One of the main struggles faced by families during Lent is the conflict that seems to exist between lenten expectations and the busy demands of daily family life. It seems as if we try and cram lenten practices, such as increased service attendance, charitable activity, and youth retreats, into a schedule that maintains the same level of involvement in school-related commitments (sports, music lessons, school band, etc.).
I remember Archbishop Job of blessed memory once speaking about celebrating and attending church for feast days. He asked when families attended services, “Were we celebrating a feast, or just attending another busy activity?” I answered to myself that the experience was just another busy activity to fit into an already busy schedule.
Can families fast from being busy during Lent? This is not as an easy question to answer. I know that for some sports events, if children don’t attend the scheduled practices, they won’t be permitted to play in regular games. And how often such activities, practices, and games conflict with lenten services. I offer the following thoughts for your consumption and further reflection.
- When is too much, too much? Do children have to play two or three sports? Do they have to learn more than one instrument? School bands travel on the weekends; do they have to attend every trip?
- Parishes offer Presanctified Liturgies at least every Wednesday — and some on Fridays. If there is a conflict, can families participate in at least 50% of the services offered (and not attend the school event)? Perhaps your parish priest can write a letter to the coach, teacher, or director requesting that one’s child might be excused from a practice or a game to attend a church service or activity. This request could include a request that the child would not suffer any consequences for missing the school or sporting event.
- Can children be sent to school with fasting meals for lunch if none are offered at school? Are we so concerned about fitting in that we can’t use these opportunities to witness to our Faith and why we do what we do?
When I served as a priest in Toledo, a former parishioner told me a great story about how his dad dealt with him with regard to sports activities. The father told his son he could play football but he had to remember Wednesdays and Sundays were church days and he needed to attend church for scheduled events (not a football event). When a Sunday came up during which the football coach wanted his players to gather to view films from the previous game, my former parishioner went to church that day instead. Whatever consequence he faced for missing out on film viewing, he accepted. Are we willing to do this?
The Lord’s blessing be upon you,
Forgive me a sinner,
The unworthy, +Paul