Category Archives: Leisure

What’s for Dinner?

In keeping with tradition, President Trump pardoned Drumstick, the thirty-six pound presidential turkey, yesterday and sent her to Gobblers Rest on the Virginia Tech campus.  Millions of other turkeys will not be so fortunate however adorning the tables of Americans tomorrow gathering for the Thanksgiving Day feast.  For a small, but increasing, number of those families, they will forgo the fowl because they are avowed vegans and vegetarians.  Included within this group are a number of Catholic intellectuals who have rejected their omnivorous ways by making a moral argument for vegetarianism, seeing it as an antidote to the culture of death.   Before the Lion of PETA lies down with Lamb of the National Right to Life, it is instructive to offer a Christian perspective on vegetarianism.

Animals and Their Use

In examining the order of nature, it is patently obvious that there is a hierarchy in which the perfect proceeds from the imperfect.  This hierarchy also resides in the use of things so that the imperfect exists for the use of the perfect.  The plants make use of the earth for their nourishment, animals make use of plants and man makes use of plants and animals.  Man is said then to have dominion over all of visible creation because, having reason and will, he is able to make use of all of it.

Revelation supports human reason in this regard as Genesis tells of God’s granting of dominion to mankind because he is created in God’s image (c.f. Gn 1:26-27).  But this is really a two-edged sword.  Dominion means not just that we have the capacity for using things, but also that there is a right and wrong way to use them.  With free will comes the capacity for the misuse of creatures.   So that the question is not really whether man has dominion over the animals but whether this dominion includes the right to eat them.

Thus when we reflect on the proper use of animals, we usually use the term “humane.”  Although it is an oft-used term, it is not oft-understood.  When we speak of the “humane” treatment of animals it does not mean that we treat them as if they were human.  Instead it refers to the truly human (i.e. moral) way of treating animals as living, sentient beings over which we have been given not just dominion but stewardship.  Humane treatment refers to the truly human way of using the animals.  This would mean that all traces of cruelty or causing unnecessary pain carry moral weight.  Put another way, we should avoid any all forms of abuse, which, of course,  always assumes there is a proper use.

The question also needs to be properly framed.  It is not really whether or not this use includes the death of the animal.  Just as the use of plants by animals may lead to the death of the plants, so too do higher animals prey on the lower.  There is no inherent reason then why the use of the animal by man cannot results in death.  Some make the argument for the moral necessity of vegetarianism based on the fact that we should not kill a living thing.  A moment’s reflection however allows us to see that virtually all of our food, including many things like wheat and fruits and vegetables, results from the death of something that was living (see Augustine’s City of God, Book 1, Ch.20 for further discussion on this).  No one truly objects because the plant matter, lacking sentience, does not have the capacity for pain.  To advance further we must look more closely at animal pain.


Every generation has its pet virtue and for our generation it is kindness.  Provided we “would never hurt a fly” we are deemed good people.  The great enemy of kindness is cruelty and its daughter pain.  Pain is the greatest evil.  But this is not entirely true.  Pain becomes an evil when it becomes an end in itself.  This is true in both humans and animals.  It can however serve as a means, provided it is minimized in carry out its purpose.  That purpose can be either corrective (like getting too close to a fire) or for growth.  Cruelty would not be to cause pain, but to cause it unnecessarily.  The power of sentience is not simply for feeling pleasure, but also allows for the feeling of pain.  This power is good and necessary for the creature to thrive.

The difference in humans and animals is the capacity, not to feel pain, but to suffer.  There must be an I to experience suffering or else it is merely a succession of pains without any real connection.  As CS Lewis says in The Problem of Pain it is most accurate to say “pain is taking place in this animal” rather than “this animal is suffering.”  We should avoid saying things like “how would you like to be in a slaughterhouse?”  The experience of animals in that environment is very different from the suffering that would have gone on in a place like Auschwitz.  They may be in pain in the slaughterhouse, but there is no suffering.  Any appeal to emotions based on an anthropomorphic comparison ultimately muddies the waters.

The causing of pain in other humans, always as a means, is licit provided the patient receives some benefit from it.  At first glance it would seem that animals would derive no benefit from the pain caused by humans.  When we view pain as means of moving a person towards perfection then we can see the parallel in animals.  The perfection of any creature consists in it achieving the end for which it was made.  Man was made for happiness (in the classical sense of becoming morally good) and animals were made for man.  If the pain that a man causes an animal is necessary for his own happiness and acts as a means to helping the animal reach the end for which it was made, namely the service of mankind, then there is nothing inherently wrong with it.

The Moral Case For Vegetarianism

All that has been said so far helps to clear up some of the ambiguities surrounding the issue, but has yet to address whether a moral argument could be made for vegetarianism.  In the state of original innocence man was a vegetarian (c.f. Gn 1:29).  Man had dominion over the animals but did not use them for clothes or food (ST I, q.103, art. 1).  The animals obeyed man, that is, all animals were domesticated.  For his own disobedience man was punished by the disobedience of those creatures which should have been subjected to him and they became difficult to domesticate and often posed threats to his life.  Shortly thereafter the animals were used for clothing (Gn 3:20) and food (Gn 9:3).  In short, because of the frailty introduced to the human body as a result of the Fall, it became necessary to make use of the animals for warmth and nutrition.

Any argument that man “was originally a vegetarian” ultimately falls flat because we cannot return to our Edenic state.  With the Fall came irreparable damage to both body and soul of which animal flesh provides a partial remedy.  Furthermore, within Church tradition, fasting from meat has long been practiced as a means of mortification.  We are called to abstain from good things so that eating meat is a good thing and thus worthy of being sacrificed.  In short, any attempt to make a moral argument that eating meat is wrong ultimately falls flat.

Likewise making a connection to the culture of death is problematic.  It is not clear how using animals for food is directly connected or acts like a gateway drug for the culture of death unless you equivocate on the word death.  The culture of death is one that causes spiritual death.  How the killing of animals, when done in a humane way and not out of greed, leads to a culture of spiritual death is not immediately obvious.

All that being said, there is a manner in which vegetarianism can represent a morally praiseworthy act, that is by way of counsel and not obligation.  Because meat is a concession made by God because of man’s fallen condition, abstaining from meat can act as a participation in the fruits of Christ’s redemptive act.  This is why the Church has long obligated abstaining from meat specifically (as opposed to some other kind of food) during certain liturgical periods.  Permanently abstaining from meat, when done with this intention, becomes a powerful spiritual practice.  It also becomes an act of witness to both the world and to those in the Church who often neglect this practice.

For the omnivores among us—enjoy your meat this Thanksgiving Day with a clear conscience.  But make an offering of thanksgiving Friday by holding the leftovers until Saturday.  Herbivores, allow your vegetarianism to be a constant sign of the redemption won at so great a cost.  Truly, something to be thankful for.

More than Couch Potatoes

What does it mean when we say that man is made in the image of God?  Classically this has been interpreted as man, through his spiritual soul, being able to perform the God-like activities of knowing and loving.  It is this natural “God-likeness” that gives us dignity above any other visible creature.  The Catechism defines man as the only visible creature who is “‘able to know and love his creator’. … and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity…” (CCC 356).  But we are also God-like in our activities.  We image God most prominently in marriage and in our work.  But there is a third way that we image God that often gets overlooked—leisure.  When God rested on the 7th Day He did so not because He was tired but because He took delight in all that He had created, especially man.  In marking this resting as the sign of His first covenant with mankind it was meant to serve as a model for mankind so that we would habitually set aside time to take delight in what is.  In fact, if we apply one of Aquinas’ favorite philosophical dictum, “last in order of execution is first in order of intention” we find that the highest thing that man can do is leisure.  In fact it would seem that all other things are done in order to make this thing possible.

When Our Lord visited the home of Martha and Mary, He was, in essence, reminding Martha (and all of us) that work is not the highest good.  Work is meant as useful activity so that work, in and of itself, does not have meaning but ultimately is directed towards something else.  In other words, work must always be done as a means to some other end.  You don’t work merely for work’s sake.  For example, a furniture maker doesn’t simply saw the wood for the sake of sawing the wood.  He has the end in mind of building a chair.  Because of this, work is good.  It not only contributes to the dignity of the person, but to the common good as well.  It is also necessary.  St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that those who don’t work, don’t eat.

The Romans and the Greeks knew this truth from Truth much better than we do.  We treat leisure as little more than playing in order to get back to work.  But for the ancients work was for the sake of leisure.  Work was meant to free us up for the higher things.  In fact the Latin word for leisure is otium and the word for work is negotium, which literally means “not at leisure.”

In Leisure: The Basis of Culture , Josef Pieper defines leisure as “considering things in a celebrating spirit.  The leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.”  Leisure is drinking reality as it really is.  It is an activity that is done for its own sake that in some way enriches the person.  An example of leisure would be to “stop and smell the roses.”  We don’t look at a rose so that we might dissect it, but so that we might gaze upon it and take in its beauty for its own sake.  In other words, leisure should be something that elicits wonder on our part.

Max Weber, an early 20th century German politician and sociologist said that “one does not work in order to live, one lives for the sake of one’s work.”  Compare this with what Aristotle said.   He said that we don’t work to live but to be at leisure.  Can you imagine trying to tell this to people today without being labeled as lazy or unproductive?

I think it is important at this point to discuss exactly what leisure is not.  It is not merely “Veging out” or amusement.  We were made for much more than merely amusement.  We were made for eternal joy, which is so much deeper than simple amusement.  I am not saying that either of these is necessarily bad, just that they aren’t leisure.  Leisure is meant to enrich us while these only serve as a distraction or break from work.  Leisure should be recreation which consists in those things by which we are “recreated.” Practically speaking means we somehow have a different view of reality—God, the world, and ourselves—after participating in them.  Leisure activities contribute to happiness it necessarily increases virtue.  This should be our measuring stick as to whether a given activity is true leisure or not.  But again, leisure is an end in itself.  We do not do them because they increase virtue, they increase virtue because they are good for us.  This can often be a source of confusion for us.  For example is exercising something that a healthy person does or is it something that causes health?  The person who does it because of the first reason does so in a spirit of festivity and joy—they enjoy it.  The second person does so minimally and grudgingly.

JPII Hiking

Why is it so necessary, especially in today’s world?  I am convinced what the world needs more than anything else today is the restoration of wonder.  Only in leisure can we look beyond the usefulness of things to their meaning.  This is the very Catholic habit of viewing reality sacramentally.  All visible reality is meant to point to the invisible reality of God, its Creator.  Creation exists so as to reveal God to us His beloved creatures.  Aquinas may have gotten the mechanics of the law of gravity wrong, but he certainly got its meaning right—it existed as a force because God is love and love, being a cause of attraction causes an object to rest in the object it is attracted to.  Even the law of gravity is a sacrament!

As is always the case, but especially when we have things totally upside down, we should look to Christ and how He lived to get our priorities in order.  We seem to have this image of Him as a serious man who never had any fun.  That is why I love the flashback scene in the movie The Passion of the Christ where Jesus has just finished building the table and Mary asks about the chairs.  His playful response is invaluable for us in understanding that God as man certainly knew how to have fun.  This was a man who grew up and lived in a Mediterranean culture where they spent a great deal of time at table with friends, drinking good red wine.  As the Second Vatican Council told us in Gaudium et Spes, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light” (GS 22).

So what did Christ tell us about Leisure in the Gospels?  Three particular passages come to mind.  During His temptation in the desert, Christ tells the devil that “man does not live by bread alone” (Mt 4:4).  I think this is precisely the point.  The man who does try to live by bread alone, which unfortunately is the majority of us, is the man who lacks both culture and leisure.

The second passage that comes to mind is during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 6:33) when He tells us to seek the kingdom first and then all these things will be added.  The man who seeks the highest things will have the lesser things thrown in.  As CS Lewis said in his essay First and Second Things, “you can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”  Only with leisure in its higher place can we begin to understand work in the proper way.

So how have we gotten things so upside down?  What are the causes?  I think there are three main causes, although it is hard to narrow it down to only these three.

In the Gospel of Life, John Paul II said that at the root of the culture of death is “an attitude of excessive preoccupation with efficiency”.  This I think shows one of the main causes.  We don’t have leisure because we are too obsessed with production.  Leisure doesn’t produce anything.  It is useless and that it is why the lack of leisure also coincides with a lack of friendship.

This obsession with usefulness and utility can even be found in our everyday language.  How many times have you asked someone how they are, only to get the response of “busy”?  In fact, this happens so often to me that I am often caught off guard when I don’t get it.  We associate our well-being with how occupied we are.  Someone who understands leisure and its place should respond that they are “wonder-full”.

This manifests itself in workaholism.  This is when work becomes an end in itself and people define themselves according to their work.  Think about it.  When we meet or introduce someone, we immediately want to know what they do for a living.  It is nothing other than vanity though.  We seek approval for what we do rather than for who we are in God.

Sin is obviously the cause of all of this, but there is one of the Capital Sins that is at the heart of the crisis of leisure and it is one you rarely hear about anymore.  That sin is sloth.  Let me be clear on what exactly sloth is.  Aquinas said that sloth is sorrow about spiritual good.  It is not merely sorrow as a feeling, but it is a sorrow which steals our appetite for God.

It is not mere laziness as is often thought.  It is only laziness in that it keeps us from our heavenly tasks.  Sloth is the reason why most people don’t pray and is the reason why our spiritual lives are “choked out by the concerns of the world” (Mk 4:19).  It can actually be anything but laziness in that it takes a lot of work to avoid asking the big questions in life such as who we are and where we are going.

This is why we so often fail to wonder at beauty.  The expression of “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” doesn’t say it all.  The problem is not that beauty is subjective (in fact it is objective along with goodness and truth).  The problem is that the “beholder” lacks the maturity to recognize the beauty.

The last cause I want to mention is the most important and the most obvious.  Although the majority of our culture professes to believe in God, they are practical atheists in that they act as if God did not exist.  Is there a commandment that is more closely associated with leisure than the third?  And is there a commandment that is broken more often today?  Why did God issue the Third Commandment to keep the Sabbath Holy?  We turn once again to the Catechism:

If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”  The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money. (CCC 2172)

So it wasn’t because God demands our worship so much as to remind us not to become slaves to anything.  We were made to worship and only in worshipping God are we complete.  Everyone worships something.

It is also to remind us that we were not meant for the servitude of work.  Man is made for the higher things to which leisure points us.  God’s gift of the Sabbath is to remind us of that.  It reminds us that the truth of reality is that we are all useless.  God has absolutely no use for any of us.  We were created because He loved us into creation and it is His love that holds us in creation.  There is nothing we can give him that he doesn’t already have except our love and adoration.  In that way we are all useless and meant only for the highest of things.

God and Commitment Phobes

In an address on the New Evangelization to Catechists and Teachers in 2000, then-Cardinal Ratzinger said the greatest obstacle modern man faced in accepting the Gospel was “an inability of joy.”   Although this aversion to joy is particularly acute in our time, it is certainly nothing new.  In fact it is something that is captured quite beautifully in Dante’s Purgatorio.  At the midpoint of his ascent of the Mount of Purgatory, Dante encounters those who are being purged of sloth and its effects.  The slothful race about the terrace shouting out famous examples of the vice and its opposing virtue, zeal.  The souls appear to be enjoying their punishment of the breathless race they are on.  This is not because they find joy in punishment so much as the joy is their punishment.  Dante believed that the slothful are marked by an inability to joy.

Because of his reliance on the moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante’s Divine Comedy has often been called the “Summa in Verse.” By returning to the teachings of St. Thomas on the Capital Sin of sloth or acedia, we may be able to learn a great deal about not only the world’s aversion to joy, but why it remains so elusive for many of us.

To begin, there is an important point to be made regarding the Seven Capital Sins.  St. Thomas rarely referred to the Seven Capital Sins as sins but instead as vices.  His reason for this is because something like sloth is not usually the actual sin the person commits, but the disposition or habit that leads to other sins.  The term “capital” derives from the Latin word caput, meaning head.  The point is that these seven vices are usually the source or head of all of the sins we commit (see ST II-II, q.153, art.4).  The reason why this is important is that these vices remain hidden to us because they act as subconscious motivations for the sins we do commit.  Unless we are in the habit of examining our motivations along with our sins, they will almost always remain off our spiritual radar.  Understanding the vices and how they tend to manifest themselves allows us to work at the virtues directly opposing the vice of sloth.

Certainly one of the reasons why sloth is particularly hidden is because most people view it as simply laziness.  One of the fruits of the Protestant Reformation was that sloth became associated with laziness and neglect in doing one’s duty.  The opposing virtue was seen to be diligence or industriousness and “busyness” became a cardinal virtue.  But for St. Thomas and the Desert Fathers that went before him, sloth is a spiritual vice.  There is a link of sorts to effort, but not primarily to bodily effort.  It is not an aversion to physical effort but an aversion to the demands of love.  It causes us to see the burden of love to be too great.

In order to fully capture how this vice ensnares us, it is helpful to look at the two parts of the definition that Aquinas gives for acedia in the Summa.  He says that acedia is “sorrow about spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good” (ST II-II q.35, a.3).

The second part of the definition describes what is the cause of our sorrow—namely the “spiritual good in as much as it is a Divine good.”  For St. Thomas this “spiritual good” that is internal to the person and yet also a “Divine good” is friendship with God.  This friendship with God is the virtue of charity by which we participate in the love God has for Himself.

The sorrow itself need explanation as well.  Sorrow is analogous to sadness but it rests in our soul.  It is more like a pain of soul that makes joy impossible.  This sorrow is experienced because what should be experienced as a good (namely the love of God) is instead viewed as bad.  Not bad in itself, but too much work and too demanding.  The word acedia literally means “a lack of care” meaning that it simply is not worth the effort.  In this way then it is not so much a rejection of God Himself, but of friendship with Him.  This partial rejection of God is what makes sloth so deadly.

Dante seems to capture this lack of love by placing sloth in the middle of the Mount of Purgatory.  The first three terraces are meant to heal love that has been perverted by being directed towards an evil object or end (pride, envy, and wrath).  The three terraces above (greed, gluttony, and lust) are directed to healing love that is excessively directed towards a good object.  Sloth sits alone in the middle because it shows a lack of love that begins with loving God less than we should and spreads to everything else.


Without delving deeply into psychological motivations, why would we do this?  To understand sloth, the fact that love is demanding cannot be forgotten.  There is a sweetness that comes from love, but for the most part it makes demands upon us.  In fact sloth makes us “commitment phobes” with God because of the burden of commitment.

Of course any explanation must include the given of Original Sin.  St. Paul tells the Galatians that “the flesh lusts against the spirit” (Gal 5:17) which means that without virtue the flesh will be dominant in us and we will loathe spiritual goods as somehow bad for us.  It is sort of like how we crave junk food and have to force ourselves to eat wholesome foods.  Acedia as sorrow at the thought of being in relationship with God because of the “burden of commitment.”

An analogy might help to better understand it.  Think of a married couple who argues and rather than doing the work of apologizing and forgiving, they would rather take the “easier” route of going off to separate rooms and sulk.  They both know of the goodness that follows from reconciliation, but refuse to do the work of getting there.

In looking at the sins that are caused by sloth or “daughters of acedia” as St. Thomas divides them into two types.  The first are those sins which represent our attempts to escape from the sorrow.  The most common way in which it manifests itself is through curiosity.  Most people would say that curiosity is a good thing and it is insofar as it represents a desire for knowledge.  But St. Thomas says we cannot look at only the desire but also must consider the motive and the effects the knowledge has on the knower and others.  Curiosity is the desire for knowledge simply for the pleasure that it brings as opposed to knowing for the sake of knowledge itself (as in the truth) which is the virtue of studiousness.  From curiosity flows listening to gossip.  There is also a fear of missing out on something interesting that will help divert us from the sorrow.  This fear is what truly drives the almost obsessive nature in which many people are constantly checking social media.

St. Thomas also says it manifests itself through an aimless wandering after illicit things.  Drinking excessively, promiscuity, drugs often represent attempts to escape the sorrow of sloth.  But it is not just illicit things but an excess of busyness too.  This busyness blocks us from seeing the reason why we have no joy is because we are slothful.  After all, how could one be slothful when they are constantly involved in activity?  St. Thomas recognized this temptation and presented acedia as primarily a sin against the Third Commandment because it is an avoidance of doing the “work” of the Sabbath rest.

At a certain point the realization that the sorrow is inescapable sinks in and a new level of vices arise.  The most obvious would be despair, but I would like to focus on a second one that is not so obvious—boredom.

To prove that the overwhelming majority of Americans is at this point, what other explanation could there be that the average person watches 4 hours of TV (25% of their waking time) than that they are bored?  What about the obsession with celebrities?  Out of boredom the cult of celebrities arises because when one’s own life lacks meaning, you become obsessed with others’ lives.

In essence for those with despair and boredom life loses its pilgrim character.  For the bored they become tourists instead of pilgrims. What we do when we are bored really doesn’t matter only that it alleviates the boredom.  Everyone knows that there is no happiness in the endless diversions, parties, drinking and promiscuity.  But at least one is less empty for a while.

There is a great spiritual principle that comes into play when we are trying to root out vices like sloth.  We cannot simply stop doing it.  Certainly identifying the root cause is important, but the only way for us as fallen creatures to overcome evil in our hearts is by replacing it with good.  I already mentioned how sloth is truly opposed to charity but there are two other virtues that we should strive to cultivate.

First is the virtue of gratitude.  One desert father said that sloth is ultimately a hatred of being.  Everything seems hard and meaningless.  By viewing everything through what St. John Paul II called the “hermeneutic of the gift” we find everything charged with meaning through its bestowal upon us.  With gratitude comes to the desire to repay that gift by making a gift of ourselves.  To quote from JPII’s favorite line of Vatican II, “man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (GS, 24).

The second is the virtue of magnanimity.  Literally magnanimity means “large-souledness.”  It is a generous acceptance of the missionary character of our lives.  It is a response to Blessed John Henry Newman’s a clarion call:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling”

As Dante enters the Fifth Circle of Hell, he encounters two groups confined to the River Styx—the wrathful and the slothful.  The wrathful fight each other above the surface, while the slothful simply stew beneath the swampy surface.  By Dante’s standards their punishment is rather light, but that is because they really didn’t do anything.  They simply slid into hell through a lack of effort.   Please God that we might overcome the “noonday devil” and avoid a similar fate.


The Lord’s Day

If Aristotle were to return to the earth in 2015 and see all that has been accomplished he would assume that he would find a society that had a great deal of leisure in their lives.  With all the technological advances in labor saving devices, he would have expected that this allowed man a greater use of his time in free activity.  Aristotle, like most of the ancient world, thought that we work in order to be at leisure not the other way around like we do today.  Much to his surprise he would find a society that no longer knew the meaning of leisure and was stressed out like never before.  We are so infected with consumerism that we believe that all life’s needs and their satisfaction come from purchasable items.  It has enslaved most of us and it seems that we are trapped in a vicious circle.  The Church however places before us the perennial antidote to this type of slavery—the remembering of the Sabbath as a “day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC 2172).


In order to live fully the gift of the Sabbath, it is necessary first to understand what it is and why it is given to us.  The Sabbath has its roots “in the beginning.”  God “rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.  God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it He rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gn 2:2-3).  God’s “resting” is an anthropomorphism charged with a wealth of meaning.  As John Paul II says in his Apostolic Exhortation Dies Domini, “it would be banal to interpret God’s rest as a kind of inactivity.”  Instead it is meant to convey the fullness of what God had accomplished.  God “pauses” to look upon the marvel of what He has created and through the anthropomorphism the Holy Spirit invites us to do the same within the regular cycle of time.  It is not meant to be a mere interruption of work however.  As St. Thomas Aquinas often says, “last in the order of execution, first in the order of intention.”  God’s rest is the last thing He does in the Creation account because it is meant to serve as a sign of what He intends to accomplish.  He invites man to participate because it is sign of man’s final destination of an eternal rest in God’s presence—“the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27).   Only by actively participating in the Sabbath can we “experience a tremor of the Creator’s joy” by beholding what He made is “very good” (Dies Domini, 17).

With the Fall of mankind the Sabbath becomes more important for man because it signifies the vital link between creation and salvation.  This is seen most clearly when we read the two accounts of the Decalogue.  In Exodus 20, the emphasis is placed on not doing any work in imitation of God.  In Deuteronomy 5:12-15, the emphasis is on remembering the salvation God gave them when He brought them out of Egypt.  It is this connection between creation and salvation that causes so much tension between Jesus and the Pharisees about His healings on the Sabbath.  It is not that Jesus is some rebellious rule-breaker, but that He is trying to reveal the true meaning of the Sabbath by restoring its liberating character.  You should notice how in each of the Sabbath day healings, He heals some illness that would have been a juridical impediment to someone participating in the worship of the Jews (c.f. Mt 12:9-14).

The early Church had the habit of celebrating both the Lord’s Day (Sunday) and the Sabbath (Saturday).  This link between creation and salvation is what made the early Christians believe they had the authority to transfer the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day.  It was Sunday that fulfilled the Sabbath.  They came to view Sunday as the “8th Day.”  It was the day of the Resurrection and therefore the definitive saving action of God.  It was also the 1st day of the week and thus the day of Creation and Re-Creation.

With a proper understanding of the Sabbath restored, the question naturally arises as to how we are best to celebrate it.  As John Paul II reminded us, “sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this.”  It is lived well “if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work.”  It should be seen as not so much “free time” but “freedom time.”

What are some concrete things we can do to mark this holy day?  It should be day in which we stop and thank God for all the gifts He has given us.  The deeper our sense of gratitude (always for very specific things) the deeper our participation in the Sabbath.  Also, allowing ourselves to be free from consumerist driven leisure activities and enjoy the natural world is certainly a great thing to do.   The former Pontiff said that the Sabbath should also include a “relaxed gathering of parents and children that can be marked by prayer and catechesis.”  This catechesis is not simply dropping the kids at the Parish but it should be catechesis that includes the whole family.  Sunday is an opportunity to devote to works of mercy, charity and apostolate.  If the purpose of Sunday is to capture the joy of the Lord, then it is necessary to keep the commandment of love for our neighbor (c.f. John 15:11-12).

What about activities that cause other people to work like going to a restaurant?  Personally I would suggest keeping these at a minimum, but you might consider being more generous in your tipping to help those who have to work.  In a society that has lost the habit of the Sabbath rest there are many people who have to work.  By generously tipping them you may help them get out of this necessity.  You might also consider frequenting those places that are closed on Sundays on other days of the week as well.  What I would suggest as well is to not do any unnecessary shopping.  If large chain stores begin to see that it is not as profitable to remain open on Sunday they will either close or at least force less people to work.  Again it is a matter of personal conscience but I would say the day should be treated differently than other days and should be marked by gratitude, especially for the people God has given you.