Saving Sundays

JesusIt’s got to stop, this Sunday frenzy. Sundays now resemble Saturdays and other ordinary days of the week. Have you noticed? Do you mind?

Does anyone else remember quiet, peaceful Sundays when gas stations and most places of business were closed? Sundays where nobody was rushing off to a child’s basketball or soccer game? Sundays when the day was a relaxing experience where spontaneously relatives visited or an outing happened?  Sundays where family members, even if they didn’t go anywhere, used the day to lighten up, calm down, re-charge, relax and read or visit leisurely with others after Mass? Sundays where God was actually put first?  What has happened, and why?

I was talking to a mother of four last week. She works at an occupation she doesn’t particularly like in order to afford Catholic school for her children. She does a crazy good job of getting everyone out the door to school in the morning then herself off to work. She puts in a full day in a stressful environment then picks up her children, helps them with homework, drives them to sports practices and throws something together for dinner. Then, then she gets up the next day and does it all over again…and again…and again…for five straight days. Saturdays are for laundry, cleaning, maintenance and going to her children’s sports games. But the school sports schedule includes Sunday games too. The mom confided to me that the Sunday games are the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. She’s exhausted. She can’t fit in seeing Grandma. Her kids had six games last weekend; three of those games were on Sunday. Even with a helpful husband, she said it’s like running a marathon, and losing. She said she wants, no, needs Sunday…just one day a week to herself, her family and her God. Who can blame her?

I know why they do it. I know why the organizers try to squeeze their events in on Sundays. It’s because “everyone is home on Sundays”. It’s like the last blank spot on the calendar, the final shot for coaches or club organizers or administrators to utilize and be efficient. But at what cost? I think it’s at the family’s detriment. A Catholic high school might schedule a dance on a Sunday because the next day is a holiday– President’s Day or Martin Luther King Junior Day, let’s say.  It’s a day off and the school wants to utilize it. That’s understandable.  But do you know what? Maybe families want to utilize it too. Maybe families want to use the long weekend to visit their college aged kids with the younger ones in tow, or accomplish a fun or charitable project together. Stress is introduced between child and parent when they are forced to choose between activities.  Maybe the family would benefit, after a busy week, from sitting around the table after a big, leisurely Sunday dinner and playing a board game, or charades, or popping in the car to go visit Grandma, but can’t because there’s a National Honor Society induction that evening. Competing activities cause stress.  It seems to me that Catholic schools should be the first to recognize the importance of making Sunday holy and should lead the way to reclaiming Sundays for family by not scheduling events then.

We really need to preserve Sundays for families. Imagine a Sunday where after Mass a family did not experience imposed outside obligations. Imagine if the members chose to spend it together in a common activity, maybe even a parish activity of their choosing. Imagine the bridges that could be built, the conversations that could be had, the ideas that could be exchanged, the fun that could be experienced, the bonds that could be forged and strengthened and nurtured. Imagine the home-cooked meals that would be more likely, the pitching in to clean up together unhurried, rather than rushing out. Imagine how much happier the grandparents would be because they could actually see their grandchildren for an entire afternoon. Perhaps the family rosary would flourish once again if the family had some time together.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI visited Austria, and there exhorted Christians to keep Sundays holy.  The Holy Father urged Christians to set aside Sundays to devote themselves to Christ’s teachings and “create oases of selfless love.” He further stated, “Give the soul its Sunday and give Sunday its soul.” Yes! Oh yes! He continued, “We need … a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives.” ** We must evaluate whether our current Sunday activities help sustain us, give us direction and content to our lives. Are the activities faith-building and family-enriching or simply an extension of the rest of the week? Sundays need to be different. Sundays need to be for faith and family. Everything else should wait.

**http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope_benedict_exhorts_christians_to_keep_sunday_holy/

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