NEW YORK -- Catholics are approaching the end of Lent and the start of Holy Week, while college basketball’s “March Madness” tournament begins in a week and baseball’s opening day is in early April.
And the juxtaposition of these seemingly disparate observances is not making Cardinal Timothy Dolan very happy.
Indeed, the archbishop of New York was letting off some steam in a blog post on Thursday (March 10) in which he lamented that Catholics –- and more than a few Catholic organizations –- seem much more interested in “Starbucks and sporting events” than they do in observing the fast days or holy days of this sacred season.
“From what I can detect, instead of fidelity to communal acts of penance, we write in for ‘dispensations’ for the measly eight days of fasting left” on the church’s liturgical calendar, Dolan wrote in a column titled “Have We Lost It?”
“We continue to schedule celebrations, parties, and fundraisers during what should be forty somber days of penance,” he continued. “Our Catholic colleges will compete in ‘March Madness’ even on Good Friday, and coaches in our parishes will complain that CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) games cannot be scheduled on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.”
Dolan noted that adherents of other religions seem much more observant.
He said that when he was walking in Central Park recently and stopped to buy a bottle of water from a sidewalk vendor he saw that the man, a Muslim, had taken a break to kneel on a prayer rug for his devotions.
In response to complaints from Jewish students, New York’s Baruch College adjusted the start time of its May commencement, Dolan noted, so that it would not run into the start of the Sabbath.
And the cardinal also recalled the famous episode from 1965 when Dodgers pitching ace Sandy Koufax decided not to pitch Game 1 of the World Series because it fell on the Jewish high holy day of Yom Kippur.
“Am I exaggerating when I ask if we Catholics have lost it?” Dolan concluded. “Where’s the Catholic Sandy Koufax?”
(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)