We need Sunday



“…they shall run and not be weary” (Isaiah 40:31).

In a conversation I was having with a young woman recently, she shared her faith journey. She mentioned that, as a young girl, her family never missed Sunday Mass. However, once travel sports began, their attendance faltered; eventually, the Sunday obligation became an afterthought. She remembers feeling a void during high school, but she was unable to pinpoint what was missing.

In college, she became involved in the Newman Center (a Catholic gathering place for students on many campuses) and, through Bible study and conversations with like-minded Catholics, slowly made her way back to the Church. Eventually, she realized, as St. Augustine so aptly said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”

The conversation, once again, convinced me that we all need Sunday. We need a day to hear God’s truths; to sit in His presence with a community of believers; to thank Him for all our gifts; and also to ask Him for assistance with our concerns. We need Jesus’s body and blood to strengthen our resolve to uphold God’s truths in this confusing world. We need Sunday!  Yet the statistics report that more and more Catholics are missing this faith-building opportunity.

Many times I am asked, “How do you come up with ideas for your column?”  The simple answer is, “I don’t.” Through listening to others, many prayers to the Holy Spirit, reading daily Scripture and Christian writers, an idea always materializes.

For example, I had the concept for this column a few weeks ago; but preliminary efforts to put it on paper failed. Then, one morning, I felt a persistent nudge to listen to that day’s “Bible in a Year” podcast. I was rewarded with a beautiful passage from Isaiah 40: 29-32. (It’s worth looking up.)

Podcast host Father Mike Schmitz followed the readings with a short reference to Eric Liddell. That name may not be immediately familiar; but to those of you who watched the 1981 Oscar winning film “Chariots of Fire,” you may recall that Eric Liddell was an incredible athlete. Besides being “Scotland’s fastest runner,” he also earned a position on Scotland’s National Rugby Union team.

However, unlike most athletes of phenomenal talent, he has not been forgotten – even though his accomplishments occurred almost 100 years ago. Why? Perhaps, because he told his coach well in advance of the 1924 Olympics that he would not run in the qualifying heat of the 100-meter race, his favored race. Why? The heats were to be held on Sunday. For Eric, Sunday was reserved for God alone.

He did compete later in the 400 meters, in which he previously held a modest time. Shortly before the start of that race, one of the team’s masseurs handed him this note. “He that honours (sic) me, I will honour” (1 Sam 2:30). That day Eric won gold and set a world record that stood for 10 years. He also won a bronze in the 200 meters.

Eric went on to be a missionary in China from 1925 through 1943. He died in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, In 1941, he had urged his pregnant wife Florence (a missionary from Canada) to return home to safety with their two young daughters. She did.

Years later, the now-grown women spoke of how difficult it was to live without their father – especially Maureen, who knew him only through others. However, they came to terms with his loss when they realized the impact his life had on so many. Heather explained, “He belonged to everyone else in the world as well as us. I understand that we were meant to share him.”

Eric Liddell is remembered today not for his talent but because of his character and his resolve to honor his priorities. His headmaster once said he was a man “entirely without vanity.” Eric understood from whence his talent came, and he willingly sacrificed his talent and his life to honor the Giver of all gifts. For that reason, he continues to be an inspiration to Christians everywhere and a reminder that we all need Sunday.