaplain may have told you!) 🙂 Also, many of the sports teams, band, and others attend Mass together as a team at least once during their “season”. I think we are blessed that our local Catholic high school does a very good job (from the top-down) of making sure that the kids know faith and family come first.

  2. I have three boys and we limit their sports in general so that we aren’t spending more time in the car than we are at home. I live in the “Bible Belt” in middle Georgia so we have no problems with Wednesday evening or Sunday morning plans anyway.

  3. Lisa, I LOVED this post. I think this is such an important issue for families and congratulation the Bishop on making such a wise decision! Our parishes and schools need to set the tone for this!

  4. We have always limited our three kids to two activities per child to keep the chaos down. At least to a basically manageable level. Family time is so hessential. You are doing a good thing making this decision while the kids are so young, because that way, they’ll just grow up knowing that Sunday is family time, no ifs, and, or buts. Our family is going to try having a weekly family Holy Half-Hour of Adoration, to help in family discernment, and just to be a family in silence before Jesus.

  5. My husband and I also were of the mindset that “NEVER” would our kids be involved in activities, practices, etc.. that took time away from the family on weekends, dinner hours during the week, etc. Needless to say, we’ve eaten humble pie many times on our bold proclamation. What you don’t count on when you’re looking at your sweet little ones is what they’ll grow up to become…and where their talents will lie. When they start to grow and develop talent in a particular area, I can attest to the fact that as a parent, you want to do whatever you can to help them reach their highest potential and achieve their goals. Our family policy has always been no games, activities, sleepovers, etc…that would interfere with Sunday 8AM Mass for us as a family. Our children have missed camps, games, tournament final games, social activities and more because of this rule…but it has stood the test of time and now our younger kids know without even having to ask that if an invitation, game or other function will preclude them from attending Mass with us at 8AM on Sunday morning, it’s probably not going to be permissible.

    Balancing all aspects of a child’s development: physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual is truly the key. Making sure that if a child has God-given talent in a certain area it is nurtured and developed is something we are called to do as Christian parents. Hard work on the part of the child to develop their talents, coupled with the acknowledgment that all talent comes from God is good spiritual discipline as well. Balance is always the key–keeping all four of those areas in check.

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