If the Pool Is Closed, Go To Church

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2017/05/26/if-the-pool-is-closed-go-to-church/


As any parent of a young hockey player knows, you are a slave to the ice times. If a rink is available for practice, an hour away and at 6 a.m., then gas up the car and set the alarm. This becomes more of a challenge on Sundays. Church time used to be considered off-limits by other groups, but that practice ended years (decades?) ago.

And when it comes to hockey, genuflect before the Zamboni and be grateful there is ice available so your child can work towards becoming the next Bobby Orr or Patrice Bergeron.

Two of my boys played youth hockey, and it was fun, especially when the parents formed a comradery of sorts. We were all in this together, buying gear and freezing our parental rears off in the coldest rinks imaginable. One year, we became close as a group. As it happens, about seven or eight of the kids and their parents were Catholic.

Now Catholics, with their Saturday vigils, Sunday morning Masses, and Sunday evening Masses, can usually attend an obligatory weekend liturgy, despite what the ice rink schedule dictates.

But that year, we found ourselves in a tournament in Massachusetts – complete with an overnight in a hotel – with game times that conflicted with seemingly every Mass around. But my wife and I researched and found a later Saturday vigil Mass. We could make it after our Saturday afternoon game.

We rushed to tell the other Catholic parents the good news.

They were not delighted. The Mass we found would cut into the time the kids could spend in the hotel pool, and they “had earned that.”

So, 20 minutes into the pool time, we called our kids out, got dressed, and went to Church. We were the only ones to go.

Be wary, dear reader that this column features religion – and the R-word is not popular. Soldier on.

Before the accusation of extolling our own virtue is tossed our way, we were simply living by the rules of our Church, an institution that is relevant to fewer and fewer. To actually try to live the teachings of your Church can be a lonely venture.

That story came to mind as I read Rod Dreher’s book The Benedict Option. Much has been written about it, including critiques by those who have not read it. I’m nearing the end and hope to have more thoughts on it soon.

But the Benedict Option is not what has been implied – a way to escape the world and all its evil. Rather, it is a way to live amidst this world, without getting sucked into its secular culture that has little use for the practice of faith.

Want to go to church? No problem, as long as it doesn’t interfere with something actually real and meaningful, like hockey practice or pool time. A few years ago, two of my favorite students in my eighth grade Sunday School class stopped showing up. I finally caught up with one of the moms and asked why.

Cheerleading practice. They scheduled it Sunday morning. (Why then? Was the ground not available any other time?)

Slowly, our Christian culture is slipping away, at least in the mainstream. Dreher’s response is to quit fighting the mainstream about it and strengthen the Christian culture you have.

The alternative is for Christians to try to blend in with the mainstream, and likely water down, if not lose, their faith.

I am not called to judge my fellow Catholic hockey parents from so many year ago. But can I point out what they taught their kids? Lesson of the Day:  Go to Church – that place where we acknowledge the Creator and, if Christian, the Son of God, who provides us with abundant life – or don’t go, if you find something better, like splashing around the hotel swimming pool.

And usually the lesson is learned well, so they will always find something better to do.

I understand people wanting things easy. But an easy Christianity, one that fits into their schedule, lifestyle, and relative beliefs? Have you seen the symbol of the Christian faith, a man being crucified on a cross?

Ooh, can’t we have something else, a little more comfortable; something that fits in better?

That, I believe, is the point of The Benedict Option. Quit trying to fit in.

It appears in our culture that faith has less and less influence on our decisions, becoming a faith that is trimmed down beyond recognition.

Without a faith that calls for discipline and service, the true, living God becomes a small-g manipulated god.

A Christian “cannot live faithfully,” Dreher writes, “if God is only a part of his life … 

“In the end, either Christ is at the center of our lives, or Self and all its idolatries are. There is no middle ground.”

It’s an option.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.