Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

cram_halfExhausted. Completely exhausted.

You know who you are. You’re the one who crawls into bed at night, weary to the bone. Your obligations are endless and overwhelming. Too many people want you or need you – a sick spouse, an elderly parent, a demanding boss. Maybe the economy has decimated your savings, or you’re a single parent trying to hold it together, alone.

For some, the fatigue is of our own making. We sign up for too many commitments because we hate to say no. We cart our kids to endless soccer games, dance classes, play dates and parties. Or maybe we’re just uncomfortable being alone, so we fill the calendar with noise.

Such a frantic pace sucks the life from us. In many cases, it has gone on for so long that we don’t realize how exhausted we are until we stop.

Years ago, my sister underwent allergy testing at the insistence of her doctor. She was stunned to learn that she had extensive food allergies, and even more surprised when, after eliminating certain foods, she began to feel better than she’d felt in years.

"I lived with sickness for so long that I began to think it was normal," she mused later. "I’d forgotten what it is to feel well."

This is also true of weariness. Many of us lead such hectic lives that we have forgotten what it is to feel refreshed.

Now think back to Moses and the children of Israel. God gave Moses and the people 10 rules for living. Just 10. He told them to worship God. Don’t lie, cheat, steal or swear. Don’t be jealous.

He also said, "Remember the Lord’s day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work."

This is not a suggestion, but neither is it a hardship. The Commandments were given that we might live life to the fullest. Therefore, one step in ridding life of that terrible weariness is to truly celebrate the Sabbath.

As Catholics, we have this crazy idea that if we make it to Mass, we’re honoring the Sabbath. One Catholic school principal defended her school’s Sunday morning basketball practices by saying that one can meet one’s "Sunday obligation" (I hate that term) by attending Mass the night before. The underlying assumption is that as long as we squeeze in Mass, it doesn’t matter how we spend the rest of the day. Missing from this model is the concept that the Sabbath is an entire 24 hours, not simply a one-hour obligation. Besides, I’m pretty sure that the Saturday evening, or vigil Mass, was not created with the goal of making Sunday just another carpool day.

So what does it mean to keep holy the Sabbath? It means to celebrate God’s goodness and to avoid unnecessary work for 24 hours.

Some activities are necessary, such as caring for children, the elderly, the sick, the disabled. Caring for the lawn, however . . . maybe not. Driving to visit family or friends, absolutely. Driving to soccer tournaments . . . not so much.

I am not the morality police, so it’s not my role to stand in judgment. Rather, I extend a simple invitation to say "no" to all that impedes your Sabbath. Ignore the piles of papers, the errands, shopping malls and dusting. Say no to coaches and commitments that treat Sunday as just another day.

Replace these with visiting the infirm, feeding the hungry, cheering the lonely. Curl up with a good book. Play Scrabble with your kid. Pray a rosary. Go for a walk.

To parents whose children play sports, I offer special encouragement. Surely you need Sunday as a day of rest, and your children do as well. Studies consistently show that kids need fewer activities, not more. The irony is that your children may actually do better if you limit their organized sports in the early years, since children who delay competitive sports until the onset of puberty catch up to their peers within six months, and they don’t burn out as quickly.

Fundamentally, however, it’s a matter of obedience. "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work." Sounds like a great invitation to me.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28)

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.