THIS subject that seemed to need no further comment is actually a matter that we have taken for granted and perhaps it is time to reflect on them in the midst of our busy Sunday schedules.
John Horvat II, in his article “Sunday is a Day of Rest, Isn’t It” (Return to Order, 4/06/19) sort of woke me up on this question considering that most of us go to Mass as a matter of duty but somehow many do not think Sunday is for rest. It is just as it is, after all most of our offices, schools and work places are closed and only the vital services, like those of the police, the firemen, the security guards, the personnel on duty in hospitals, the drivers of public utility vehicles, etc.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (914) says that “as members of the new people of God, the Church, we have the duty to worship together as a community as to express our unity as one people of God with Christ as head”.
In CCC 915, the Church says that in “accordance with the Third Commandment and Church decrees and other holidays of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass, they are to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body”.
Horvat claims that “there is the mistaken impression that for a modern economy to work efficiently, everything must be 24/7. Missing a beat is considered fatal to good business and economic productivity. All must be frenzied and hurried if one is to compete in today’s globalized economy.”
He is, of course, speaking about the American society and its obsession for work. Nevertheless, his words are applicable to us in many ways because of our penchant of crafting our laws and developing habits on the American ways. He continues:
“Such assumptions go against the necessities of human nature. People are not machines. They need to stop and rest. If society is to return to some kind of order, people must be convinced that things can stop. Things should stop. Things must stop. This is not some wistful desire for simpler times of the past. Stopping can be done today.”
He cited the situation in Germany where the Germans adopted “sonntagsruhe” which in German means “Sunday rest.” Germany, the world’s fourth largest economic power, stops on Sunday.
“It should be emphasized that stopping on Sunday is not optional in Germany: one must stop on Sunday. The ‘sonntagsruhe’ is not just casually staying away from work. Rather, the long-established custom keeps most shops closed and noise levels down. Even lawnmowers and leaf blowers must fall silent so that all might enjoy their rest. Loud music is restricted. Heavy trucks are banned from the highways to prevent unnecessary noise – and give truckers a much-needed break. The system is set up so that one has to stop and get some rest after an uber-efficient workweek.”
How did the Germans take on this new policy? Horvat said “the hard-working Germans on their part enjoy the weekly respite. It provides an opportunity for them to concentrate on unwinding, indulge in neighborly considerations or enjoy a good stein of beer. During their Sunday rest, Germans take to the outdoors, visit family and friends or (unfortunately, less frequently) attend church.
“So enshrined is the national appetite for Sunday rest that repeated efforts by retailers and businesses to loosen the rules have ended up in failure. Some German states allow occasional Sunday openings for special shopping events and seasons, but most commercial Sunday activity is restricted by law… but also by choice, since the Sunday rest appears to enjoy widespread popular support. Such stopping has not jeopardized the national economy as Germany is the enviable economic powerhouse of Europe.”
How about in the US?
“While it can be admitted that most people still have Sunday off, it has become much more a day of shopping and activity than of rest or spiritual edification. America had its own ‘Sunday rest.’ Things simply shut down so people could be with their families” and “dedicated to God and those relationships that really matter.”
Spending Sundays for God, family and self should matter most.