Local Parishes

No-mow Sundays

and other thoughts on keeping the Lord’s Day holy


by Laurie Ghigliotti

Every Sunday morning, Mark and Julia Zia get their children ready to leave for Mass at St. Benedict’s Church in Atchison. After a four-minute ride in their minivan, they settle their growing family into a wooden pew in the sanctuary.

After Mass, which might have included a quick exit to the vestibule with an unhappy or squirming toddler, they head home. There will be no stops for fast food or Wal-Mart. The Zias make a conscious effort to make their Sundays different from the rest of the week.

In their own small way, they try to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have spoken of the necessity and benefit of keeping Sunday holy. Both emphasized the importance of celebrating the Eucharist. In his homily at the closing of the 24th Italian National Eucharistic Congress, Pope Benedict XVI told the story of Christians in what is now Tunisia who were caught celebrating the Eucharist in opposition to the emperor’s orders.

“When asked why they had defied the emperor’s order, one answered, ‘Sine dominico non possumus’ — that is, ‘We cannot live without joining together on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist,’” said Pope Benedict. “We would lack the strength to face our daily problems and not to succumb.”

The Zias, or course, are not dealing with an oppressive emperor.

But they, along with many other families, still struggle with keeping the Lord’s Day. Work schedules, children’s sports, rapidly growing grass and the lure of shopping all compete with the desire to celebrate Sunday beyond the obligation of Sunday Mass.

Part of the problem, said Pope John Paul II, is the concept of the weekend. Although he saw benefits to having a two-day weekend, the pope saw that Sunday “loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a ‘weekend’” as he stated in his 1998 apostolic letter “On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy.”

“The disciples of Christ, however, are asked to avoid any confusion between the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, and the ‘weekend,’ understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation,” Pope John Paul II said in his letter.

Father Steve Beseau, director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence, said there’s much to be said for the traditional weekend, but it’s not part of God’s plan.

“The weekend [concept] results in two extremes in how a person sees Sunday Mass — ‘Just get it over with’ or ‘Entertain me or I’m not coming,’” said Father Beseau.

“If Sunday is truly lived as the Lord’s Day, it doesn’t matter if Mass lasts more the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, and the ‘weekend,’ understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation,” Pope John Paul II said in his letter.

Father Steve Beseau, director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center in Lawrence, said there’s much to be said for the traditional weekend, but it’s not part of God’s plan.

“The weekend [concept] results in two extremes in how a person sees Sunday Mass — ‘Just get it over with’ or ‘Entertain me or I’m not coming,’” said Father Beseau.

“If Sunday is truly lived as the Lord’s Day, it doesn’t matter if Mass lasts more than an hour.”

Pope John Paul II emphasized that the Eucharist is at the heart of each Sunday, but keeping Sunday holy goes beyond Mass attendance.

“For example, the relaxed gathering of parents and children can be an opportunity not only to listen to one another but also to share a few formative and more reflective moments,” he wrote.

The proper celebration of Sunday is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Just as God ‘rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,’ human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives” (no. 2184).

Ways of ‘keeping holy’

There are as many ways of dedicating each Sunday to God as there are families. How families celebrate Sunday depends on their own family style.

For the Zias, it means no shopping, no mowing or other yard work, and no work from the office.

“Sunday is a day devoted to God and for family,” said Mark Zia. “Some weekends, we go to St. Joseph or Kansas City. Other Sundays we stay home as a family and have family time together.”

The Hennigh family, also of Atchison, have a long-standing tradition of spending time together on Sundays after Mass. They enjoy a big Sunday meal together, watch movies and talk.

“We generally don’t go to the mall,” said Dan Hennigh said. “Sunday is a time to slow down and spend time together. It’s always been that way. It’s worked for us and we really enjoy it.”

Aron and Kerrie McLoughlin of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park began keeping Sunday special before they were even married. These parents of five don’t shop on Sundays and try to have family-centered activities on that day.

“My mom jokes with us about our ‘blue law’ family,” said Kerrie McLoughlin. “It’s not really hard to be different in our Sunday thinking. We just prepare ahead of time and make sure we have groceries.”

Often, distractions make it difficult to keep Sunday a day set apart from the rest of the week. Television, video games, and the lure of the Internet draw young and old alike away from the personal contact that we all need and that the Lord’s Day requires. Even laundry and other household chores tempt family members away from the best Sunday intentions.

Bernice Nordhus, of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Seneca, remembers a simpler time. She grew up in a large family where Sundays were dedicated to maintaining family relationships.

“When I was growing up, my family was either going to another family member’s house or other family members were visiting ours,” she said.

Nordhus continued the tradition with members of her own large family, all of whom live close by.

Ongoing struggle

Even the stresses of the upcoming week’s activities can interfere with families trying to keep the day holy.

Theresa Jirak’s family goes to Mass together most Sundays at St. Benedict’s Parish in Atchison. But the time after Mass doesn’t always turn out the way she would like.

“For us, it’s better to schedule something away from home,” Jirak said. “If we’re here, we all tend to get into our own little cubbies, doing things by ourselves,” Jirak said.

The busy homeschooling mother of six is always tempted to use Sunday to get a jump on the rest of the week. Father Beseau understands the challenges.

“It is difficult to not check e-mails or think about work,” he said. “It is a temptation to catch up on things that need to be done. But, when I avoid these activities, I find that the other six days are much more productive.”

For Father Beseau, “Keep holy the Sabbath” is something he emphasizes to his community.

“The Lord does not just call his people to keep holy the ‘Lord’s hour’ by coming to Mass, or the ‘Lord’s morning’ by keeping the morning free of events, but rather the entire day,” he said.

“When encouraging people to live Sunday as the Lord’s Day, I ask them to imagine what heaven is like and then try to live Sunday as best as you can according to that image,” he said.

“We know in heaven that we will worship God (Mass), be with the saints (spend time with family and friends), and it will be the wedding feast of the Lamb (a meal with others),” he added. “There will not be any work, meetings or scheduled events.”

Referring to Sunday as a day of rest can connote a day of downtime rather than a day of what the Lord intends for Sundays, he said.

That’s why Father Beseau prefers to use the term “holy leisure.” A day of “holy leisure” has Mass at its center, with perhaps a gathering for a meal and an afternoon spent doing things you enjoy rather than things that are chore- or work-related.

Making Sunday intentional

Darrin and Dina Muggli, newcomers to the Atchison community, decided about six years ago to make Sunday different for their family.

“We noticed we were missing out on family time,” said Dina Muggli.

They started out by making Sunday the family’s game day and included a simple meal after Mass.

“At first, it was a difficult transition to make,” she said. “Everyone had to work harder all week so that Sunday would be free.”

“Now, everyone looks forward to Sunday,” said Darrin Muggli.

Another change the Mugglis noticed is in their relationships with their children and in the relationships among the children.

“Sometimes [during the week] they want to go do their own thing,” said Dina Muggli. “So, they’re forced [on Sunday] to spend time with each other.”

The end result is that the children have improved how they interact with each other and are more focused on others instead of themselves.

“And, to stop and enjoy your kids for a few hours on Sunday makes you appreciate your kids more,” she added.

Making Sunday the central point of the week can be as simple as a family meal tradition.

In the Hoopes’ household, that meal is a big family breakfast cooked by Tom, husband of April and father of eight.

“The kids will ask if it’s pancake day,” he said. “It’s a good idea to associate the Lord’s Day with something special.”

Sunday at the Hoopes’ home is also the only day everyone gets to sleep in. After Mass, the Hoopes usually just relax. But in the past, the family has taken the opportunity to go on mini-pilgrimages on Sundays.

“The kids get to see a new church,” Tom Hoopes explained. “And, all of the benefits the church ascribes to pilgrimages are true, even if you’re just taking a day trip on Sunday.”

Giving back to the Lord

Keeping the Lord’s Day holy by focusing on worship, relaxation and strengthening relationships might seem extreme in a culture that seems to demand that we work so much even our downtime becomes work.

But Sunday as a day of “holy leisure,” said Father Beseau, is a gift from God that we have the opportunity to re-gift to him.

“The first time I preached about this, a student asked afterward, ‘You mean God wants to give me a day for this?’” said Father Beseau. “It was an absolute shock to her.”

As many families can attest, the blessings of keeping the Lord’s Day are worth the extra effort they put into their work on the other six.

Father Beseau, in fact, sees Sunday as the first fruit of the week — the first fruit that we give back to God.

“If we believe that God gives us back a hundredfold, it works for this, too,” he said. “It’s what we’re meant for.”

 

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The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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