One Resolution -- A Virtue of Those Who Take the Time

Author: Elizabeth Foss


By Elizabeth Foss

I broke my New Year's resolution about 16 hours after midnight on January 1. While I supervised the boys' bath, I folded and put away three loads of laundry. So much for my attempt to keep the Sabbath.

Ever since I was a little girl enchanted with the stories of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder in the books, I've wanted to keep Sunday as a day of rest. My interest was reawakened when I listened to a talk Sister Sharon Doyle gave at the fourth annual National Catholic Family Conference. She challenged modern families to reclaim Sunday as a day to pray and to play.

Sister Sharon encouraged families to slow down, to take time for contemplation, both on the Sabbath and in stolen "Sabbath moments" throughout the week. That is where my resolution comes in. I have shared in previous columns my struggle to be still. It is very difficult to be attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit when one is in constant motion.

My husband has no problem with stillness, with rest or with leisure. It is as if he pushes a button and he can forget all those details which seems so pressing and spend time quietly in prayer or completely relaxed and at play. It has taken me 14 years to see that ability as a virtue. I have always told him that I don't have time for leisure. There's too much to do.

Sister Sharon said that "leisure is not a virtue of those who have the time, it is a virtue of those who take the time." All time belongs to God. He has given us exactly the amount of time we need to complete the work He has ordained. He said, "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work" (Ex 20:9-10). If my work requires more than six days to complete then my work is not the will of God.

Of course, not all of us can play on Sunday. My husband works in sports television. Often he is at work on Sunday so that others can be at play. I was very glad that my obstetrician, also a holy man, was at work the Sunday my son was born. My husband had just taken the last shuttle out of Boston late that Saturday night. My doctor had been up all night with us. Neither of them had any trouble relaxing and finding God later that day. They were skilled at observing Sabbath moments. They could claim the gift of the Sabbath despite their very real professional demands.

God wants us to pray and to play on Sunday, "to call the Sabbath a delight" (Is 58:13). It is not a burden but a blessing. We must begin the Sabbath with worship at Mass. Often at our house that means a rush and a struggle to get three small children dressed, fed and out the door. We are feeling neither holy nor playful by the time we get to church. I've resolved to prepare as much as possible the night before to make the morning hassle- free.

Quite by chance, I discovered that special clothes really enhance the day as a holy day, a holiday. Usually, I wear to Mass the same clothes I wear to the pediatrician, to teach or to shop. One recent Sunday I happened to wear a dress previously reserved for baptisms, weddings and funerals. "Are you going to dance, Mommy?" my two-year-old inquired with shining eyes.

I seized the moment and dressed him and his brothers in "fancy clothes" too. Dad naturally followed suit. And wonder of wonders, that two-year-old, who had never sat quietly beyond the homily, behaved beautifully throughout the entire service. We've been dressing up ever since.

The Sabbath doesn't end with the final blessing, though. And neither should the prayer. Sundays are ideal for taking the time to notice the wonder and the beauty in God's creation. Saint Ignatius of Loyola said, "contemplation is finding God in all things." That's where the "play" comes in. There will be no work in heaven and the Sabbath is a little bit of heaven.

It's a time to take a picnic and point out to the children how blue the sky is and how good the lemonade tastes. It's time to relax with people we love and to appreciate their uniqueness. It's time to embrace what is both fun and holy in life and to give all glory and honor to God.

The Catholic Sabbath isn't the serious, boring Sunday described in the Little House books. Children should not equate God and prayer with boredom, but with a balance of quiet rest and joyful exuberance. Sister Sharon said that "prayerful Sabbaths without play are too Puritan, playful Sabbaths without prayer too pagan, and the most Catholic thing you can do is both play and pray."

I resolve to carry a little bit of the Sabbath with me throughout the week, taking time to be still and know God amidst the busyness of my life. I'll take time to have fun and to trust that the work will get done. Sabbath moments will be times when I can remind myself and my children that God is present in all things and when I can find peace in that knowledge.

Next time my boys take a bath on Sunday night, I'll put the laundry aside. Instead, I'll inhale the lovely smell of freshly washed baby-fine hair and I'll delight in the feel of warm, damp skin. I'll slow down and take the time to appreciate the greatness of God in the ordinary moments of every day life.

The laundry will still be there Monday morning.

Foss is a freelance writer and managing editor of Welcome Home, a magazine for mothers at home.

This article appeared in the January 12, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.