Jim Hudson likes to think back to the day a good friend used to urge him to close his hardware store on Sundays. After all, the friend pointed out, Sunday is the Lord’s Day.
But his conscience had been pricked. He searched the Scriptures — and discovered “quite a few” passages suggesting his friend was on to something.
The Bible “didn’t give any wiggle room at all,”
So, on Jan. 1, 2000, Jim Hudson took a leap of faith and made his store a six-days-a-week operation. He only asked the Lord to replace the income he would lose for his family of six children. What came after still amazes him.
“I really feel we were blessed. There was a change of
In our day, such shop-owner sacrifices are nothing short of heroic.
Sundays have become just another day in the secular culture around us. Much of this owes to the elimination of state and county “blue laws,” which long prohibited the sale of nonessential items on Sundays. Nowadays you can hardly find a place to park on any given Sunday at any given department store. In most states, you can even buy liquor on the Lord’s Day.
Jonathan Gruber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Daniel Hungerman of the University of Notre Dame recently studied the effects of repealing blue laws. They discovered that, in states that had done away with blue laws, church attendance declined, while drinking and drug use increased significantly among young adults.
And the biggest changes in behavior occurred among
those who frequently attend religious services, according to a report on the
study published in the Sept. 14, 2006, edition of the
An awful lot of Americans, it seems, now make a beeline from the church parking lot to the shopping mall — where they spend untold hours soaking in consumerist culture at its most aggressive and on its home turf.
Father Shane Tharp of
“When you repeal blue laws and don’t protect religion, you end up with self-gratification,” says the priest. “We all want to be happy, but we’re willing to exchange gratification for happiness rather than stopping and asking what fulfills us at the deepest level.”
The last time Father Tharp brought up the subject of Sunday rest in his blog, responses ran all over the spectrum.
“Most people acknowledged it was a good thing, but said it wasn’t realistic. But it’s a choice,” he says. “Even God, when he created us, said six days are for work, not seven. It’s ultimately for our good because, if we don’t stop and give thanks to God and give a portion of ourselves to him, we forget that we received all these things as gifts and we start assuming it is of our own making. That makes us God, and that’s the danger.”
How to counter the tide?
The priest suggests turning Sunday into a “family enclave” — guests invited: “We celebrated the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection at Mass, and now we are going to have cornbread and chicken and talk to each other.”
Professor Jonathan Reyes, president of the Augustine
“Of all the things that have become secular, time is the most precious,” explains Reyes. “Without the Day of the Lord, we cannot exist. We stepped into it not quite knowing what it meant. But there’s something fundamentally special about it.”
The Reyes family prepares for the Sabbath on Saturday evening, sharing a meal with special bread they make to consecrate the Day of the Lord. They light candles, sing hymns and recite the Covenant Community Lord’s Day Prayers (published by Tabor House Press), which are based on a set of Jewish prayers. They spend the rest of the evening in family fellowship and reading.
Sunday morning after Mass, Reyes makes brunch for the family and they are often joined by young adults and other guests from the college community.
The afternoon is spent in some sort of recreation, like bike riding or board games. They end the day with a light dinner and family Rosary.
“We do everything we can to guard Sunday,” says Reyes. “The goal is that I don’t work or travel on that day. We don’t go shopping if we can avoid it. It sets us free.”
“I can’t say enough about how setting the day aside has transformed our lives,” adds Reyes. “When you consecrate time to the Lord, he honors it with graces. It helps my relationship with my wife and with the children. It takes a leap of faith because the week is usually brutal, so it forces you to rest and recollect.”
Last November, Cardinal Francis Arinze reminded Catholics about the need to keep Sundays sacred.
The prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Sacraments made the comments in
“Sunday is not a day for wholesale shopping, but a day to give more attention to God, and should be emphasized as such,” he said. “We want to clarify that Sunday is not merely a part of a weekend when we can do all those things we didn’t get around to doing during the week, such as sleep longer, go to the mountains, go swimming, go to the seaside.
“All these things are good,” explained the cardinal, “but they are not the point of the Lord’s Day.”
What is? Honoring and glorifying God in prayer, quiet, adoration and contemplation.
Relaying a message sent by Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Arinze said: “Sundays remain the fundamental seedbed and the primordial nucleus of the liturgical year … a fragment of time pervaded by eternity, because its dawn saw the Risen Christ enter victoriously into eternal life.”
Sunday, for the Catholic shop-owners of the world, a good day to close the shop.
For all Catholics, it is a good day to open our doors to God. Whatever our material need, it can probably wait until Monday.
Barb Ernster writes from