Sometimes when you throw a little pebble in a pond you get a surprisingly big ripple. That’s what happened with my column last month. I tossed out the rather old and rather biblical idea that Sundays are special, that they ought to be honored as the Lord’s Day and respected as a day for families. I certainly didn’t expect the tidal wave of responses I’ve received.
First, I was phoned by people I know — siblings, parishioners, neighbors. Then I was stopped after Mass, tapped on the shoulder in the grocery store, and stopped in a parking lot by people who said the message of the column resonated with them deeply. One mom had tears in her eyes as she described how much strife she felt over never being able to visit her mother-in-law because of imposed scheduling. Another told me that she brought her comments to a local school board meeting for consideration. A third photocopied the article and said she was sending it to a local sports organization for which her children play athletics.
Then, e-mails and handwritten letters started popping into my inbox like Christmas cards in December. What do I make of it all? Let’s read a few comments and see.
“I honestly believe that many people fell away from all churchgoing partly because Sunday seemed to be the only day to actually rest,” wrote Karen, “(People) just couldn’t face one more day (of) fighting to get children and themselves out of the house in a frantic rush to go to church.”
Sarah, a mother of young children wrote, “Sundays should not be a day to make these tough choices between a basketball game and dinner at Grandma’s house.”
Ann, whose husband is a sports reporter quipped, “My husband can tell you that for the past 20 years while he has covered Notre Dame football I have said that Notre Dame will have a winning season once they stop holding Sunday press conferences.”
So consider this column “Saving Sundays: Part two.” We’ve identified the problem, and most everyone agrees we need to address it. Now let’s talk about a few ways to reclaim the day.
First, like the Nike commercial recommends, we must just say “no.” We must say “no” to the demands that press for our attention, that steal time from our families. We can find a few like-minded parents to join us in kindly approaching those in charge of scheduling our children’s athletic and academic events. We can explain why we need Sunday to ourselves and ask for cooperation. We can mention that the Church commands us to keep Sundays as the Lord’s Day because on Sunday Christ rose from the dead and on Sunday the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.
We can point to the biblical quote “Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of complete rest, sacred to the Lord.” (NAB Ex 31:15) We can also just say, “I need a break! My family needs to be together!” If enough people do that, maybe scheduling changes will be made. Besides, the schedulers themselves might even be thinking the same thing.
Second, we should avoid servile work. Our bodies and minds need rest and refreshment. What is servile work? The Baltimore Catechism states, “Servile work is that which requires labor of body rather than of mind… Servile work is allowed on Sunday when the honor of God, our own need, or that of our neighbor requires it.”
Third, we must make a conscious effort to make Sunday special. We need to prepare a special Sunday meal, maybe even have a special Sunday tablecloth and use those china dishes sitting in the dining room which are currently just on display. We could play cards, or board games, plan an outing ice skating or sledding in the winter. We could go to the beach in the summer. We could visit relatives or bring cookies and friendship to neighbors. We could participate in a parish activity; invite our parish priest over for dinner and ask him to bless the house. We could ask Grandpa to tell a story. Snuggle with a child and read a story of the saints. The possibilities are endless when we reclaim this day, the Lord’s Day and again, make it our own.
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