Friends, Sunday has long been one of my favorite days, and I realized I may be in the minority on that. I say, what’s not to love about Biblically-mandated feasting and relaxation?
For those with not enough feasting and relaxation in their lives, I wrote an article for Catholic Stand called 4 Steps to a Better Sunday, which you can also read below. Mark you calendar - I’ll be joining the Morning Air radio show on Friday, August 30 at 7:15 am to talk with John and Glen about this. You can stream and listen live on your phone or iPad here. In the meantime - what are you doing to observe the Sabbath? Yes, having a cookout and drinking a beer with neighbors counts.
4 Steps to a Better Sunday
In college, I learned the phrase “the Sunday scaries.” It means that feeling of dread on Sunday night as Monday morning approaches, with its threat of work, meetings, overdue homework, tests, and all the unwelcome results of procrastination. With this train of thought, Sunday night symbolizes the end of fun and freedom for the next five days. Sound familiar?
Ultimately, God chose the Sabbath to be a day of rest – His day – when we, as His children, are to enjoy Him, each other, and give thanks for all that He has given us. I believe a Sunday well spent is not only the cure for “the Sunday scaries” but for the Monday morning blues as well! When Sunday is properly-ordered, the rest of the week follows.
“Christians celebrate the Sunday because it is the day of the Lord’s Resurrection and the beginning of the new creation. Catholics are obliged to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist on Sundays and to devote the remainder of the day to rest, relaxation, spiritual reflection and activities that are consonant with this.” [United States Catechism for Adults, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2006, p.529]
Here are a few things you and your family can do to not only give proper reverence to the Sabbath, but to set yourself on a course for a happy and holy week.
Extra time for prayer
On Sunday mornings, I intentionally set aside extra time for prayer, first thing in the morning. I structure my time to include my usual, daily prayer practice and anything extra I feel called toward. This could include a rosary, a meditation with the day’s Scripture, or an Ignatian-style colloquy with God. Or it could be meditating on the life of a saint, practicing Lectio Divina, or spending time praying for someone else’s intentions.
The key thing here is to have a willing heart. Understandably, sometimes prayer is hard because the world and our lives are full of distraction. But prayer should never be rote, even in times of spiritual desolation. Instead, it is good to come to God sincerely, with the true concerns and needs on our heart and the trust that He hears. Otherwise, if approached as work, it is more difficult for the grace of prayer to work in our lives.
The fruit of this time spent in extra prayer is contentment, peace, and the knowledge that God is near. What better day than Sunday to not only be open to these graces, but to actively welcome them!
Enjoy Catholic content
When I was young I remember reading the Little House on the Prairie series and feeling awed by the austerity of the Ingalls family’s Sunday observances. No cooking, no playing, and the only reading could come from the Bible. I think cooking and playing are critical components of a Sunday well spent. And while reading from the Bible is commendable (and should be done every day of the week), it need not be your only resource on Sunday. Truly, there is an abundance of Catholic content to read, watch, and listen to in order to set Sunday apart as a holy day.
For example, many churches are now sponsoring Formed for their parishioners. Formed is a free app with Catholic movies, podcasts, audio books and special content for kids. It is perfect to put on while getting ready for church, cooking dinner, or simply spending time together as a family. Formed offers information on everything from the lives of the saints to deep dives into theological debates from well-known speakers. But Formed is just one example of one-stop-shop Catholic entertainment.
Other ways you can consume Catholic content on Sunday: you can listen to Relevant Radio, which has a streaming service where you can listen live, for free. Or try a podcast like the informative and hilarious conversations of Fr. Anthony and Fr. Harrison on Clerically Speaking. CNA Newsroom has become a personal favorite. And I never miss Bishop Robert Barron’s weekly homilies.
Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services also have plenty of religiously themed movies – all you have to do is search! By the way, none of these things requires a TV – all are accessible on a phone, a tablet, a notebook, or a laptop.
Sunday is a day for feasting, whether that’s at breakfast, a big, post-Mass brunch, or a delicious dinner at home. If you come from a family where the shared Sunday meal is a tradition, congratulations – you already know how fun this is. And if you don’t have this tradition, congratulations – you get to start a tradition of your own choosing!
The Sunday meal is not about indulging for its own sake. The Sunday meal is an opportunity to slow down, connect over conversation, and share your blessings (a bountiful table) with others.
Which brings me to my next point: a big meal is meant to be shared, and Sunday is the perfect opportunity. It can be argued that hospitality is a lost art, and one whose loss means fewer opportunities for real, human connection – so chronically needed today. I do not need to share statistics related to the loneliness epidemic (though it has been in the news). Chances are, you’re already aware of how fractured our society is. Sunday dinner won’t solve this problem entirely, but it’s a little step any of us can take toward creating a more human-centered world.
No matter your age, consider welcoming family, friends, and neighbors into your home for a meal. If ‘full-on’ cooking is too much, tea and coffee are good, too. The important thing is to get together – to provide the opportunity for face-to-face connection. St. Benedict reminds us in his Rule, “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
Do something for someone else
Jesus always calls us to be of service to others, to “Love one another as I have loved you,” (John 13:34), and what better way to honor our Creator than to serve those created in His image. Volunteering or giving back is not just good for those served, it’s good for our own souls – an opportunity to be grateful for our blessings, to meet new, like-minded people, and maybe to learn a little about ourselves.
When setting out to find a volunteer opportunity, there are a few things to keep in mind. Two important points to consider are what type of service you would like to engage with, and whether you want to do so by yourself or with family and friends. I mention this because service for service’s sake is a bit empty; God calls us to use our gifts for others.
So, if serving breakfast at a soup kitchen is not your favorite thing, that’s okay. Maybe you are more suited to a pro-life knitting group or a group gardening activity. Also, if you see a need but no immediate volunteer listing available, be proactive. Reach out and offer your own expertise to your parish. When looking for an opportunity, your parish is a great place to start. You can also check the volunteer listings at your local Catholic Charities.
Remember the Sabbath, keep Sunday holy
Are there other things you could do to live Sunday more intentionally? How about spending time in nature; devoting time to the crafts and projects in your garage that you love but have put off; calling family members in other parts of the world; or instituting family game night? Remember the goal in all these activities is to do something different that sets Sunday apart as a special, holy day for fellowship – with others and with God.