When I was in the fifth or sixth grade my parents started allowing me to go places unsupervised with friends. We used to go bowling on a rainy Saturday or out for a fish and chip dinner on Friday afternoon. We’d walk, ride our bikes, or a parent would volunteer to drop us off and pick us up from whatever place we were headed. We thought we were pretty cool! One Sunday afternoon, my best friend, Ann, called. She wanted to know if I could go to the movies with her and her older brother. I asked my mother if I could go and without hesitation, she replied, “No.”
A bit of an aside here — my friend, Ann, grew up in a very strict and very Catholic household. Her mother was a history teacher and her father a university mathematics professor. She and her siblings went to Catholic schools. They couldn’t come out to play on weekdays, and on weekends there was no playtime for them until they’d practiced their piano lessons and done their chores. The only television programs they were allowed to watch were Walt Disney and Father Fulton Sheen. Now back to my story.
When my mother told me in no uncertain terms that I could not go to the movies with my friends on that particular Sunday afternoon, I immediately pushed back. I, of course, argued that Ann’s very strict parents were allowing to her go, so why couldn’t I? I didn’t think that my request was unreasonable — my homework was done and I wasn’t grounded. (I admit that I was grounded from time to time in my youth for minor infractions and transgressions.) My mother’s response to my “why” was simple and straightforward, “because it’s Sunday.” This was perhaps my first lesson in the importance of keeping the Sabbath.
When I look back now, I guess my mother’s insistence that I stay home that Sunday afternoon was in keeping with our family’s tradition. We always had Sunday dinner and the menu was always the same — a roast of some sort, oven roasted potatoes, with peas and carrots. The dessert was the only variable on the menu. My mom worked in a bakery as a teen and we were the beneficiaries of her experience. In the summer we’d have strawberry shortcake or a pie made from fresh fruit; in the winter there were delicious cakes or some sort of other decadent dessert. After dinner, we used to go for a ride or visit with relatives. Whatever we did on Sundays, it was as a family.
The first reading of the Easter Vigil is from the beginning of the Book of Genesis. It tells the creation story — how God created the heavens and the earth. The reading concludes, “On the seventh day God was finished with the work He had been doing, He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken.” The Third Commandment says, “Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.” But I truly wonder how many of us keep the Sabbath holy anymore. And what does it mean to keep the Sabbath holy, anyway?
The most obvious way we keep the Sabbath holy is by attending Mass. But there are other things we can do to keep the Sabbath. Preparing for Mass by reading the Scripture readings in advance is one way. Really making Sundays a day of rest is yet another way that we can keep the Third Commandment. So often, people see Sundays as a time to catchup on laundry, do the grocery shopping, or do household chores. While I recognize that our time constraints are markedly different from previous generations, here are some ideas to keep Sundays holy. Close the computer and put down the iPad. Spend some time in personal prayer. Listen to some music that inspires you and touches your soul. Spend time with family and friends. Restore or begin the tradition of Sunday dinner and make it a group effort! Did you know that there are cook books specifically dedicated to Sunday suppers? Go outside to enjoy and observe the beauty of nature and the gifts of God’s creation; we are a short drive from many beautiful beaches and nature preserves. And perhaps, most importantly, remember that God rested on the seventh day, and we should, too. We need time to refresh, relax, and rejuvenate our minds, our bodies, and our spirits. This Sunday, make time to rest in the Lord. Have a peaceful Sabbath, or as our Jewish brothers, and sisters would say, Shabbat shalom! And that, my friends, is the Good News!
Anchor columnist Ada Simpson is former editor of Ministry and Liturgy magazine, holds an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry, and is the director of Music Ministry at St. Francis and St. Dominic parishes in Swansea.