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