Plan a post-Mass picnic to savor our God-given day of rest
In the Austrian countryside before World War II, bells rang late on Saturday afternoons to signify that the day’s work was ended and it was time to begin preparations for Sunday. It was called “ringing in the Feierabend,” Maria Augusta Trapp wrote in her book Around the Year with the Trapp Family.
Hard work was stopped, a candle was lit, clothes and food were readied for the next day. Quiet and a slower pace settled over the house, as bodies, minds and souls prepared for the next morning’s Mass and a festive day of family and community togetherness.
Today’s American culture makes it challenging to set Sunday aside for worship and family. Kids’ soccer matches, half-off sales and study obligations vie for our attention. Many people have to go to work. And even if they don’t, many still check their phones for work emails and missed calls.
Reading Trapp’s chapter entitled “The Land without a Sunday” about 20 years ago was a wake-up call for me and my husband: Don’t take for granted the great gift of Sunday. And it encouraged us to go further in embracing the fullness of what Sunday means.
In response, our family has a special Sunday protocol. We restrict electronics use, forgo get-togethers with friends, and refrain from working on house and garden projects. We center the day on Mass and family — we pray, then play together, with activities meant to strengthen and feed our family.
Over the years, we have found quite a few things that can engage a family with six kids in a wide spread of ages (4 years up to 20-somethings). We picnic after Mass, go for a hike, or watch family home movies. We play card games, musical instruments or outdoor games, or build a fire and have catechesis. We visit a local park or extended family. To make Sunday dinner more special, we light candles, use the best china dishes, say an extended grace, and make a dessert. Afterward, we finish the day with a family rosary.
The importance of keeping Sunday special is something our popes have weighed in on.
In his 1998 apostolic letter Dies Domini, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that Sunday is “Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death. … It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world’s first day and looks forward in active hope to ‘the last day,’ when Christ will come in glory … and all things will be made new.”
Pope Pius XII, in his 1947 address on Catholic Action, said that “Sunday must become again the day of the Lord, the day of adoration, of prayer, of rest, of recollection and of reflection, of happy reunion in the intimate circle of the family.”
We are still urgently in need of this message, as the world has become faster-paced, noisier, more stress-filled and more technology-oriented — all things that interfere with directing our thoughts and actions toward God.
Yes, I long for simpler times, and maybe even a village church bell to ring out the hours. Yet in these hectic modern times, we still have the ancient gift of Sunday — a bit of slowness with which to savor our relationships with God and family.
Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus; exultemus et laetemur in ea! (This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!)
Photo: Courtesy Michelle Bruno
Sunday chicken skewers
Plan an after-Mass picnic with your family with these prepare-ahead chicken skewers as the main dish. Keep them on ice in a cooler, then right after church go to a nearby park, spread a blanket and enjoy a feast.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into 1-inch-wide strips, 1/2-inch thick
- 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon each turmeric and yellow curry powder
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried ground red pepper
- 1 teaspoon agave or sugar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Place chicken breast strips in a shallow baking dish, pour the marinade over them, cover the dish and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (can also be left overnight).
When ready to cook, soak bamboo skewers in water for an hour and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove chicken from the marinade and thread onto the skewers, arranging them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 16–20 minutes.
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