Husband & Wife Articles


 

Sunday Special

Setting apart the Lord’s Day is good for the family

By Christopher Menzhuber

I want my children to experience Sunday as a day of prayer, refreshment and recreation, as I did in high school and college. Yet at a certain point in our family life, I realized that to give this gift to my kids, I needed to live it myself. Let me start with my own story, in which at a young age, Sunday Mass became the jewel in the crown of the week, the icing on the cake.

In high school I began to refrain from homework on Sundays and it changed my entire perspective. Instead of being constantly distracted at Mass because I was thinking about what I had to finish for school the next day, I was free to enjoy it. It helped to feel as though God was on my side, not excusing me from due dates and getting decent grades, but giving me the energy to work hard Friday and Saturday. Looking back, I am surprised at how reasonable it seems to conclude that after a full week of homework it might actually be better, humanly speaking, to give it a rest.

Christopher Menzhuber and his wife, Calista, have two young children.

For a short while after college, I was a seminarian and studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The highlight of Sunday was pranzo – lunch – after morning Mass. The seminarians would fill an airy dining room, with sunlight pouring through floor-to-ceiling windows. We would sit at tables covered with white linens and the meal would be served family style. Without fail there was some kind of authentic pasta, followed by salad, a secondo with meat, and finished by a dessert served with coffee. House wine was always on the table. We sat there together in our Sunday best, united by a common purpose, celebrating the end of one week and looking forward to the beginning of the next. I would get up from the table with a full stomach and shuffle to my room for a Sunday afternoon nap, a visit with a friend, or directionless walk through the ancient city of Rome.

My present circumstances don’t allow me to celebrate Sunday in the same way. The obligations in my life now make the stress of high school homework seem laughable. I don’t have the culinary skill to create a sumptuous meal, nor is the ambience of our “dining room” so glorious as that Rome seminary: a table lodged in the corner of the kitchen a few inches clear of the main door.

Another hurdle is that, with my employment at our parish, I often have to work Sunday mornings. For years, my routine has been to finish work around noon, come home and allow the exhaustion of the week to wash over me, often losing the prime recreational time of the Lord’s Day with my family. All this has convinced me that the need for maintaining the Sunday rest, while perhaps more challenging than it used to be, is more important than ever. I have taken a few steps to try and capture what was great about those earlier Sunday experiences and apply them to my present circumstances.

During the week, I prepare a crock pot meal for Sunday that will be ready by the time I get home. A simple white tablecloth and a candle, some of our real glasses and the “fancier” utensils provide ambiance. Wine – sparkling juice for the kids – dessert and coffee make the occasion truly special. This little bit of planning helps me start the Lord’s Day with a better disposition. It’s like the effect of mentally putting the finish line a little further out to keep me from arriving at Sunday in a state of exhaustion. Preparation leading up to Sunday also serves as a reminder and a justification for suspending unnecessary work.

As soon as we began the practice, my children noticed there is something “fancy” about our meal. The tablecloth and candles create an atmosphere that holds us together around something special. There is a sense that something important, something bigger than us is happening. My hope is that gradually they will begin to associate that celebratory feeling with the entire day.

I will forever be grateful for the people and circumstances in the past that allowed me to experience the Lord’s Day with such joy. I will likely never be able to celebrate in the same way I did in high school or seminary. But the lesson was well learned. Now, part of my joy comes from trying to create a good Sunday experience for my family.