Sundays were magnificent when I was growing up. Not flamboyant, Fourth-of-July-fireworks magnificent, but rather simple, find-a-four-leaf-clover-when-you-aren't-looking-in-your-backyard magnificent. On Sundays, after Mass, we kids never knew if we'd be popped in the car for a two hour jaunt to my grandparent's home in Michigan, where we'd sip Cokes on grandma's porch, and play tag or Red Rover on her postage-stamp-sized yard with our cousins, or if we'd end up at a fish hatchery for a day of learning, or if we'd just spend a lazy afternoon roller skating on our own driveway, with the smell of my mother's beef roast, wafting through the air. Sundays were special. Nobody had to tell us to keep holy the Sabbath. We inherently knew Sundays were different, and lived like they were.
Sunday was "family day." No friends were allowed over to play. No shopping at the store. Sunday was a day to bond with every brother and sister I had, (and I had a lot) even if it meant staring at each other and exchanging the comment, "I'm bored' if our parents decided we were just staying home. On Sundays there was no servile work, except for setting and clearing the table. On Sundays Mom took out a tablecloth. Not fancy, mind you. It was simple and cotton and white. But it dressed up the table, and signified the day was different, and we all knew it when we walked in that room. In the evening, we had family meetings or family rosary or family songs with dad and his guitar (not that he could play it really, but we thought he could and he did too) or just family squished together around the table, talking about an issue of the day.
Where are the magnificent Sundays anymore? Many have been replaced with days that resemble the other six. Schools schedule ball games. People go shopping. Dad tackles the house painting project, and before you know it, the day's gone. It is rare to see an entire family out together on a Sunday anymore. What is everybody doing?
I find myself yearning for and trying to craft the kinds of Sundays I remember as a child. When our children were younger, we often spent Sundays at the park, playing a family game of football, flying kites, or riding our bikes (baby on the back) around the neighborhood. Sometimes we would go to the beach, or go to our parents' homes. Other times we just cooked out on the barbecue at home. "Why do we have to stay home if there's nothing going on?" is a teenage question I used to ask and now I answer. The reply is easy: Just because it's Sunday. Yes, some of our Sundays are splendid. A trip to the Air Museum. Poetry nights. Popcorn. Great family discussion. Some Sundays are plain — we are just all together with nothing particularly going on. Yet, simply by being together and setting aside the week's cares we bond and grow as family. We stop and remember who we are, where we have been and where we are going.
I think that special Sundays are something every family must carve out for itself. Each family must tweak the day — to make it as original as each family is. Some families will find the fine tablecloth and fancy meal with rolls and beef and wine on Sunday suits them best. Others will pack a picnic in the park and eat on paper plates. Some families will visit different shrines, learning about different saints and devotions. Others will visit different restaurants, learning about different cuisine. Some will read together. Others will play sports. The important thing is to remember that the commandment "Keep Holy the Sabbath" was not made arbitrarily by God to ruin anyone's plans or to interfere with daily living, but that it is for the good of the family itself. Going to Mass together and then somehow making the day special is what keeps the family healthy and the members connected. Keep your family healthy. Be creative. Make your Sundays magnificent.