I was recently reading an article in a secular family magazine and the writer talked about transforming Sunday evening from a time of dread into something her family could look forward to. She described the busy-ness of their usual Sundays (errands, homework, chores, etc.) and her longing for their routine to change so that they would all be less crabby. She and her kids recruited neighbors for their project and the goal was to make Sunday night fun and relaxing for everyone on the block who was up for it. Neighborhood game night (or family game night, if no one else could make it) became the norm, and she rejoiced in the discovery of a Sunday they could all look forward to.
This mom stumbled onto some ancient wisdom, and now her family and friends are reaping the benefits. Her family's overwhelming busy-ness forced her to take a step back and think about what she could do differently to help her family rest and recharge.
I remember very well what my weekends looked like before I learned that Sunday could be different, could be a day set aside.
When I first became a Catholic, I went to Mass alone. Atticus didn't want to join me, so I took off for Mass every Sunday and enjoyed some quiet time. We were living in a small town that was about a 25-minute drive to the church in which I'd been received and most Sundays I reveled in the time alone. Of course I wanted my husband to convert, too, but if he wasn't going to do that, I decided to take advantage of the situation.
After Mass, I went shopping and used the day for my big grocery run. I didn't have a toddler with me! I could skip down the aisles and not tell anyone, "No! Don't put that in the cart!" I didn't have to stop to change a diaper! I could get so much done!
I headed home, unloaded groceries, and started laundry, usually at least two big loads. Then I'd tidy up the house, and generally get ready for Monday.
Then one night, at a Bible study, someone mentioned refraining from work on Sundays. I said, "What? Whaddaya mean?" My friend replied, "You know -- like not doing unnecessary shopping or doing laundry, or housework or any of that stuff."
I pictured myself in the grocery store on Sunday, my cart loaded to the gills. I called to mind the image of Sunday's laundry piles, and the way I did a bunch of Sunday cleaning so as to start Monday fresh and ready for the week. I thought about how I'd never thought of Sunday as "different" -- other than the fact that I now went to Mass that day.
"Huh," I said. "That's...interesting." I decided to try it.
But changing Sundays was a process, not an overnight thing. Atticus and I had never really treated Sunday as different from any other day of the week, unless you counted sleeping in and lingering over coffee and the newspaper. With Mass now a part of my life, our Sundays were already looking different ... I decided that maybe I could change just one thing at a time to shoot for this Catholic approach.
First, I started grocery shopping on a different day. Sometimes I took my two little girls with me during the week (Betsy had arrived about a year after I came into the Church), and sometimes I ran out to shop in the evening, alone. (Ah, blessed grocery shopping alone! I was a mom with a low thrill threshold.)
Once I had that change in place, I rescheduled laundry. I got as caught up on it as I could by Saturday. When the girls were little, of course there were times that some nastiness had to be washed on a Sunday, but doing a small, necessary load was much easier and less time-consuming than doing a week's worth of laundry.
With just these two changes, Sunday was feeling incredibly free and light. Mindfully resting, deliberately recharging? Huh. This was interesting. And did I really have to do any housecleaning on Sunday? Nah...
Over the years, and especially after Atticus came into the Church, we put more and more effort into creating an atmosphere for Sundays that made it feel different from the rest of the week. Although we still stopped (and still do) at the grocery store for donuts after Mass, we quit doing any other kind of shopping. We didn't schedule activities, chores, or work around the house for Sundays -- we went to Mass, then we headed home to rest, read, relax, hang out with our kids, take walks, have a family movie time, cook dinner together. We found ourselves saying things like, "I'll do that chore tomorrow. It's Sunday!"
Our Sunday approach seems to have rubbed off on our kids (see Ramona examples here and here). I see Anne-with-an-e putting it into practice with her college course work, scheduling homework to be done by Saturday, so that she can really rest on Sunday. We all cherish the respite that Sunday is, the oasis in the desert of the workweek.
Keeping Sunday holy doesn't feel like an obligation, or a rule we have to stick to, or a silly regulation. It feels like a gift. It makes us so happy, really.
I love ancient wisdom.
Para 2175: Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:
"Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death."
Para 2176: The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all." Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.
Para 2184: Just as God "rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done," human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.
Para 2185: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.
Para 2186: Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.