Up Front and Personal

Gentle Reminders That God Calls Us to Rest

by Laura Kelly Fanucci

This column almost made a liar out of me.

“I’ll write about leisure,” I decided one morning at Mass, snuggled next to a rarely calm child, soaking in the Sunday quiet.

A perfect topic for July’s sultry weather and summer vacations. Gentle reminders that God calls us to rest.

But then my work schedule picked up. So did my husband’s. House projects became emergencies; kids got sick; calendars got thrown off.
When I finally sat down to write, my fingers paused, caught. Nothing came to mind.

Turns out I had zero leisure in my life.

Even before our family’s rhythms slipped from school schedules to summer’s slower pace, I had started to notice the restless itch. The inability to slow down, the frantic rush from one must-do to the next, the nagging guilt that stopping would be lazy.

We read in Genesis that God rested on the seventh day. But too often we dismiss this notion for our own “crazy busy” lives as quaint or cute, a heavenly nap on the couch after a long week of creation.

But what if — like every one of God’s actions — resting on the Sabbath was a powerful and profound act of divine might and wisdom?
God rested. Why do we think we don’t need to do the same?

“We tend to overwork as a means of self-escape, as a way of trying to justify our existence,” wrote the German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper in “Leisure: The Basis of Culture.”

Look around at our culture. It’s not hard to see that most of us are soul-worn, living beyond basic human needs. Living even beyond divine mandate.

The Third Commandment tells us to keep holy the Sabbath. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that “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” (No. 2172).

So how can we slow down to reclaim rest?

Here are three ways to make space for Sabbath — simple ideas that are helping me get back on track.

• First, let technology rest.

I’ve been taking a “phone-free Sabbath”: tucking the phone in a drawer on Saturday night and resisting the temptation to scroll on Sunday. I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s harder than I expected.

But the deliberate practice of being offline and available to those who matter most — my spouse and kids — is delightful and refreshing. I pray longer without distraction. I started reading novels again. I sit and notice: children at play, birds at the feeder, growth in our gardens. Now on Monday mornings, I regret picking the phone back up. The more Sabbath I have, the more I crave it.

• Second, let chores rest.

In a bustling household, there is always something to do, fold, fix, file, scrub, wash, sweep or mend.

But a family isn’t called to be a well-oiled machine. We’re a home full of humans who need to rest, relax and enjoy each other’s company, too.

Try piling the dishes in the sink after Sunday lunch. Or quieting the washing machine from its constant churning. Leaving a chore or two to rest (even until Sunday night) can free up a little breathing room.

• Third, let yourself rest.

Yes, you, with 1,000 things to do and a racing mind that won’t quit. Go to bed early. Sleep in a little later. Take a guilt-free nap. Summer is a season to slow down and let ourselves breathe again.

Let the God of rest — the God who rested — restore you, body and soul.


Fanucci writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.

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