Weekend Ponderings: Sabbath Rest

The other day I was challenged to consider the concept of “Sabbath rest” as it pertains to mothers — perhaps especially “working mothers,” those of us with significant responsibilities (often but not always wage-earning) outside the home, making it difficult to cover all the bases at once.

For those of us who grew up with stay-at-home mothers, our “inner critic” can be especially loud on weekends, when we return home and take in the collateral damage from our week in the saltmines. Instead of spending the weekends catching up with each other, we find ourselves playing catch-up with the laundry, scrubbing, shopping, and cooking we didn’t get done earlier in the week.

Then there’s Sunday, with rhythms that pick up pace as the day progresses, speeding steadily and inevitably toward Monday. The Third Commandment tells us to “Rememer the Sabbath Day and keep it holy,” a day set apart for worship, rest, and family. But practically speaking, what does this mean? No housework of any kind — coldcuts and premade salads, no electronics or gadgets, no turning on the dishwasher or washing machine? Or — taking it to the other extreme — “focus on the family,” running from one activity after the other (even skipping church) to get as much done as possible.

What does the Catechism say about it? From CCC 2186:

Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.

“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” Can a mother truly honor God and family … while tidying up an accumulation of weekly debris? Can a family revel at McDonalds as wholeheartedly as around a four-course dinner made by loving hands? When the rhythms of family life spill into Sabbath preparations, where is the line of demarkation? At what point does the payoff of interior peace justify a suspension of physical rest? In other words … does the satisfaction of being able to begin a new week with an orderly home, justify doing a few loads of laundry or scrubbing a kitchen floor on Sunday afternoon?

“Do small things with great love,” Blessed Mother Teresa admonished her Sisters of Charity. Her sisters observed regular rhythms of rest and work and prayer — the marathon of service that was their life demanded it. So, too, with us.

The line of demarcation, then, may be more cerebral/spiritual than physical. Are you getting adequate rest? Do you feel connected to God and to your family … or are weekends filled with nagging and pushing? Are you really enjoying one another, recharging the batteries of intimacy that keep families connected over the long haul?

Are you taking time to find your “Sabbath Rest”?

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