In the Catholic life, Sunday is much more than just the day of obligatory Mass attendance. Sunday is the high point of the week. It is the holiest day of the week and a day characterized not by servile work, errands, or temporal concerns. Sunday is a day dedicated to the Lord and to Him alone. As such, Sunday has always occupied in the minds and actions of Catholics a special place.
Here are the top 10 activities for Catholics on Sunday:
1. Attend Holy Mass
Nothing is as holy as the august sacrifice of the Holy Mass. While Mass attendance is obligatory under pain of mortal sin to all Catholics, this obligation should be accepted with joy and enthusiasm. Sunday Eucharist should be the high point of our week. The days leading up to Sunday should be days of spiritual preparation to receive on our tongues and in our bodies the true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Redeemer and Divine Lord. The days immediately following Sunday should be occasions of thanksgiving and praise in recognition of this supreme gift. How many of us fail in adequate Thanksgiving after Mass? How many of us fail in proper Thanksgivings for the days following our Holy Communions?
Make it an effort to attend Mass with joy and reverence. Even go to more than one Mass on a given Sunday from time to time. Perhaps you, like me, sometimes go to an 8 AM Sunday Low Mass and then go down the road to separate parish at 10 AM for a High (or Solemn High) Mass.
If you are like most Catholics, you have little time to pray the Divine Office during the work week. If this is you, make an effort to pray Lauds, Vespers, and Compline each Sunday as a family. Pray Lauds before going to Mass. Pray Vespers before Sunday dinner. And pray Compline after the Family Rosary in the evening before bed.
The Divine Office is the official prayer of the Church. Unite your family with the Liturgical Year and pray the Divine Office on Sundays (and other holy days of obligation).
Not sure where to being? There are various online resources and numerous printed copies of the Divine Office. For newcomers, I recommend praying the 1962 or 1955 brevaries in English.
3. Family Rosary
Perhaps no Sunday activity is as cherished as the family Rosary. As the axiom goes, “The Family that prays together stays together.” Families have a responsibility – as the domestic Church – to foster a sense of holiness and religion amongst their members. The family Rosary should be a time of regular devotion – at least weekly if daily Rosary as a family is not possible.
For those families who have members that have fallen from the Faith, this is a sure means to help them return to the Church. Beseech our Lady to send them the graces necessary to save their souls. Invite family members to the Rosary. Indeed, the family that prays together does stay together.
4. Charitable Works
Sunday is a day most appropriate for charity. Our Lord was accosted by the Pharisees for performing miracles (e.g. works of charity) on the Sabbath. Nowadays, to those who claim that Sunday is not a day most appropriate for charity, we remind them of the Lord’s words: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?" (Luke 14:5). Shall we let those who have fallen in sin or despair remain there without aiding them?
The means by which we are able to serve others is bountiful. From soup kitchens to visiting the elderly in nursing homes to visiting those in prison to distributing food to the homeless in inner-city streets, the amount of charitable venues for Catholics is numerous. Yet in all of these venues, charity is done neither for our gain nor for a tax donation nor for the “feel good” mentality of doing what is right. Rather, charity is done because we are children of God intent on serving others as our Master and Lord has commanded us to do (cf. John 13: 34-35).
Therefore, all of our charity should, if at all possible, be done with an authentically Catholic organization. In instances when we do not – or cannot – perform charity with a Catholic organization, we must ensure that we are not aligning ourselves with so called “charities” who oppose and work to undermine the Holy Church. Just a few of these examples are UNICEF, the March of Dimes, Susan G Komen, The Girl Scouts (who support abortion), the Boy Scouts (who support homosexual marriage), the Salvation Army (which is a protestant denomination), and many others.
All charity must has its roots in our desire to imitate our Lord and unite our actions with His Sacred Heart. A
5. Teach/Learn Catechism
No other day should be as treasured for the passing on or the learning of the Faith than Sunday. By the virtue of the Fourth Commandment we are forbidden from performing servile work (i.e. the work typical of a servant) on Sundays. We are also forbidden from commanding those us under our charge to perform such works. Parents may not force their children to mow the lawn (and they should actually forbid such an activity on Sunday!). Homeowners may not paint their rooms or work on household labors or even command their contractors or hired help to work on Sunday to accomplish a goal. Rather, we should ask those under our charge to refrain from all such labors on the Holy Day.
What are we to do with our time besides prayer and charity? We are to study and transit the Faith. Studying is a discipline of the mind and all forms of intellectual study whether they be studying the catechism, learning Kepler’s laws of the universe, understanding history, practicing Latin, learning a musical instrument, et cetera are permissible on Sunday. They are even encouraged.
But chief among these activities is the learning and transmission of the Deposit of Faith. To those who teach the Faith, the Church imparts indulgences.
6. Apostolates and Ecclesial Organizations
Sunday is the chief day of the week for those of us in ecclesial or apostolic organizations to meet, plan, and engage in our ministries. Those of us in the Holy Name Society, the St. Stephen’s Guild for Altar Servers, the Third (3rd) Orders, prayer groups, Bible studies, Confraternity meetings, and the like should strive to meet on Sundays. These activities are extensions of charity (e.g. prayer groups) or learning (e.g. Bible studies) and are encouraged on Sundays.
Leisure is often viewed as a “do-nothing” state. Far be it. Leisure is not idleness or laziness. Leisure is the reason for which we were created and as the philosopher Josef Pieper affirmed, the very reason why we labor.
In his book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, Pieper makes the claim that the reconstruction of Western Culture demands a rebirth of the notion of leisure. Leisure is distinctive from the state of inactivity or acedia, because it is a based in festival and an affirmation of the world for what the world truly is (i.e. a creation). This takes place most distinctively in the festival which is founded on the concept of worship, which is recognition that man is dependent on God. What then does it mean to be at leisure, and what is the “act” that is most appropriate to leisure? Contemplation.
The following is taken from Catholic Book Summaries:
The modern world has lost much of what is contained in the notion of leisure. It is strictly opposed to what the ancients called acedia. The worker type, who finds his very meaning in the usefulness he serves to society, can only identify leisure with a sense of idleness and inactivity. Acedia is precisely this lack of doing, but the notion goes deeper still. Acedia is fundamentally a despair of ever accomplishing that which one is meant to be. It is a giving up in the effort to be who one is. This can lurk behind even in the most physically satisfying of exertions.
In order to understand leisure then, Pieper asks what is diametrically opposed to acedia. The modern man would have us believe that it is the industriousness of the worker contributing to the good of the society. But if acedia is fundamentally a denial of man’s existence as man, then its opposite must be a fundamental affirmation of who man is. Pieper turns to Thomas for the startling statement that acedia, so often understood as the man who fails to do any work, is not a resting per se, but is a very sin against the command of rest. Acedia then is a restlessness that is opposed to the very spirit of leisure.
After this contrast, Pieper attempts to provide a concept of leisure to the reader. Leisure then, in the first place is a stillness of spirit, an opening of the mind to receive. It is secondly, opposed to the idea of work as effort, for it takes place in a sense of celebration, of approval of the world. The highest expression of this celebration is the festival. Thirdly, leisure must be understood as opposed to the concept of break-from-work. A break is meant to afford man the ability to continue working. The break is fundamentally for the sake of work. Leisure, though truly refreshing, derives this freshness from the very fact that it is for its own sake. It is only accidental that man is better able to work after being at-leisure. Leisure is not about making the worker a better functionary, but about making him more human. In participating in leisure, something of the human is left behind and a spark of the divine is achieved.
Leisure is found first and foremost in worship (i.e. in the Holy Mass) but there are various other means of Leisure in which we can rightfully participate on Sunday. Examples include the other points on this list.
8. Authentic Family Time
The image of the “couch potato” father who watches sports on the television but who never leaves the couch to play with his children should never actualize itself in a Catholic home. Sundays are a family day. Go on a picnic. Play football in the back yard. Visit a park and go on a nature hike in the afternoon after Mass. With the busyness of modern life, authentic family time without the presence of cell phones, tablets, and computers is quickly disappearing. Family time should be free of distractions (e.g. emails, phone calls, and temporal concerns). Visit your elderly parents. Play with your young children. Invite in your neighbors for dinner. Sunday is the paramount day to engage in authentic and heartfelt family fun. Do not neglect this day and enslave Sunday to consumerism. Sundays should not be spent at the Mall or the store, since our purchases cause others to have to work on Sundays. Engage in activities that do not force others to labor.
There is nothing wrong with using part of our Sundays to engage in our personal pastimes. Do you like to read? Do you enjoy cooking or playing tennis? Do you enjoy biking? Sunday is a day to engage in these joys. Recall that the monks will typically take an afternoon stroll each week only on Sundays. Sundays are suitable for the pursuit of our hobbies (so long as they do not constitute servile work or force others to work).
10. Sunday Dinner
And finally last, but not least, we come to the last item on our list: Sunday Dinner. As eloquently put by Regina Magazine:
Sunday dinner is arguably the bedrock of Roman life. After Mass, Romans take a passegiata (stroll), to prepare for a civilized afternoon of great food and lively talk. No trips to the Mall. No working out at the gym. Sunday dinner is sacrosanct – as it should be for all Catholics. This is because our relationships mean more to us than our ‘me time.’ It also teaches our children how to enjoy the best things in life – carefully prepared food, beautifully served with the give-and-take of conversation and laughter, begun with a Catholic thanks to God for His gifts.
Invite your friends, family, and neighbors. Let’s take back the sacredness of Sunday dinner as a meal in honor of our Lord’s resurrection.
What of these activities do you do? What are you going to do differently? Do you have any other suggestions?