Sunday used to get a lot of reinforcement from secular society. Did the wider culture end up propping up the church practice?
4. Until quite recently, it was easier in traditionally Christian countries to keep Sunday holy because it was an almost universal practice and because, even in the organization of civil society, Sunday rest was considered a fixed part of the work schedule.
Secular society doesn’t prop us up anymore. Now we’re on our own, and what society gives us is a culture in search of leisure:
Today, however, even in those countries which give legal sanction to the festive character of Sunday, changes in socioeconomic conditions have often led to profound modifications of social behaviour and hence of the character of Sunday. 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 social and cultural phenomenon is by no means without its positive aspects if, while respecting true values, it can contribute to people’s development and to the advancement of the life of society as a whole. All of this responds not only to the need for rest, but also to the need for celebration which is inherent in our humanity.
The notion of celebration–I would say that this is probably number three in terms of the traditionally Catholic imagination about Sunday. Obligation has been bred into Catholics. Leisure is part of the Christian ethic, otherwise why do we speak so much of a “day of rest”?
Pope John Paul II accurately diagnoses here:
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”.(Cf. Pastoral Note of the Italian Episcopal Conference “Il giorno del Signore” (15 July 1984), 5: Enchiridion CEI 3, 1398) Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.
The work I think we have yet to do is celebration.
Some modern 21st century lingo here for Catholics: disciples. Believers may not yet be totally steeped in Sunday. Those who have engaged in the mission of Christ–these folks perhaps need something more.
The disciples of Christ, however, 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. This will require a genuine spiritual maturity, which will enable Christians to “be what they are”, in full accordance with the gift of faith, always ready to give an account of the hope which is in them (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). In this way, they will be led to a deeper understanding of Sunday, with the result that, even in difficult situations, they will be able to live it in complete docility to the Holy Spirit.