One of the great difficulties for the church in recent years has been competing with sports clubs on Sunday mornings. So many children now take part in sports at the exact time the principle service takes place in most churches. It presents quite the conundrum for Christian parents; how to ensure children appreciate that worship is a first priority activity without making them miss out on what they love? Causing resentment in the young does not encourage them to delight in being church.
It isn’t a new problem. When I was growing up in the 1980’s my father struck a sensible compromise. Being raised an Evangelical Anglican there was a simple solution; I could play rugby Sunday morning so long as I promised to go to church on Sunday evening. Large evangelical parishes tend to cater to young adults by holding their principle services of an evening, so it was a no-brainer.
But for Catholics the problem is not so easily solved. Sunday is of obligation and the Mass, not Evensong or Benediction, demands our presence. Of course many parishes hold a Saturday evening Vigil Mass for this purpose. But that isn’t a solution in my household, or many others, because Saturday is when the big boys (aka men) play sports. What then can be done for sporty Catholics? It is something I have pondered on and off for quite some time.
This week my eldest son, Benny, received his first taste of rugby at a boot camp run at the local club by some enormous gentlemen from New Zealand. This afternoon, during the presentation bbq, he will conduct the Haka alongside his coaches! It is fabulous witnessing how much enjoyment he has had. And how good that his holiday is being spent outdoors and not sat idle on a silver screen. But… this taster has whetted his appetite and he is desperate to sign up to the under 7s! Hurrah says one part of me – oh no cries the other! That thorny issue concerning Sunday mornings is upon me as a father and as a father- if you take my meaning.
The answer is that I am going to start offering an additional Dawn Mass at St. Anselm’s on Sundays. And I want the word put out around the deanery that it is aimed at helping Catholic parents fulfil their obligation if involved in sport throughout the weekend. The ‘sportsman’s Mass’ will begin this autumn. See bulletin for further details.