Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20: 8)
Once a week our family observes an entire day of rest from gain, worry, and distraction. We keep the Sabbath and the Sabbath keeps us. No, we are not Jewish, we are Catholic. Sunday in our home is the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, the day of holy rest.
The most overlooked commandment among modern Christians is the one that calls us to rest. Many of us think observing the Lord’s Day simply means attending Mass, but celebrating the Eucharist is not a complete observance of Sunday. We are also called to refrain “from those activities which impede the worship of God and disturb the joy proper to the day of the Lord or the necessary relaxation of mind and body.” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 453)
In recent decades, the gift of Sabbath-keeping has been largely abandoned by Christians. Like the rest of society, we have forgotten what true rest means. God calls us to rest once a week with good reason: we are called to stop and remember who we are (and are not) in relation to God and what our role in creation is. By keeping the Sabbath, we regain our souls and strengthen our families.
Early in our marriage, my wife and I reflected on things we remembered that strengthened our families while growing up. Keeping the Sabbath was the thing we most remembered. We decided to restore this lost treasure to our family. For inspiration, we turned to our Jewish brothers and sisters. Keeping the Sabbath held the Jewish people together through centuries of persecution. Just as the Sabbath is a “little Passover” for Jews, Sunday is a “little Easter” for Christians and not simply “little Saturday.” The Sabbath keeps families centered in God, bringing worship into the home, and not leaving it behind in church. This prevents us from compartmentalizing our faith. Christians are a new creation in Christ and we are called to celebrate this each Sunday, all day.
On Saturday evening, my wife bakes her special Sabbath bread and our home is filled with the wonderful aroma. (Nothing says home like fresh-baked bread!) On Sunday morning, she lights the Sabbath candle and says a prayer to invite the Sabbath. I give each member of the family a blessing. After breakfast, we worship with our community of faith. Back home by noon, we enjoy a special meal in the dining room, served on our best china. We begin the meal with a blessing over the bread and wine. In the afternoon, we usually stay close to home, although we do go for walks, ride bikes, or occasionally drive into town for ice cream. We do not go shopping (even online) or disperse ourselves in multiple directions. The television, the computer, and electronic devices stay off. All of our household chores are done on Saturday. We give ourselves permission to spend an entire day and night at rest together; reading, praying, cooking, and playing. We call relatives, have real conversations, laugh, remember our ancestors, enjoy nature, and take lazy naps. We let projects and problems wait for 24 hours while we remember who we are. It is a day of freedom and renewal every week. It is something we can always rely on. It is a commitment to one another that we never break. We conclude the day by giving thanks and extinguishing the candle.
Sabbath-keeping is one of the 10 Commandments with good reason. God knows what we need. All of our troubles and worries can certainly wait for 24 hours once a week. They will still be there waiting for us when we return, but we will see them differently; they will take their place in line behind the one thing (the one Person) necessary. Keep the Sabbath day holy. You will be glad you did, and your family will thank you.