“I hate Sunday. It’s the most stressful day of the week.”
It was senior year of high school, and my friend’s lament perfectly summarized the way we all felt. We were up late Sunday night after a weekend of procrastination, trying as we might to complete the dreaded homework assignments due the next day.
We’d sworn it would never happen again. It was going to be a very late night, and we had no one to blame but ourselves. No one, that is, except Sunday.
Yes – the dreaded “most stressful day of the week” was certainly the culprit.
Now, in my gut, I knew there was something troubling about the way my high school friend had characterized Sunday. After all – it was the day my childhood religion teacher had always said to “keep holy”. It seemed unsettling to me, then, that someone should “hate” Sunday.
But if I’m honest, I kind of hated Sunday, too. It was the day I paid full price for all the fun I’d had over the weekend. Throughout high school, college, and even into my adult life, Sunday was the day I was forced to reckon with the cold, harsh reality that I wasn’t one bit prepared for the week to come. The homework was undone, the laundry was unwashed, the groceries were… un-bought? You get the picture. And in the back of my mind, I could hear the ubiquitous voice of my childhood religion teacher: “Keep holy the Lord’s day.” Talk about Catholic guilt.
I know I’m not the only one who’s ever felt disparaging feelings toward the supposed holiest day of the week. In fact, “Sunday dread” is rampant on college campuses and among working adults.
The reality is that, at least in the United States, most of us treat Sunday like any other day. But if you’re ready for something different, read on. There is a much, much better way to Sunday.
A Better Way to Sunday
The contemporary “hatred of Sunday” flies in the face of what the Catholic Church has always taught (namely, that Sunday should be awesome). I’m not going to give you a summary of the Church’s teaching on Sunday, nor will I try to produce a philosophical discourse on the nature of leisure. Instead, I’ll limit myself to a few nuggets.
- God rested. In the act of creation, God sets the pattern for work and leisure; he worked for six days, and on the seventh, he rested (Gen. 2:2). Resting on Sunday is an opportunity to imitate God.
- The Lord commands it. “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord” (Ex. 31:15). As it turns out, my religion teacher didn’t make this up, as the commandment to rest on the sabbath goes all the way back to Moses and the Israelites.
- Sunday brings the joy of the Resurrection. On Sunday, we celebrate the fact that Jesus saved us from death (CCC, 2190). There is literally no better reason to party.
- Resting on Sunday is just better. Not only is keeping Sunday rest a commandment, it’s actually a great.
Three Keys to Sunday-ing Like a Catholic
1. Friday is Planning Day.
Ever find yourself up late on Sunday night, frantically scrambling to plan your next week? Ever feel like at this point, it’s too late to plan the kind of week you want to have? Spoiler alert: it is too late.
The first key is to make Friday “planning day.” I know you’re tired by the end of the week, but if you finish strong with a look ahead to the following week, it will be a huge pressure release. I recommend blocking out thirty minutes to an hour on Friday afternoon before you “close up shop”. Look ahead at the next week. What’s due? What appointments do you have? What potential conflicts may come up? Resolve them now, while you still can. I and others in FOCUS have found success with planning tools like this one.
2. Saturday is Chore Day.
As my boss often points out, God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. Why should we do any differently? Let’s face it: you have to work over the weekend. Whether it’s homework, errands, or chores, it’s going to happen on either Saturday or Sunday. The single-most practical key to a truly restful Sunday is making Saturday a work day. What does that look like?
- Wake up early. I know, I know – you finally got to the end of a busy week and all you want to do is sleep in. But the earlier you get up on Saturday, the sooner you can finish your work and get some worry-free rest.
- Don’t over-commit. People are going to invite you to do all sorts of stuff on Saturdays. Know when to politely decline, especially when it’s an activity you’re kind of “meh” about. Keep a chunk of the day free to get work done, and you’ll be glad you did.
3. Sunday is Rest Day.
You’ve done it. You’ve planned and worked ahead, and you’ve set yourself up for a truly restful Sunday. Here are some tips for making the most out of the best day of the week.
- Start Saturday evening. The Sabbath technically begins at sundown on Saturday. Put work aside, share a meal with friends, and usher in the Lord’s Day together.
- Make Sunday Mass the Center of your Day. Rather than squeezing Mass in as an obligation between hours of studying, make Mass the central event of the day. Pick a Mass to attend with friends. Put on your fancy shoes, get there fifteen minutes early, and set apart time to be with God.
- Rest. What should you do other than Mass? Engage in genuine leisure: spend time in community; play a sport; enjoy art and culture; serve the poor. Take a pause from the craziness of life to just be
- Avoid the Binge. There is room for watching sports or movies with friends on Sundays, but spending the whole day in front of a screen will make you feel exhausted. Consider fasting from your phone on Sundays to be present to those around you.
Inevitably, no matter how well you plan, there are going to be some Sundays when you still have work to do. On these days, taking time for rest is a real act of faith. I want to encourage you to rest on Sunday even when your plate is full. God cannot be outdone in generosity; he will reward your faith. Think of it this way: If a fast food chain like Chick-Fil-A can close every Sunday and still keep up with the competition, so can you!
Let’s show the world that Sunday is the best day of the week. Let’s live differently so that, by our witness, others will be inspired to set aside time for rest, for fellowship, and for communion with God.