What Weekends Were
“TGIF!” At our house, the weekend typically started Friday night. Time to shut down, make dinner as easy as possible, and call it a week.
Saturday was the day to sleep in, relax, be lazy. The kids would watch tv or play video games, reminiscent of Saturday morning cartoons when I was a kid. My wife and I got a few extra moments of sleep. Despite the best intentions, this idleness would typically continue throughout the day. This didn’t always seem too bad, except for the unfinished projects merely stared at rather than checked off the list. Once the oldest boys started playing Pop Warner Football, Saturday was shot (not to mention most week nights).
Sunday morning typically began in chaos. Sleeping in a little too long when everyone should’ve been getting ready for church. We wanted to make it to Mass early enough so that the whole day wasn’t lost. After Mass, we usually needed to run a couple errands. After those errands turned into a few wasted hours, we’d get home only to realize it was time to get something done. Sunday evening lying in bed, we often wondered what happened to the weekend and felt more exhausted then rested.
We decided something had to change. We knew Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest, so we started by looking at how we could achieve that. One of our first attempts was going to Saturday night Mass. We figured that by not rushing around Sunday morning, the whole day would be more restful. There was some truth in this approach, but something was still missing.
We also started thinking that Sunday should be more about community. We started holding a big dinner for any of our friends who could make it. This was initially great, including one epic 36-hour party. We even expanded it to include the Rosary after dinner. But over the course of a year or so it fizzled a bit. Not only had it become a lot of work, we soon started wondering whether or not people felt like they had to come. When you spend Saturday cleaning for and all day Sunday cooking only to wonder if anyone wants to come, it becomes taxing. In addition, we were losing time with our kids as we tried to get everyone to clean up for the guests’ arrival, only to be left at the end of Sunday with a messy house.
What Sunday should be
This led me to search for what a Sunday should be. I found many helpful readings on the topic. Most especially, John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter: Dies Domini. Like many Church documents, the general principles are well articulated, but I was left to do a bit of experimenting. So with that in mind here are my amateur theologian bullet points of what I think are some of the key points for rediscovering what a Sunday should be:
1) It is not part of the “weekend.”
Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a ‘weekend,’ it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see the ‘heavens’ (Dies Domini).
2) It is a community CELEBRATION that should allow us to contemplate ourselves and remind us of the ultimate end. This is why for Catholics the Mass is the high point of Sunday and in fact all of leisure.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. “Therefore the main point of the precept is not just any kind of interruption of work, but the celebration of the marvels which God has wrought” (Dies Domini).
3) From beginning to end, Sunday should be a grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work. It’s not just going to Mass and it’s not just sitting around not working.
…shape the moments of the day: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation–in such a way that peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life.” “Through Sunday rest, daily concerns and tasks can find their proper perspective; the material things about which we worry give way to spiritual values; …we see the true face of the people with whom we live. Even the beauties of nature…can be rediscovered and enjoyed to the full.” (Dies Domini)
So how are we trying to implement these?
First, Saturday is no longer a day of idleness. It’s the day to get the housework done that can’t be accomplished during the week.
Ideally, we’ve made a menu for the week and gone grocery shopping Friday night. If not, my wife takes our three girls shopping after Saturday breakfast. When they get home, they make a big dinner centered around a single big meat dish that we will be using throughout the week (ham, turkey, BBQ pork, etc.). This approach also means we don’t have to cook on Sunday. Once it’s in the oven, they proceed to clean up the kitchen and the downstairs.
Meanwhile, I take the three boys outside and we work on the yard. Someday this might become less of a chore, but currently there is A LOT of work to be done. Six months of neglect means it will take us a couple months to catch up. We weed, trim trees, move rocks, rake debris, etc. It’s hard physical labor and it is rewarding.
After we eat lunch, we go back and finish up our tasks and clean up what we’ve been working on. We then all move upstairs and everyone cleans up their rooms. The goal is to be done with everything by the time dinner is ready.
Saturday’s family dinner is the start of Sunday. We eat a big delicious meal and commence with relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. I might read a book to the kids, we might play Monopoly, we pray the Rosary. Ideally the evening winds down when shortly before bed we pray Vespers, helping to put us in the right frame of mind for Sunday (of course this ideal has only happened once but we are trying).
Sunday morning we might have a pancake breakfast before getting everyone ready for Mass. Following Mass we stick around and talk with friends and families that attend our parish.
After socializing, we do nothing that we consider to be work. The best example I can give is we might plant flowers (fun), but we wouldn’t pull weeds (horrible). We also try to focus on doing something of a more social nature. Our current goal is to divide up the month into four different Sunday activities:
1) Family – Go to the beach, park, a shrine, etc.
2) Friends – Invite our circle of friends over for a BBQ.
3) Community – Attend an after-Mass community lunch at the park with other parish families.
4) Serve the Poor – This is the one I am still trying to figure out. Maybe we will invite a family over who have been having an especially hard time, go to Cheesecake Factory and invite the homeless guy outside to join us, or volunteer somewhere that can accommodate the kids.
While we are in the early weeks of our attempt, I am very excited about the initial results. Here are the best things I’ve noticed:
1) At the end of Sunday we feel rested and content.
2) I’m spending more quality time with my kids and teaching the boys through work.
3) We’ve put the proper focus on what Sunday is supposed to be and why it is the Lord’s Day.
I’ll write more about this after testing it further but it’s a definite start!
What do you do to celebrate Sunday?