hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


May 16, 2013

What will it be -- sports or church?


One league had the audacity to inadvertently schedule a game on Easter Sunday, which caused all sorts of family rebellion at the dinner table. It meant my whole family cutting the holiday short and driving to an arena on the holiest of days.

One Sunday, the archbishop was paying our community a visit and one of my hockey-playing sons was scheduled for altar duty. It was an honor for any child to uphold inside a Christian ethnic family.

But there were serious problems, as I recall. It was also the day of a hockey playoff game and my son’s services were needed on defense. As captain of the group, he had a responsibility to his team.

To be honest about it, the dilemma bothered me more than it did him. Peer pressure for kids is one thing. Adult anxiety is something else. What would my priest say, let alone my fellow congregants?

“What, you took your son to a hockey game during a liturgical manifestation? Where are your priorities, man?”

Well, that’s exactly how I left it, in my son’s hands. “The choice is yours, not mine,” I mandated. “You’re the one who has to live with it.”

I felt a bit awkward talking to a 12-year-old this way, but life is full of decisions, whether we’re a child or an adult. We live by them and sometimes become demoralized by them.

The day of destiny arrived and my son was in the kitchen waiting with no gym bag by his feet. He had donned a necktie and had his missal with him.

“We better hurry so we’ll be on time — for church,” he said.

“What about the game?”

“Oh, there will be others,” he said. “How many kids get to serve Mass for an archbishop? I already told my coach and he understood. He respected my decision.”

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