20:8-10 "Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. Six days shalt
thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. But on the seventh day is the
sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy
son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy
beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates."
St. John Vianney (the Cure d'Ars) "Sunday is the property of our good
God; it is His own day, the Lord's day. He made all the days of the
week: He might have kept them all; He has given you six, and has
reserved only the seventh for Himself. What right have you to meddle
with what does not belong to you? You know very well that stolen goods
never bring any profit. Nor will the day that you steal from Our Lord
profit you either. I know two very certain ways of becoming poor: they
are working on Sunday and taking other people's property."
"Sabbath" (or "Shabbat") means "cessation," "rest," not
"Saturday," so the accusations against Catholics concerning not
fulfilling God's Old Testament Commandment to "keep Sabbath" are
very moot. However, we are neither Old Testament Israelites nor
practitioners of the post-Temple religion known as "Judaism," so we
don't keep Friday Nights/Saturday days holy for their own sake, and we
don't keep kosher, and we don't worry about carrying pencils or turning
off light switches on the "Sabbath." We are not under the Mosaic Law
(and Israel has never been under rabbinic law), but we are
Israel, bound to obey the two great commandments -- to love
God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our
neighbors as ourselves -- said two great commandments simply being more
explicit in the Ten Commandments, which we are bound to -- not because
they were given to Moses, but because they are the eternal laws of God,
written into the hearts of men. The Sabbath 1,
as in "day of rest," therefore, we do keep; like the Apostles, we keep
it on Sundays, as "the Lord's Day," because it was on a Sunday that
Jesus Christ walked out of His Tomb and proved that He fulfilled
God created the world in six days, and then "saw all the things that He
had made, and they were very good." Then, "on the seventh day God ended
His work which He had made: and He rested on the seventh day from all
His work which He had done." As He rested on that 7th day, He commanded
Israel to rest with Him.
But He had that one, final work to do through His Son, Jesus Christ, a
work predicted by the Prophets. This work was completed on the Cross
("It is consummated," John 19:30), and now the Sacrifice that allows
the redemption of His now-fallen creation is commemorated and
re-presented at the Mass. On Sunday, our priests offer the unbloody
Sacrifice, the re-presentation of that same once and for all Sacrifice
that led to that glorious Resurrection and, through which, if we
accept, we may experience our own victory over the tomb. The Old
Testament Sabbath was but a shadow of the Lord's Day to come.
Keeping the Lord's Day holy means, above all, going to Mass in order
to fulfill our "Sunday duty" by participating in that Sacrifice. The
sick, those who must care for the sick, women who've given
birth in the past 6 weeks, and children under the age of reason
(the age of 7), are not obliged if their presence would
cause undue hardship, but all should do their best to attend, whether 6
months or 106 years of age (see Missing
Mass, & Spiritual Communion)
In addition to attending Mass, we are to focus the day on God and His
gifts to us by refraining from "servile work," that is, work that is
necessary for a living. This is opposed to "liberal work" -- work that
is recreational, relaxing, of performed out of charity for others. Some
types of work might fall into either category, e.g., working on an old
car might be work for a mechanic, but sheer joy for the car buff;
cooking might be drudgery for the short order cook, but bliss for the
woman who truly loves to cook. There is, then, some subjectivity here,
but all Catholics must do their best to refrain from work that is
servile, and arrange with their employers as much as possible to have
By the same token, Catholics should refrain from putting others
in the position of performing servile work on Sundays, too. Don't put
others in the position of breaking God's
commandments. Note that some professions require work on Sundays, such
as some aspects of medicine, law enforcement, firefighting, etc. --
work that is necessary or which serves charity. This is always
allowable on the Lord's Day, as charity is always the highest law and
the very purpose of law:
At that time Jesus went through the corn on the sabbath: and his
disciples being hungry, began to pluck the ears, and to eat. And the
Pharisees seeing them, said to Him: Behold Thy disciples do that which
is not lawful to do on the sabbath days. But He said to them: Have you
not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with
him: How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the loaves of
proposition, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for them that
were with him, but for the priests only? Or have ye not read in the
law, that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple break the
sabbath, and are without blame? But I tell you that there is here a
greater than the temple. And if you knew what this meaneth: I will have
mercy, and not sacrifice: you would never have condemned the innocent.
For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath.
And when He has passed from thence, He came into their synagogues. And
behold there was a man who had a withered hand, and they asked Him,
saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might
accuse Him. But He said to them: What man shall there be among you,
that hath one sheep: and if the same fall into a pit on the sabbath
day, will he not take hold on it and lift it up? How much better is a
man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do a good deed on the
sabbath days. Then He saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand; and he
stretched it forth, and it was restored to health even as the other.
And the Pharisees going out made a consultation against Him, how they
might destroy Him. But Jesus knowing it, retired from thence: and many
followed Him, and He healed them all.
In the spirit of
the above and through tradition, in addition to emergency work such as
firefighting and policing on Sundays, it is generally licit to work for
restaurants, hotels, gas stations, museums, sporting events, and parks,
and it's OK to visit such places on Sundays.
be stress-free, relaxing, and conducive to thanksgiving, to looking at
God's truly completed work with a "Deo gratias" in our hearts
while strengthened, by the Sacrament we receive at Mass, to pick up our
To keep Sundays holy, we should prepare for them -- taking the trash
out on Saturday instead of Sunday, throwing together meals 2 on Saturday that can be warmed-up or
baked off on Sunday, ensuring that children have their homework and
chores out of the way, having the house clean, etc. We prepare
spiritually, too: Saturday is the customary day for going to Confession, a "weekly cleaning" that readies
one for the Sunday reception of the Eucharist.
Make Sundays a day for something special to the family, something your
children will look forward to.
For dinner, have
a special "Sunday food" that pleases all and becomes a family tradition
special bread, cake, pie, or other dessert. Dress it all up with a
tablecloth, low lighting, pretty china, a nice wine,
and softly-played music that uplifts or is relevant to your ethnic
heritage. At the table, the mother can light candles (why not 7
candles in honor of the Sacraments and Moses' candelabrum in Exodus
Back in the day, Italian-American extended families would all
gather together, typically at Nonna's house, after Mass and prepare a
huge meal. In our family, it was usually spaghetti feasts attended by
Grandma, Grandpa, many of their seven children, those childrens'
spouses, and their children's children. It made for a lot of people!
Alas, large extended families are getting rare in the West given that
people are having fewer children, and what children they do have often
move away for economic reasons. Sad.
In any case, don't forget to begin the meal with the Prayer before
and end it with the Prayer After Meals (the latter prays for the
faithful departed, and the souls of our ancestors and loved ones should
never be forgotten)! Just after the Prayer Before Meals, father can
ritually bless his children and offer a prayer to sanctify domestic
life. I recommend the following blessing and prayers (which includes a
prayer to the Holy Family and the accclamation from the Introit of 4
June). Fathers, please consider praying these prayers in Latin!
nos et haec tua dona quae de tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum
Dominum nostrum. Amen.
Bless us, O
Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy
bounty, through Christ, Our Lord, amen.
Mother's) Blessing for Children
God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless you, my child(ren), for time
and eternity, and may this blessing remain forever with you. Amen
Prayer to the
Holy Family, and Acclamation,
Before Eating Sunday Dinner
Christe, qui Mariae et Ioseph subditus, domesticam vitam ineffabilibus
virtutibus consecrasti: fac nos, utriusque auxilio, Familiae sanctae
tuae exemplis instrui et consortium consequi sempiternum: Qui vivis et
regnas in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Quam bonus Israel Deus: his, qui recto sunt corde!
Christ, Who, being made subject to Mary and Joseph, didst consecrate
domestic life by Thine ineffable virtues; grant that we, with the
assistance of both, may be taught by the example of Thy Holy Family and
may attain to its everlasting fellowship. Who livest and reignest
How good is God
to Israel: to them that are of a right heart!
gratias, omnipotens Deus, pro universis beneficiis tuis, qui vivis et
regnas in saecula saeculorum. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei,
requiescant in pace. Amen.
We give Thee
thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest
forever. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy
of God, rest in peace. Amen.
I strongly urge adopting practices that are done only on Sundays so
that the day is set apart from all others in a very special way. Some
- Pray with one
another, especially the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet (chant it!)
- Read to each
other and with one another (why not engage in a little Lectio Divina?)... Read plays with each
person taking a part, have Storytime (there is nothing better than
being read to, and when children are read to, it encourages them to
- Have a picnic
- Have a Cream Tea on Sunday afternoons. Invite other
Catholics over and socialize a bit.
- Buy or cut fresh
flowers on Saturday to adorn the house through the week
- Take a walk in
- Build a bonfire
- Sing together,
otherwise make music together -- and listen to great music together
- Engage in crafts
- Visit the The Domestic Church: The Catholic Home
page and scroll down to find downloadable pages of questions you can
discuss and games you can play around the dinner table. Consider, too,
setting up a "Gratitude Tree."
- Play board and
card games together
- Turn off the TV
altogether, or, if you "must," watch older movies, or listen to radio
shows which invite more imagination (do a search for "Old Time Radio"
Better yet, make your own "radio" shows, complete with Foley effects
and music, etc.
Take time to
breathe deeply and watch your children playing in the yard, and think
yourself, "This is good. Very good. Thank you, God."
Please see this page to read a lovely
article by Sabine Barnhart about her memories of Sundays in
Germany. The article captures something of
the "spirit of Sundays" and conveys what I'm trying to express about
setting Sundays apart and making them special.
And read about Sundays in a piece
written by Maria Von Trapp (of the Trapp Family Singers, "Sound of
See also the
Mass's Attire and Etiquette page for tips on getting your children to pay
attention and be still during Mass.
1 Most Catholics tend not
to use the word "Sabbath" in reference to the Lord's Day, but typically
use it instead to refer only to the Jewish Sabbath. Also note that
because Christians use the term "Lord's Day" instead of "Sabbath," and
because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, "Sabbatum," in Latin,
2 For foods that can be
prepped on Saturday and cooked overnight or finished off quickly on
Sunday, think stratas, casseroles,
crockpot foods, sauces you can pour over a quickly prepared pasta, slow
oven foods like cholent, etc.
3 Don't confuse
the Mosaic 7-branched candlestick (a menorah) with the 8- or 9-branched
channukiah (usually mistakenly also called a menorah) that post-Temple
Jews use during Channukah celebrations.