Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

cram_halfFor Father Arthur DuPont, whose life and laughter have touched many lives, including mine.

When I was growing up, my family always kept silence from noon to 3 p.m. on Good Friday, marking the hours when Jesus hung on the Cross. All the Christian kids in our neighborhood did the same, and the Jewish kids played quietly during those hours out of respect for us. In return, the Christian kids were quiet on Yom Kippur as our Jewish friends marked their most solemn high holy day, the Day of Atonement.

When Peter and I had children of our own, we gradually taught them to keep Good Friday silence as well. At first, Peter thought the idea was crazy, but he quickly grew to appreciate it. The children accepted it without question.

The difficulty began as the kids entered their teen years. Friends invited them to the movies on Good Friday, or to a birthday party or to the outlet stores. Coaches scheduled sports practice. One kid was invited to the mall to shop for bikinis on Good Friday. Another time, it was prom dress shopping. It turns out that Good Friday has become one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

It’s hard to be different from everyone else, and sometimes our kids objected to our insistence that Good Friday be observed as Catholics rather than as consumers. "I can be a Catholic at the outlet stores just as well as I can at church," one teen lamented. We disagreed.

Our struggle on Good Friday is a microcosm of the uneasy truce that Christians navigate all year round. At least, it should be an uneasy truce. To be a Christian is to be starkly countercultural. When we truly follow Christ, it will be evident in how we live our lives, how we raise our children, how we spend our money and how we conduct our business.

I was a slow learner. Years ago, when 5-year-old Meredith was invited to a Sunday morning birthday party, I bent over backwards to accommodate it. She and I attended church very early Sunday morning, then raced home to get her to the party. I raced back to church (15 miles away) to take a turn helping in the nursery, retrieved the party kid, and returned home 60 miles later. I was exhausted on what was supposed to be a day of rest. Thereafter, Peter and I declared that Sunday mornings were off limits to parties, sports commitments and anything that prevented us from worshipping as a family.

Once the kids grew accustomed to this habit, it became a simple part of life to decline Sunday morning commitments and invitations. But it was not without cost. Missing Sunday morning sports practice sometimes meant that the kid couldn’t play in Monday’s game. Attending a Saturday night sleepover party entailed getting up early Sunday morning while other guests slept, donning dressy clothes and joining the family at Mass.

Most costly was Tierney’s Travel Soccer ambition. Tierney was an outstanding athlete who quickly outgrew the local soccer team. But playing on the Travel Team entailed some Sunday morning practices and tournaments, which Peter and I were not prepared to do.

Finally, when Tierney was about 12, I spoke to the Travel Team coach, who I’d learned was a practicing Catholic. I no sooner had the words out of my mouth when he assured me, "We always make allowances for religious observances. I’d love to have Tierney on the team, and she will not be penalized for missing Sunday practices." I could have kissed him. I wish all coaches had his attitude about faith.

Following Christ is costly. To be a Christian means to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, feed the hungry and visit those in prison. Yes, we are called to actually go into prisons. It means to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Refrain from sexual immorality. Pray without ceasing. Trust God instead of worrying. Allow God’s joy to fill our hearts.

This is radical stuff, but Jesus was pretty radical himself.

For our family, radical Christianity includes taking a stand on Sunday mornings and Good Friday afternoon. Where will you take a stand?

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.