Sports and the Sabbath

The summer of 2016 was an exciting time in sports. Many of my fellow New Yorkers endured a hot July day to witness the Hall of Fame induction of Ken Griffey Jr. and our own Mike Piazza. As Americans, we watched in awe of our gold medal Olympians. My own kids were doing summersaults all around their Aunt Christine’s house as we cheered for Simone Biles. Later, they stayed up past their bedtime to witness Katie Ledecky break yet another world record. Interestingly, all three of these athletes are quite serious about their Catholic faith.

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Katie Ledecky shared, “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective.”

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Simone Biles explained the contents of her Olympic bag: “Along with her bottled water, bobby pins, Beats headphones and cheetah-print umbrella, Biles carries a white rosary. ‘My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church. I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but I have it there in case.’”

And Pope Benedict XVI was quoted in Cooperstown when Mike Piazza proclaimed that “One who has hope lives differently.” The all-start catcher added, “My mother gave me the greatest gift a mother can give a child. She gave me the gift of my Catholic faith. This has had a profound impact on my career and it has given me patience, compassion and hope.”

In Piazza’s speech, he also said, “Above all, my religion is a source of personal strength, not a reason to impose your will or put down those who are different. My belief in God has driven me since my childhood and formed my core values of hard work, faith and belief in yourself.”

All three athletes speak of their faith as giving them something important. I have sometimes, however, met Christians who criticize sports as a waste of time. And many are concerned that people are playing sports on Sunday, which is supposed to be the Holy Day dedicated to God.

After creating the earth and humanity, God rested. Genesis says that, “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gen: 2:1-3).

Cardinal Ratzinger speaks in our class book, “In the Beginning…A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall,” of the “Sabbath Structure of Creation.” Ratzinger explains that the day of rest, which some could view as a waste of time, was established by God as a way “to return to the source” and “participate in God’s freedom” (Ratzinger, p. 31). For Christians, rest is an important way to see beyond the day-to-day grind and to recognize our ultimate reality: where we came from and where we are going.

For Discussion:

Do you think that sports are actually good for Christians? How might sports and faith be complementary? Are you concerned that sports are played on the Christian holy day and that these athletes, who claim to be Catholic, are working out and competing on Sundays?


24 thoughts on “Sports and the Sabbath”

  1. I do not think that being a professional athlete and having to work on Sundays is in conflict with being a good Catholic. There are many professions that have their days of rest on days other than Sundays. People in retail or service industries routinely have to work on weekends. I think that a day of rest is important for reflection and renewal, but that it can be on whatever day you might need it to be to work with your job requirements. The important thing is that you a day, not which day it is.

    1. I completely agree with you Christine. Also in some religions there is a dispute on which day is truly the Sabbath. Seven Day Adventist believe the Holy day is on Saturdays, while most believe it’s Sundays.

    2. I agree with you that your day of rest does not have to be exactly on Sunday, as long as you have a day. I also agree that it is important to have at least one day for reflection and renewal, it is easy to just get caught up in your everyday life without taking the time todo so.

  2. In my opinion, being a athlete and a Catholic doesn’t conflict with each other, because it only takes a day in a week to go to the church and pray, but if you don’t have time to go to the church, you can just pray normally to yourself as Simone Biles said, because faith is inside of you.

  3. The playing of sports on Sundays is a good thing for Christians not just for the athletes but for the one’s watching. Those who are Christian athletes can spread the word of the Lord through their popularity. Those who watch sports often use it as a time to bond with family and friends and relax after a long week. Through this people are being social, something God put us on this earth to do. Overall; sports are good for those who participate and those who watch.

  4. Yes, sports are good for Christians because sports can be considered as an outlets for individuals. Sports and faith might be complementary because sports can keep one grounded and steadfast in their religion. Athletes can be versatile with their sport and practice religion at the same time.

  5. I only think sports would be bad in a Christian sense if those sports took away from faith and God. These athletes still embrace their religion even though they may play on those days. Even though they may spend their time on Sunday, but it’s not detrimental to their connection with God.

  6. I believe sports are good for Christians because it is a good outlet. It keeps people focused and keeps them from bad influences in their environment. I am not concerned with people playing sports on the Christian holy day. In my own religion’s holy day of the week, people pray and then resume on with their daily activities. So I believe Christians should be able to do the same; they can pray before or after working out or competing. Even if they may not be able to make it to church, there is always enough time in the day to make a prayer. Also, if you believe God is in your heart and always with you, then everything you do in your life will be associated with God.

    1. I definitely agree with you that sports can be an outlet for Christians. This is one of the many ways that sports play a positive effect in many people’s lives.

  7. I don’t think sports are bad for Christians. Sports and religion are two different things, that are very sane for individuals. I believe they can be complementary.

    I am going assume that for these athletes, their “return to the source” and “participate in God’s freedom” is to play sports. God has given them talent and the ability to be professional athletes. This for them, could be what makes them realize where they came from and where they are going. For all we know, they may worship early in the morning, late in the evening…Who knows. I don’t believe that it is necessary to be in church on Sundays to give thanks, be grateful, and reflect. As long as you feel it in your heart, you can do it anywhere at anytime.

    I definitely believe we all go through a situation/situations that makes us closer to God. And if for these athletes, the sport makes them closer to God, makes them have faith in their religion, than so be it! I’m not at all concerned that they play on Sundays. After all, isn’t the main focus to believe, have faith in God? to seek God? If they keep God in their hearts everywhere they go and worship him, that should be all that matters.

  8. I do think that sports are actually good for Christians because the athletes are putting their gift from God into practice instead of just not using it. The audience, who is watching, gets to spend time with their brothers and sisters in Christ and love them, which is what Christians are called to do. Sports and faith are complementary because without God, they would not have been able to push through til the end. Just like Piazza said in his speech “Above all, my religion is a source of personal strength…”. I am concerned that sports are played on the Christian holy day and that these athletes, who claim to be Catholic, are working out and competing on Sundays because Sunday is to reflect on one’s life and to be thankful for all the things God has given to them including their sports talent. Now a days, there are coaches and higher in office people who are not Christian and do not care about God, which makes it difficult for those who are Christian athletes forcing them to choose to leave the sport just to have Sunday off or to stay and not have Sunday off to be with God, reflect on one’s life, and be thankful for their gifts.

  9. I think that overall sports are a good thing to participate in. It teaches one many things. How to be a good teammate, how to participate with a team, how to practice patience, work hard and many other areas. Personally I don’t necessarily think that playing sports on a Sunday is a bad thing, but I would say that those who do consider themselves Christians or Catholics should have another day in which they attend church, or further their relationship with the Lord.

  10. I want to first start off by saying thank you for sharing this wonderful post! I had no idea Ledecky was Catholic. I think sports are good for everyone; anyone that believes (doesn’t believe) in any religion. Sports is very universal and has a way of connecting many different people together under hard work and sportsmanship. Faith compliments sports in the way that you give thanks to God for a good game or praise that small injury did not cost you your life. I believe it must also helps calm pre-game jitters. While God/The Bible says that the 7th day (Sunday) should be kept for the Lord and that we shouldn’t work, God also knows each and everyone of of us. God has a plan for each of his children (Jeremiah 29:11). If his plan was to make Biles shine at the Olympics in order to inspire others, then I find it no problem for athletes for work out and/or compete on Sundays.

  11. I think sports are good for Christians, as written in the Bible, God worked seven days to created the Earth and humans, and on the seventh day he rested. You can’t work all the time, as athlete maybe you should take a day-off, and don’t think it as waste of time.

  12. Sports are good for Christians because they give the athletes a chance to better appreciate their gift by using their gift from God during practices and games. Sports and faith are complementary because faith gives an athlete hope that they always win in some way in every practice and game they play in whether that be beating their last personal record or making a shot like one had been practicing on for months. In Piazza’s speech, he said, “She gave me the gift of my Catholic faith. This has had a profound impact on my career and it has given me patience, compassion, and hope.” A good Christian would know not to practice or play games on a Sunday, but the people who are in charge of planning games and practices may not be Christian; therefore, not caring about the Christian athletes forcing them to choose between their sport, which practices or has a game on a Sunday or a holy day with God.

  13. I believe that it is okay for athletes of the Christian faith to partake in events on weekends and holy days because it could be there way of spreading the word, using their famous names to represent what they believe in.

  14. I agree sports are a great thing to part take in. If it is apart of your life, sports can be one of the many things you thank God for. Although many sporting events do fall on Sundays, I don’t think its “bad” for a Catholic athlete to play on a Sunday. If they are enjoying what they love, why should they stop? I believe when God rested on the 7th day, it did not mean to completely stop and drop everything. I believe its more towards the do what makes you happy and you enjoy. Not something that will stress someone out or something that one does not like doing, for example.

  15. I believe that sports can be good for anyone that is motivated and very into what they love. Being a Christian and playing sports doesn’t have to conflict with each other. Playing sports and focusing/being true to your religion are two different things. Sports and faith might be complementary because just as the athletes said, they all have a good relationship with their religion/faith. Having a relationship with their faith could help the athletes with their sports in many ways. I am not concerned with sports being played on the Christian holy day because although this does happen, many people also go to church, etc. on Sundays as well as play sports. Also Sunday is not the only day that people celebrate the holy day, many people celebrate this day throughout the entire week, sometimes more than one day a week.

  16. I think that sports don’t really correlate with religion. Yes, some sports try to avoid people’s views, but you can be whatever religion. I think that if you are a true Christian, then sports won’t get in the way. Make time for God on your own time, but remember that he comes first.

  17. I think that sports are good in general for everyone who wants to participate in them. If you are a Catholic, I don’t think that sports will interfere with your religion. If you are a true catholic, you will always find a way to praise God and make your own time.

  18. As a catholic who works almost every Sunday, I do not believe that playing sports nor working out on the Sabbath has anything to do with a person’s belief. Every person has their own belief systems and how they choose to follow their religion, playing sports or working on the Sabbath has nothing to do with the strength or belief of a certain person’s faith. Every person has their own way of following their religion and sports should not intercept with it.

  19. I personally believe that sports does not contradict Catholicism any religion in any way. Originally many years ago Sunday was the “free” day for many Americans as people still only worked majority on Sundays including those in the media industry. The media was desperately looking for programing on Sundays therefore many sports came to play on Sundays, “the day of rest” also the day many civilians are able to sit around with family and enjoy the day together in peace, love and happiness. The bible does say that God rested on the seventh day but does not necessarily say that it was a Sunday, nor do we actually know if God created humanity and earths existence in seven days. I don’t think that sports on a Sunday is a bad day because church does not determine if you are a decent or good person. It is true that we should gather with others in the same faith to share our beliefs and traditions but the church itself offers many opportunities that is not necessarily a mass on Sunday. To summarize the person playing the sport gets to use what God gave him and the people watching it get to create many memories with their families as they gather around a television or physically go to a game.

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