Keep the Sabbath Holy

Many years ago, when I was a young priest, I remember being on a directed retreat. During the middle of the retreat, the director did something really unusual. He told us we were going to have a Sabbath Day. We celebrated Mass, but the rest of the day contained no structure. It was up to us to honor the Sabbath. I think he not only wanted us to rest in the true sense but also sought to help us experience what every Sunday should be.

Whatever became of the Sabbath? More and more it seems Sunday blends in with the other days of the week. While some blue laws that restrict certain activities out of respect for divine worship remain, the reality is that in most states these laws have become more relaxed. No doubt the increasing secularism of our time has diminished the Sabbath.

As a child, I vividly remember Sunday as being a day of rest spent with family. We would attend holy Mass wearing our “Sunday best” and then come home and enjoy a big breakfast. We would often sit at the table all morning long just enjoying one another’s company. At dinner, we would reconvene for a delicious family meal. Subsequently, we would go visit the grandparents. Little if any work was ever done on that day. There was a quiet stillness as stores were closed and virtually everyone was with family.

Sunday remains a sacred day to celebrate our faith and to rest. Sunday is a “little Easter.” As we were taught, Sunday is to each week what Easter is to the entire year. Thus, it would seem we should dress for every Sunday as if it were Easter. Sadly, this rarely happens, as the sacredness of Sundays has become lost amid our too-busy culture.

Of course, some maintain that for us priests Sunday is the only day we actually work. We have all been the butt of those jokes at one time or another. While we do work out of pastoral necessity, what do we do to honor the Sabbath? How do we make this day sacred beyond celebrating holy Mass?

Perhaps one thing we can do to keep Sunday sacred is to extend our personal prayer time. I live at a noisy intersection in the heart of suburbia. I long for Sunday mornings because there is a natural quiet in the air due to less traffic. That quiet is so heartwarming and revivifying when I pray. It is, of course, even quieter before the Blessed Sacrament.

Another way we priests can honor the Sabbath is to make time for family. If we are unable to visit family members, we can always make a phone call. Sometimes we can become so inundated with ministry that our family time suffers. We all need to be connected to family, because they know us and keep us true.

The first three Sundays of June really shine the spotlight on Sunday and the Sabbath as we celebrate what is the annual “trifecta” or “big three solemnities,” if you will, with Pentecost, the Most Holy Trinity, and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. These celebrations are all the more reason why we need to honor the Sabbath. The richness of these feasts really makes Sunday even more sacred and special.

How will you observe these celebrations? What will you do to honor these days and, for that matter, every Sunday?

Wouldn’t it be nice to simply celebrate holy Mass and have a Sabbath Day whereby we honor our God by praying, resting and being with family? After all, isn’t that what the Sabbath is all about?

FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 13 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. To share your thoughts on this column or any others, follow The Priest on Twitter @PriestMagazine and like us on Facebook.