I met her at a tradeshow I was attending. We hit it off immediately and the conversation flowed quickly. She was an owner of a Christian gift store looking for a way to modernize and appeal to the changing interests of her customers — completely in sync with what I was there for. We had a lot in common.
As we spoke of our commonalities and love for the Catholic faith, the conversation took a sudden turn, “Well of course I do nothing on Sundays.” Yes, I readily agreed. Of course a Christian gift store wouldn’t be open on Sunday. Until she repeated, “No, I really do nothing on Sundays. It’s the Lord’s Day, and I take that very seriously.”
I looked at her quizzically — this thin, tall, blond, stunningly stylish and seemingly hip woman was not only talking about not working on Sundays, but not doing anything on Sundays. The old-school practice just didn’t jive with her persona.
I couldn’t help but be catapulted back to my childhood. Growing up, my sisters and I often lamented the “curse of Sundays.” My mother’s stance on keeping holy the Sabbath was torture to me and it seemed so arbitrary. Her never yielding rule of not shopping on Sundays made me a social killjoy, especially in middle school when all my friends meandered around the local mall. Even worse, it seemed every time we elected to disregard my mom’s ways, we ended up frustrated and miserable. Any Sunday shopping-trip-against-the-rules we took seemed fraught with difficulties: wrong sizes purchased, items overcharged, and the inevitable undoing of our shopping conquests with return trips for corrections of what was purchased.
But here I was, listening to this businesswoman tell me stories of all the ways that God had blessed her once she understood the Third Commandment and implemented it in her life. It was nonsensical to me. As a shop owner, she worked six days a week, without exception, leaving Sunday the only day available to run errands, shop for her family, and complete household tasks. “No,” she persisted, “God provides. He seems to multiply your time when you give Him control of everything. It’s an unpopular position, and don’t expect people to understand it, but keeping the Lord’s Day was the best thing I could have ever done for my family.”
Shortly after adopting the practice of only leisure and family time on Sundays, she recounted, she was faced with the dilemma of having to purchase rather last minute a specific purple colored tie for her son for an upcoming wedding. Knowing that she wouldn’t have Sunday to complete the task, she fretted over the impossibility that was presented. Then, as only Providence could orchestrate it, stopping by Wal-Mart to grab milk after a basketball game that week, something purple caught her eye. A tie, the exact color needed and, to sweeten the score, it was on the sale rack for three dollars. Her first Sunday miracle.
But it didn’t stop there. She went on with story after story about how God blessed her so that she could keep His commandment. When on a Sunday she discovered no food in the house for dinner, a neighbor or friend arrived on her doorstep, unannounced, with a meal. Countless times, obstacles big and small were removed so that she could spend the day with her family.
When I returned from my trip and Sunday inevitably rolled around, I was haunted by her words. This smart, enthusiastic woman had left an impression on me. I reflected on my practice of Sundays. Sure I went to Mass, but the day was a blur to me. I hit the ground running, cleaning, cooking, preparing for the week, cleaning, grocery shopping, cleaning (did I already mention cleaning?), landing in bed on Sunday evening exhausted and dreading the beginning of a new week.
I was so perplexed and so confronted by my lack of thought for the Lord’s Day on Sunday, that I knew I had to learn more about it. And I was pretty sure that of all the commandments it was the only one I hadn’t pondered, the only one that hadn’t been a regular subject of confession.
The Catechism validated all I heard and quickly vindicated my mom from all the Sunday pain she had inflicted. The Catechism is pretty clear. Crystal clear, actually. “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body” (No. 2185). And even more so, “Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life” (No. 2186).
Well I’m not exactly sure how I will implement it, but I’m committed. With a fulltime job and four young children, it certainly will take some planning and forethought. But I’ll give it to the Lord, and trust that He will provide. And by giving him my Sundays, maybe my Mondays will arrive a bit sweeter.