The Importance of Public Worship and Sunday Rest

3rd Week of Easter: The Importance of Public Worship and Sunday Rest

By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

2/61.3 Public worship. Sunday rest.

Let the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of his name; proclaim his glorious praise, we read in the Entrance Antiphon.[1798]

The precept of sanctifying holy days responds also to the need to give public cult to God. We cannot be satisfied on such occasions with merely private cult. Some people try to relegate dealing with God to the realm of conscience, as if it did not necessarily have to have external expression. However, man has the right and the duty of giving public and external cult to God. It would be gravely harmful if Christians were obliged to hide away in order to practice their faith and worship God, which is their primary right and duty.

Sundays and Church holy days are, above all, days set aside for God, days particularly well suited to looking for Him and finding Him. ‘Quaerite Dominum.’ We can never cease to look for him: however, there are moments which demand doing so with more intensity, because during those periods Our Lord is particularly close, and so it is easier to find and meet him. This nearness constitutes Our Lord’s answer to the Church’s invocation, which is expressed continuously by means of the liturgy. Even more so, it is the liturgy which precisely actualizes the nearness of the Lord. [1799]

Holydays of obligation are of great importance in helping Christians to receive the action of grace more fully. During these days the believer is asked to interrupt his work in order to dedicate himself the better to Our Lord. But there is no festivity without celebration, since a holiday does not consist simply in refraining from working. Neither can there be a Christian feastday without the faithful coming together to give thanks, to praise the Lord, to remember his deeds. And so it would be very unchristian to plan to spend the weekend or a ‘holiday’ of obligation in such a way as to make impossible or very difficult one’s dealings with God. It happens to certain lukewarm Catholics that they end up thinking they have insufficient time to hear Mass, or they rush through it as if freeing themselves from a burdensome obligation.

Rest is not only an opportunity to recuperate energies, but is also the sign and the anticipation of the definitive repose of that celebration which is heaven. That is why the Church wishes to celebrate her feast-days by including in them a rest from work. On the other hand, Catholics, like anyone else, have a right to that rest, a right which the State must guarantee and protect.

This holy day rest must not be interpreted as a simple doing nothing, a mere passing of the time, but rather as a positive involvement in something which enriches the personality in different ways. There are many ways of resting, and it is important not to take the easiest way out, which often is not the one that rests us most in any case. If we know how to limit the use of television on feast days as well, for example, we will not be repeating so much the false excuse of not having time. On the contrary, we will see that during those days we can spend more time with our family, look after the education of our children, develop social relationships and friendships, make a visit or two to people in need, or to those who are alone or sick. Perhaps this will be our chance to have a longer conversation with a friend. Or it may be the moment that a mother or father needs to speak with one of their children on their own, and listen to them. In general terms one must know how to have one’s whole day taken up with a flexible schedule in which, besides the daily norms of piety, an important place should be given to rest, which we all need, to family get-togethers, to reading, and to time set aside for an artistic or literary hobby or any other worthwhile pastime. We live poverty by filling the hours of the day usefully, doing everything as well as we can, and living little details of order, punctuality and good humor. [1800]

[1798] Ps 65:1-2

[1799] John Paul II, Homily, 20 March 1980

[1800] Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá , 111