Aside from Mass, what other Christian elements identify Sunday as important to believers and disciples?
52. Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord’s Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work. This commits each of Christ’s disciples to shape the other moments of the day — those outside the liturgical context: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation — in such a way that the peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life. For example, the relaxed gathering of parents and children can be an opportunity not only to listen to one another but also to share a few formative and more reflective moments. Even in lay life, when possible, why not make provision for special times of prayer — especially the solemn celebration of Vespers, for example — or moments of catechesis, which on the eve of Sunday or on Sunday afternoon might prepare for or complete the gift of the Eucharist in people’s hearts?
Pope John Paul II identifies some important possibilities here. First, he urges a spiritual consideration for the day. Sunday is for gratitude and remembering, not just in the context of the celebration of Mass.
Second, his experience as a pastor shows in the suggestion to make ordinary human interaction part of the Sunday experience. Clearly, his ideals were formed in an age with a slower, less frenetic pace. But it’s advice worth taking.
Vespers and catechetical sessions are a challenge. The grind of weekend ministry can leave clergy and laity gasping for air after the final Mass on the Sunday schedule. Is there room for more? Are we expecting a personal heroism of ministers?
Reality acknowledged, but the bar is set high, as it should be:
This rather traditional way of keeping Sunday holy has perhaps become more difficult for many people; but the Church shows her faith in the strength of the Risen Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit by making it known that, today more than ever, she is unwilling to settle for minimalism and mediocrity at the level of faith. She wants to help Christians to do what is most correct and pleasing to the Lord. And despite the difficulties, there are positive and encouraging signs. In many parts of the Church, a new need for prayer in its many forms is being felt; and this is a gift of the Holy Spirit. There is also a rediscovery of ancient religious practices, such as pilgrimages; and often the faithful take advantage of Sunday rest to visit a Shrine where, with the whole family perhaps, they can spend time in a more intense experience of faith. These are moments of grace which must be fostered through evangelization and guided by genuine pastoral wisdom.
Some might find the high optimism an overreach. And isn’t mediocrity part and parcel of the modern approach? I don’t agree. I think believers and disciples respond to a challenge. We can also make the realities of modern life work in our favor. An increased mobility may well inspire a day pilgrimage. The access to smart phones means more reflection is available anywhere, even in the Third World.