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Who Do You Play For?

March 19th, 2013by Joe Ollier

While at a swim meet one summer evening a few years ago, I saw a t-shirt that read, “If I found out I only had 1 day to live, I’d spend it at a swim meet, because they last FOREVER.”  As a veteran of more swim meets than I can count, I know all too well the truth of that shirt.  You can safely say the same thing about track meets (again, from first-hand knowledge) and wrestling meets (so I’ve been told).


Isn’t it amazing what we parents will sit through to watch our children compete for 30 seconds?  And parents with kids in select sports, how many weekends of your life have been spent schlepping your athletes to tournaments all over creation?  And why do we do all of this?  Because we love our kids.  We want the best for them, and we’re willing to sacrifice an awful lot so they can have an opportunity to be the very best they can be in sports, music, academics, or whatever they’re involved in.

But can you imagine what it would be like if our culture put as much emphasis on our kids’ faith formation?


Can you see parents setting up sport chairs to watch their kids’ Confirmation retreats? Watching replays of their First Communion on Youtube?  Switching parishes or schools because the 7th grade catechist at the church down the road has a reputation for getting kids to the “big leagues”?  Can you hear the conversation?

“I know we have to drive past 6 other parishes to get to Our Lady of Perpetual Adoration, but they have 3 former students in the convent, 2 who are priests, and another 4 in the seminary!”

“Yes, but I hear they recruit from other denominations and I don’t know if I support that.”


Can you see parents sitting outside the confessional with stopwatches and 3-foot long camera lenses to capture a moment of grace for the scrapbook?  Can you hear them bragging on Facebook that their child is the best rosary pray-er in their age group?  Or Tweeting that they hold the league record for plenary indulgences in a year?  “#timeoffpurgatory”               


That would be a topsy-turvy world, wouldn’t it?  But why?  Why does our society think it’s perfectly fine for us to sacrifice so much at the altar of Athletics or Band or Whatever for an activity most kids won’t continue after they graduate high school, while back-burnering matters that are quite literally a matter of eternal life and death?  Talk about topsy-turvy.


It seems to me that the Catholic life is all about placing our whole lives at the feet of Christ, and glorifying God through the talents He’s given us and the person He’s made us to be.  It’s not about shunning sports and other extra-curriculars, but it is about doing all we do on the field, on the court, on the stage, in the classroom and at the workplace at the service of the Lord.   It’s about knowing Him, loving Him, and serving Him in this world so we may join Him in the next – and about not letting the matters of this world get between us and God.  May we never forget that Truth as we drive our kids to their next practice, game or tournament. 


And if we do that, maybe, just maybe, we’ll someday see a t-shirt that says, “If I found out that I only had 1 day to live, I’d spend it in a Communion line, because they last FOREVER.”

Joe Ollier

Joe Ollier is the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Ascension Parish in Kettering where he and his family are. He has 20 years experience in youth ministry and a Masters Degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.