Rest, Sabbath, and Devotions Then and Now

Today’s holy day finds itself on a weekend, and a comment from the PrayTell site seemed worth a new thread. Why not here?

Devotions were easier to gather for in urban Catholic ghettoes than in far-flung suburban parishes. On the other other hand, it should be remembered that rural parishes managed to cultivate devotions for many generations, too, so distance is not the only variable here – when most people did manual labor for 6.5 days a week (other than in the depth of winter – with long nights), devotions offered ways to structure rest times.

Not just structure for rest times, but relief from those long hours of manual labor. It wasn’t for nothing that the genius of Sabbath was a welcome development for the people of Israel. No more would the 1% of the ancient era be able to impose endless labor on slaves, servants, underlings, and citizens at large. The problem isn’t flipping a light switch, picking grain, or such for oneself–it’s about doing it all for the overlords in our lives. Even into the industrial revolution, the Sabbath was a sigh of relief more than it was an obligation.

In our post-suburban, ever-mobile culture, my sense is that many of the bosses still have it in for the 99%. We might profess wealth, leisure, and such. But I wonder how much of it is really ours.

We’ve nearly lost all concept of what real rest looks like in our culture. That’s the real problem.

The discussion on PT on Assumption would be moot in a prior era even with today’s rules on obligatory holy days. Of course, we would celebrate it. We’d have a fine weekend of two resting days. There would be Assumption Masses today and a number of parties, both at the parish center and in homes.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Rest, Sabbath, and Devotions Then and Now

  1. Karl says:


    When I referred to “structure”, I wasn’t excluding “relief.” (I thought relief was sufficiently implied in how I set up the contrast; I guess I wasn’t clear enough.)

    The Sabbath of the Jews is structured around 3-4 meals and prayers, and rest. The Catholic Sabbath (and daily periods of rest – think of the Angelus, for example, and the LIttle Hours) for layfolk developed structures over generations that included devotions. That’s more what I was getting at.

  2. Melody says:

    “We’ve nearly lost all concept of what real rest looks like in our culture.” That is a true statement; and being “connected” 24/7 is both a cause and a symptom, kind of a feedback loop.

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