A Parent’s Perspective
After the year we’ve endured, it may seem strange to focus a bit more on Sunday being a day of rest. Some of us have had our fill of sitting at home resting on the couch, with one day seeming to merge into the next and weekends spent catching up on grocery shopping, cleaning and tending to various DIY jobs or work in the garden. We can be tempted to treat Saturday and Sunday as being quite similar with nothing in particular happening that makes the Lord’s day stand out as being special. This has become more of an issue at present as we can’t even attend Sunday Mass, something that definitely marked our Sundays as dedicated to God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is very clear when it describes the celebration of Sunday as observing the moral commandment inscribed in the human heart to render to God “an outward, visible, public, and regular worship as a sign of his universal beneficence to all”. It informs us that the Sunday Eucharist is “the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice”. We wait and pray for the day when we can joyfully return to Mass but, in the meantime, we can still make Sundays what Pope John Paul II described as the “Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death”.
The day of rest we should all be enjoying on a Sunday is not an excuse to just chill on the couch, lie in bed half the day or focus entirely on our own pursuits. All human life has a rhythm of work and rest and the institution of the Lord’s Day according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church “helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives”. The way society operates today, it’s become increasingly difficult for many working people to carve out that one day where they don’t have to be engaged in labour. My husband works in the retail sector and is fortunate to have Sundays off in an industry where more and more people don’t have that choice. One positive result of all the lockdowns is that heading to the local shopping centre on Sundays isn’t an option anymore. We can immerse ourselves more in rediscovering Sunday. I highly recommend that all Catholics read Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Dies Domini, on the subject of keeping the Lord’s day holy. He wrote glowingly, quoting St Jerome: “Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day.” What can we do to make our day, a day for God, rather than just another day of constant work and busyness with nothing marking its significance for us as Christians?
Catholics, if at all possible, abstain from labours and business concerns which stand in the way of worshipping God and participating in the joy that should be experienced on Sundays. We need to re-evaluate our understanding of leisure. Leisure is primarily a stillness of the spirit and an opening of our hearts and minds to receive. The ideal Sunday should contain plenty of time for prayer, reflection and Christian meditation. I’ve noticed that tuning into online Masses at home has led to a bit of laxity with pyjama wearing and general lounging around extending into the late morning or early afternoon. Putting a structure on the day involves a bit of pre-planning, have the shopping for dinner completed the day before; try to have homework finished and the house looking nice. Many families find that keeping things a little calmer adds to the sense of the peace and joy of the day and aim to have a few technology and phone-free hours. Every family is different but I think most can find time for the family Rosary and some scripture reading. With May fast approaching, planning some visits to various shrines of Our Lady would be perfect for sunny Sundays. It’s an ideal time to enjoy the beautiful world God has given us. There is nothing like being out in forests or mountains or by the sea to help us to recapture our sense of wonder and tranquility. In Dies Domini, St Pope John Paul II talks about how the beauties of nature, “often marred by the desire to exploit” can be rediscovered and enjoyed.
Have an especially nice dinner, dress up a bit more for the day but make room in our homes and affections for those who may need our care”
Pope John Paul II also talked of how Sunday rest can help us to put our daily concerns and anxieties into perspective. We try to forget the material and focus on the spiritual, it’s a time for reaching out to others and having meaningful encounters with those we live with. But it’s also a day for going beyond our immediate family to perform works of mercy, charity and evangelisation. From the time of the early Christians, the Sunday gathering has been a time of fraternal sharing with the poor. Have an especially nice dinner, dress up a bit more for the day but make room in our homes and affections for those who may need our care. If we can’t physically help, at least donate generously to charitable causes: so many are in need at the moment. Whatever we do to make Sunday more like what it should be, the important thing is to remember the lovely words of Psalm 118, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.”