Most believe marriage makes them a better person

Archdiocese compiles feedback from family questionnaire

The majority of the 2,558 Catholics that responded to a questionnaire conducted by the Archdiocese of Denver indicate they pray regularly, say they would like to hear more homilies on how to connect the faith to their day-to-day lives, and believe being married has made them a better person.

The 38-question, multiple-choice, non-scientific questionnaire was made available on the archdiocese’s website from Feb. 9 through March 2 in response to Pope Francis’ call for input from Catholics for the Oct 4-25 Vatican synod on the family.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila will also use the information to better serve his flock in Colorado, according to David Uebbing, chancellor.

“People really appreciated the chance to say something and be part of the synod on the family,” Uebbing told the Denver Catholic.

While he was pleased with the response rate for the questionnaire, the first of its kind for northern Colorado Catholics, he hopes future versions will reach a wider audience, including more young people and men. Seventy-two percent of respondents were 45 and older, and 65 percent were female.

“We need to improve this tool’s reach among a younger demographic, especially teens, and men,” he said. “We heard from a cross-section of people that go to Mass weekly and that are participating in their parishes—a snapshot of the person in the pew.”

Nine in 10 respondents said they attend Mass at least once a week, 75 percent are married and 95 percent have children. Nine in 10 responded that, if asked, they would be able to tell the story of their relationship with Christ.

“That’s a great testimony to the priests and clergy,” Uebbing said, “that people are being well-formed and are in tune with their relationship with Christ.”

The questionnaire revealed that marriage preparation and support for couples after marriage need to be improved. More than half reported their marriage preparation did not adequately prepare them for marriage and about the same amount said they didn’t receive enough support from their parish once married. One-third shared that they do not agree with Church teaching on contraception.

Results and comments generated from an open-ended question “How can the Church better foster stronger and more faithful families?”—367 pages of comments in all—will also be provided to the Office of Evangelization and Family Life Ministries. It will give them a better idea of which resources would be most helpful to Catholics, Uebbing said.

“(The results) confirm the need for good marriage preparation,” he said, an area that has been a priority for Archbishop Aquila, “and improving resources on natural family planning and theology of the body.”

The information is in the process of being compiled into a report that will be delivered to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by late March. In turn, the USCCB will submit the results from the entire country to the Vatican. The universal feedback will be used to prepare a working document to help guide the bishops’ discussions at the synod. This synod is the second and larger of two such Vatican gatherings of bishops over the course of a year. The focus will be “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”

Once the USCCB report is compiled, a summary of the questionnaire results will be prepared and made available to priests of the archdiocese, as well as posted online at www.archden.org.

Questionnaire – By the numbers
2,558 responded

About the respondents
72% 45+ years old
75% married
95% have children

About their faith
91% attend Mass once a week or more
91% pray regularly
90% would like more homilies on connecting faith to daily life
83% said marriage made them a better person
54% said marriage prep didn’t adequately prepare them for marriage
34% do not agree with Church teaching on contraception

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.