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Keeping the Sabbath holy

I figure Easter Sunday is a great time to talk about one of my other projects: keeping the Sabbath holy.

Growing up as I did in an irreligious household, Sunday was just the other half of the weekend.  Weekends were great because you got to sleep in for two days in a row.  While I always had some conception of God (thanks in large part to the influence of my grandparents), my parents deeply disliked organized religion, so I regarded the notion of going to church to pray as silly.

Even after I entered the Catholic Church, I found my old attitudes and habits persisted.  Saturday was the fun day, and Sunday was now the day of obligation, which meant Mass but also taking care of other items.  After Mass, I might go to the grocery store to get ready for the coming week, or tackle projects in the yard.  It was a day of work, just different kinds of work.

About a year ago I made a concerted effort to make Sunday special.  Obviously, that includes going to Mass, but it also extends to not buying anything.  At first this was just inconvenient, but like so many other ancient religious practices that have fallen into disuse, once you try them you see that there's a lot more going on than you realized.

For one thing, it forces better planning.  When you go over the list, you have to factor in an extra day where nothing can be bought.  The mere act of doing this reminds you that Sunday is not just any other day.

It's not unusual that I will have overlooked something (or more likely, no one told me we were out of it), and that means we'll just have to get by until Monday.  That's also a healthy thing, forcing a pause in our instant-gratification world.

It's also having an effect on my kids, who at first were puzzled but now accept that Sunday just isn't a shopping day.

I'm still grappling with some of the other implications, such as:  "Am I allowed to do minor housecleaning or tackle an obnoxious situation in the yard?"  I think the answer is generally "yes," so long as I find the task satisfying.  The fact is, "rest" doesn't have to mean "idle."  I think puttering around the yard or getting the popcorn I spilled on the carpet last night are okay simply because I can't imagine a theological reason not to take care of it.

A thornier question is whether it is acceptable for me to go to a book store or do leisure shopping.  There I'm going to say "no," because I'm forcing those employees to work on the Sabbath.

Still, it's not like I'm a religious authority, so reasonable people may differ.  The point is to reshape my life (and that of my family) around religious obligation rather than commercial convenience.

Today is the perfect day to think about this.

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