Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reason #3: The Third Commandment in Slow Dissolve

The decline in Sunday Mass attendance among Catholics is part of a larger phenomenon: the decline in Sunday itself.  A couple of generations ago, many rural and big-city Catholics had small closets in their bedrooms, containing two hooks: one to hold their working clothes, the other to hold their "good" clothes, their Sunday clothes.  Two hooks, two parts of the week.  Nowadays, Catholics get dressed up for work, and dress down for Sunday.  The "weekend" was foreign to generations of Catholic farm families.  Instead, there were six days to work  --  and very hard work at that, especially during planting and harvesting seasons  --  and then there were Sundays.  The crops were still sitting outside those farmhouse windows, demanding attention, but it was Sunday, and that meant church, leisure, and visits to the folks down the road.  What a remarkable, shared cultural and spiritual commitment!

And now it's gone.

Some Catholics work at their jobs on Sundays, but most Catholics who skip Mass are not skipping because Mass interferes with their employment, but because Mass interferes with their leisure.  We have retained the secular hulk of the Lord's Day --- time off of work  --- but we have forgotten why we are resting, and we have forgotten Who gave us this rest.  Commentators were intrigued that Pope John Paul II had 100 pages of things to say about Sundays in his 1998 Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini ("The Lord's Day").

When was the last time our parish priests had anything at all to say about the Lord's Day?


  1. This reminds me of the biography of St. Jean Vianney that Abbe Trochu wrote. The saint waged a long war in his parish to get the people to stop working in their fields on Sunday. He didn't think it was unimportant!

  2. Well said Father. Found you via Fr. Z's blog.

    I rather like this quote, from The League of Bearded Catholics:

    "There are hedges that need trimming, and half a hundred small chores that cry for attention, but The Boss jovially insisted I take the whole day off and drop by His House later to see him."

  3. Thanks,"Robert." A wonderful quotation, and a wonderful theological truth. It would be one thing if our Faith taught us that we were required one day each week to undergo agony and hardship and separation from God and family and dear loved ones. But a true sign of spiritual sickness is a distaste for the life-giving food and drink and rest that can heal us.

  4. "Mass interferes with leisure" excellent point, just so, and it's sad

  5. Part of the problem in overly secularized cultures e.g. in the UK where I am, is that many businesses expect you to be 'flexible' i.e. able to work weekends. As my father (athiest) said 'sure you can refuse to work Sundays, just don't expect to get a job' I'm fairly sure that the reason why I don't have a job is my refusual to work on the Sabbath day