Which Communion Do You Choose?
We’re all fans of something, aren't we? Some team, sport or season of competition. As humans, we crave communion. Many of us, however, are choosing the communion of sports over the communion of saints.
At our core, we seek commonality when we come together. We long for camaraderie and community.
Often, we seek these out consciously or subconsciously, and in different arenas. That's a big part of who we are as humans. We forget God wired us for community on purpose – and those commonalities bring us together, often into our comfort zone. Somewhere along the way, our society and Catholics alike found commonality through our love of competition. Maybe it began back in the days of the Colosseum in Rome or with the development of the Olympic Games; but regardless of its origin, sports have evolved rapidly and invasively into our modern society.
That initial craving for competition has become a mainstay through pro sporting events, college tournaments and worldwide games. Sports are in constant motion. But even more pervasive and dominating is the presence of youth sports. Youth sports have grown into a $17 billion dollar industry (https://businessjournalism.org/2018/12/business-of-youth-sports), and an idol often disguised as dreams for our children's futures.
Weeknights are dictated by soccer fields, baseball diamonds, and the practices and games that take over family schedules. Weeknights bleed into weekends, and the schedule becomes a wash of carpooling and corralling. Our search and longing for community leads a great deal of American and Catholic faithful, young and old, to the bleachers, week in and week out.
The problem is not sports. The problem is that our bleachers are full, but our pews are not. Somewhere along the way, our Catholic comfort zone and love for competition has morphed into a mere substitute for true, genuine and eternal communion. Sports will not pay our children's way to heaven even IF they actually pay our children’s college tuitions. Maybe we know this, but do we actually celebrate the communion of saints more?
Do we remind our children and grandchildren that what's displayed on the scoreboard and the crowds cheering them on are short lived? We must. To point them to their inherent purpose and their eternal Cheerleader, an audience of One, changes everything. They need to know Who blessed them with their abilities in the first place.
As I reflect back on my days competing in youth sports, high school and as a collegiate athlete at Murray State University, I realize that my goals were set far too low. I competed for achievement and personal records; winning and glory; all the things our world of sports and success tells us will bring fulfillment. But they didn’t.
Sports taught me discipline, teamwork and camaraderie.
But despite setting PRs and winning medals, there was no lasting glory.
College scholarships, winning championships and/or front-page photos are considered the coveted crowns at the altar of sports. That altar brought disappointment and discouragement, time and time again. That same altar, which pulls our Catholic families out of the pews and into worshipping the achievements of our kids, is selling our futures short.
But there is another way. There is a way to merge both while keeping the altar of Christ sacred, communing together towards heaven, and loving Jesus more than trophies.
We must teach our children and grandchildren to glorify God first through their talents and abilities. We are responsible for showing them how to humbly give Jesus the credit when they compete. We can love sports and enjoy the victories; but unlike trophies, eternity doesn't collect dust. We are called to love Jesus and our faith more because, well, the stakes are higher.
Laura, her husband Brendan and their 5 kids are members of Holy Redeemer Parish in Evansville. They especially enjoy family time together in the backyard