Why Doesn’t CYO Have Games on Sundays?
The answer to this question can not come without first looking at the very meaning of Sunday
from the Catholic tradition and teaching. From the very beginning, God “blessed the seventh
day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation”
(Gen. 2:2-3). It is probably fair to discern that scripture does not tell us God rested simply to
convey that he was ‘worn out’ from creating all of the heavens and earth (although who could
blame Him) but rather because it makes a greater point about how we are to honor and praise
God. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes on the topic that “God’s action is
the model for human action,” stating that “if God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh
day, man too ought to ‘rest’ and should let others” (CCC 2172). In accordance with the third
commandment, the Jewish people of ancient times (and today) set aside the “sabbath of solemn
rest, holy to the LORD” (Ex 31:15). The coming of Christ then clarified this teaching and gave it
new meaning, shifting our celebration of rest and worship from the traditional Saturday Sabbath
to Sunday as we celebrate the “new creation” recalled in Christ’s Resurrection on the first day
of the week (CCC 2174). Indeed, since her very beginnings in the person of Jesus, the Catholic
Church has held that Sunday is to be a day reserved not only for the communal celebration of
the Eucharist, but also a day for all people to “enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their
familial, cultural, social and religious lives” (CCC 2184).
A fantastic account of the Church’s teachings on Sunday can be found in Saint Pope John Paul
II’s 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (which can be found by clicking here). In this great work,
the Pope beautifully outlines the reasons we celebrate the Lord’s Day while addressing the
many challenges posed by modern society and offering wisdom for our continuing to observe
the Lord’s Day appropriately. He observes that for much of the Church’s history, the practice
of keeping holy the Lord’s Day was easier because it was almost universally observed (Dies
Domini 4). Yet today this task can be difficult. A person can easily observe that businesses
now remain open, activities remain scheduled and the world simply does not slow down for a
day of rest on any day, with Sunday for many just another day of the week. Yet as Catholics
we inherently recognize that this day is different, we still long for a day of rest to spend with
our family, worshipping God in the celebration of the Eucharist and commemorating the
Resurrection of the Lord. In his wisdom, the Pope also notes that even as the sharing in the
Eucharist is the “heart of Sunday” our “duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this”
(52). He talks of the importance of living in a way that assures we do “not forget that God is the
Creator upon whom everything depends” (65). In addition to spending time in “relaxation” with
family and friends and refraining from unnecessary work, the Pope states that an important part
of this involves solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world for whom there
is no day of rest, noting that it is our “obligation to ensure that everyone can enjoy the freedom,
rest and relaxation which human dignity requires” (66).
In keeping all this in mind, as well as consulting additional church teaching and with our
Archbishop Joseph Naumann and several other leaders in our Archdiocese, our CYO approved
a bylaw change in Spring 2011 that prohibits “all CYO activities from taking place on Sunday,
including meetings, practices and games, so that our families can remain committed to worship
of the Lord and observe a day of rest” (CYO Bylaws, Section 2.3). At the time, a letter was also
circulated by Archbishop Naumann supporting the move and detailing some of the reasons for
this change (full text found below). Within that letter, the following was noted regarding the change:
By playing games on Sunday, CYO found that it was employing dozens of persons in
administrative capacity and further realized that these games were not conducive to allowing
families a day for worship and rest. Moving these games off of Sunday will set an important
example for our participants and promote the teaching of our Church.
The first point, that CYO activities required many individuals to work on Sunday, was a chief
concern in making this change. From administrative staff to gym supervisors, from officials
to custodial staff, it takes a lot of individuals working to create these opportunities for play. In
addition, our office found while considering this change that many parents and coaches involved
in CYO games preferred not to have to participate on Sunday so that they could spend the
Lord’s Day with their entire family at home, even if that was simply relaxing and recharging
for the week ahead. We simply did not feel that we were promoting a very important church
teaching by having these individuals work or volunteer on Sunday when we could just as easily
schedule them on a different day.
The second point can perhaps be even more important, noting that we aim to “set an important
example” by adopting this policy. This example can be set in two important areas: in families
and in society. For families, we hope to provide an opportunity for families everywhere to
thoughtfully assess how they are spending the Lord’s Day each week and indeed how time is
prioritized throughout the week. For some, a Catholic organization making this change may
give cause to reconsider unnecessary work or time spent not appropriate to observing the
Lord’s Day. For others, it could spark a renewed commitment to attending Mass every Sunday.
On a broader scale, our CYO strives to be a leader regionally and nationally in promoting a
youth sports environment that supports the needs of children and families. With this, one of our
goals was not only to set forth a policy that we felt better served our CYO families, but to set an
important precedent in a world that treats Sunday as just another day of the week. In a world
where many youth sports now schedule games that directly compete with a family’s ability to
attend Mass on Sunday morning, the challenges to religious observation are real. If our small
example encourages another organization to consider how they impact Sunday, if in even a
small way we encourage reflection on our Lord’s Day or promote a society that better facilitates
a Sunday of worship and rest, then our efforts can have an even greater impact.
To be clear, there remains no church teaching or papal document that specifically prohibits
participating in recreation on Sunday, and instituting this policy in CYO has brought forth some
very fair and good conversation regarding how best to approach this. Even in itself, that is a
very good thing: the initiative has spurred new conversation about how to best observe Sunday
that in itself has had positive affects. The most common objection raised to the policy is from
the family that feels participating in Catholic youth sports together was a very fitting way to
spend their Sunday. The question arises, if it’s an activity taking place in a Church, with Catholic
values and great fellowship, how doesn’t this fit into a Catholic view of Sunday? It’s a fair
question that deserves to be answered.
Perhaps the easiest answer is that not all families would see it that way. What for one family
may be relaxing may for another require driving multiple kids to different locations, splitting
the family apart and allowing no time for relaxation together. What for one family may provide
great fellowship and fun might put another in a position where they are forced to work an
event and spend time away from home. The idea is not that youth sports in themselves are
somehow opposed to a Christ-centered approach to Sunday, but rather that in this format and
in our modern society, they more of then than not create an environment that is not conducive
to separating and observing the Lord’s Day. With this in mind and in considering our call
to solidarity, it’s important that we considered as an organization how our schedules could
negatively impact any of the members of our community and detract from our ultimate goal of
leading families to Christ. Certainly those families who enjoy the afternoon relaxing together at
a CYO activity can still do so on Saturday or on a weeknight, then have Sunday afternoon free
to spend together as a family in more ways pleasing to God! In those situations where Sunday
CYO meant work or separation of the family, they can now be free to spend the day in worship
and rest, free to echo the cry of the Psalmist: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us
rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118:24).
As a CYO, we clearly believe that sports can have an important and authentically Catholic
role in leading children and families to Christ. The participation of families in recreation or
entertainment together can even be a great way to enjoy God’s creation and relax on a Sunday.
Yet in today’s society and as an organization called to serve many different people throughout
the church, we carefully discerned that our role was to proclaim the faith in a way that once
again sets apart Sunday in a prominent way, for all to see. In the years since this policy has
been in effect, our CYO is proud to have received emails and calls from people here in our
Archdiocese and across the United States who have been positively affected by this change.
Many have been Catholic, but some have been families of other faiths or officials in public
organizations that have asked us about this change and are hoping to institute the same policy
in their own organizations. In our own small way, the example set forth by our CYO community
is helping to reclaim the Lord’s Day and working to create a culture that once again recognizes
the beauty and holiness of Sunday.
In the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini referenced earlier, Saint John Paul II writes the following
about Sunday rest:
Through Sunday rest, daily concerns and tasks can find their proper perspective: the material
things about which we worry give way to spiritual values; in a moment of encounter and less
pressured exchange, we see the true face of the people with whom we live. Even the beauties
of nature — too often marred by the desire to exploit, which turns against man himself — can
be rediscovered and enjoyed to the full. As the day on which man is at peace with God, with
himself and with others, Sunday becomes a moment when people can look anew upon the
wonders of nature, allowing themselves to be caught up in that marvelous and mysterious
harmony which, in the words of Saint Ambrose, weds the many elements of the cosmos in
a "bond of communion and peace" by "an inviolable law of concord and love”....If after six days
of work — reduced in fact to five for many people — people look for time to relax and to pay
more attention to other aspects of their lives, this corresponds to an authentic need which is
in full harmony with the vision of the Gospel message. Believers are therefore called to satisfy
this need in a way consistent with the manifestation of their personal and community faith, as
expressed in the celebration and sanctification of the Lord's Day (67).
It is our prayer in CYO that this policy can help to foster the celebration and sanctification of the
Lord’s Day as expressed by the great Pope. May God bless all your days and in particular the
weekly celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection that we celebrate each Sunday.
Executive Director, CYO
March 15, 2011
Dear Pastors and Parish Staff,
I am writing to offer my support for an important change being proposed in our CYO programs and to request your support. As you know, for a number of years our CYO program has played games on both Saturdays and Sundays through the fall and winter seasons. CYO Executive Director Peter Piscitello has proposed a new bylaw that would prohibit any CYO activity from taking place on Sunday beginning this fall.
The impetus for this change is rooted within Church teaching and our fundamental need to keep holy the Lord’s Day. In preparing this proposal, the CYO sought guidance from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, our Archdiocesan offices and many other parish constituents. By playing games on Sunday, CYO found that it was employing dozens of persons in administrative capacity and further realized that these games were not conducive to allowing families a day for worship and rest. Moving these games off of Sunday will set an important example for our participants and promote the teaching of our Church. It is truly an opportunity to help our youth and families grow closer to Christ through a more authentic realization of their needs. Along with other recent initiatives in CYO, this sets an important foundation for evangelization through youth sports in Johnson and Wyandotte Counties.
I offer my enthusiastic support of this proposal and would ask for your support within our parishes. The CYO Executive Board will vote this bylaw on May 14, 2012 and the full proposal can be found on the CYO website. Attached to this letter you will also find a plan for the use of parish gym space that will allow this proposal to take shape. Rest assured that CYO is striving to work with your parish staff to facilitate interaction and foster a positive environment working toward the same goals. I appreciate your parish’s support of this proposal and know that the CYO would welcome your feedback and input at any time. May God bless our parishes and the CYO program.
Most Reverend Joseph F. Naumann
Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas