St. John Paul II believed that a “weekend” mentality can distract us from honoring God on Sunday.
In 1998, St. John Paul II wrote an entire apostolic letter on “The Lord’s Day,” in which he expounded on the Catholic observance of the Sabbath and what that looks like in the modern world.
It is a remarkable letter that reflects on the recent cultural shift away from a more deliberate observance of Sunday as a special day of prayer and rest.
John Paul II writes that, “The custom of the ‘weekend’ has become more widespread, a weekly period of respite, spent perhaps far from home and often involving participation in cultural, political or sporting activities which are usually held on free days.” This is not a bad thing in itself, John Paul II admits, but it can lead to some unfortunate results.
He explains how, “Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a ‘weekend,’ it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see ‘the heavens.’ Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.”
The key is to set Sunday apart as a special celebration and a unique day of rest.
John Paul II continues, “The disciples of Christ … are asked to avoid any confusion between the celebration of Sunday, which should truly be a way of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, and the ‘weekend,’ understood as a time of simple rest and relaxation.”
In today’s culture, this is not easy to do. Employers are increasingly demanding work on Sunday and with the rise of work-at-home, the separation of work and family life is even more difficult to achieve.
Yet, the Church remains adamant about the need to keep Sunday sacred, reserving it for the celebration of the Eucharist and a unique rest that refreshes both body and soul.
John Paul II explains that this rest on Sunday should not foster “boredom,” but lead to authentic joy.
In order that rest may not degenerate into emptiness or boredom, it must offer spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, opportunities for contemplation and fraternal communion. Therefore, among the forms of culture and entertainment which society offers, the faithful should choose those which are most in keeping with a life lived in obedience to the precepts of the Gospel. Sunday rest then becomes “prophetic,” affirming not only the absolute primacy of God, but also the primacy and dignity of the person with respect to the demands of social and economic life, and anticipating in a certain sense the “new heavens” and the “new earth,” in which liberation from slavery to needs will be final and complete.
While it is nearly impossible to offer specific activities, besides Mass and personal prayer, to engage in, Catholics should always keep in mind activities that foster fellowship, charity and a respect for other people’s need to rest.
It is not an easy topic to reflect on, but it is important to consider concrete ways we can separate Sunday from “the weekend,” and make it a day where we can rest in God.