Dear Brothers and Sisters of St. Andrew the Apostle,
Last Saturday, June 20, was the first day of summer. Summer has always been my favorite season. It started when I was a child when summer meant long days of sunshine and no school. As an adult, my preference for warm weather over the cold is one of the reasons I still like summer above the other seasons. Of course, I respect that others do not share this opinion, especially in Northern Virginia where the heat and humidity can become unbearable.
Another reason that I prefer summer is the beauty of nature on display. Flowers in bloom, trees full of green leaves, and colorful birds and animals show the glory of their Creator. On my day off, I like to go fishing - another reason I enjoy the warmth of summer. Out on the water, I may encounter a noisy and dazzling kingfisher, a sublimely colorful sunset, or the immense power of a summer storm. We can see God in the natural grandeur that surrounds us. His creation makes his presence among us known.
This year, like most of my adult years, summer began without my noticing. It is too easy to get distracted by the things of the world. However, when isolation and cancellations have made our schedules indistinct from day to day, it is important to remain rooted in the patterns of our faith. Liturgical seasons and sacred feasts mark our yearly calendar, and on a weekly basis, we recognize the honor we give to God by keeping Sunday holy. It is a day set apart for worship, rest, and family.
While we are dispensed from our Sunday obligation to attend Mass in person during the coronavirus, we still are obliged to follow the Third Commandment. Even in isolation, we make a distinction between Sunday and the other days of the week. Even before this crisis, we may have been tempted to treat Saturday and Sunday as interchangeable, scheduling activities such as shopping, housework, and homework throughout the weekend, ignoring that Sunday is set apart as the Lord’s Day.
Of course, there are certainly exceptions, and some Sunday work is unavoidable. However, we must always be vigilant to keep Sunday as a day devoted to worship, rest, and bonding with our loved ones - even during times of isolation. When we participate in the Mass at home, we do so as we would in the church: dressing in our Sunday best, prayerfully placing ourselves in the presence of God, speaking the responses and common prayer aloud, and standing, sitting, and kneeling when appropriate. Aside from the Mass, other ways to keep Sunday holy include praying family devotions such as the Rosary and reading from Scripture or spiritual works.
As our Creator rested on Sunday, we are called to do the same. We tend to see this as an opportunity to fall asleep, and for some it is. However, our rest may also include walking in nature, reading (again, especially spiritual classics such as Introduction to the Devout Life would be especially appropriate), and partaking in your favorite hobby.
Finally, family activities should hold a special place on Sundays, including participating in Mass together and praying as a family. Sundays are also a time for shared recreation as a family, visiting loved ones in the area, or calling them on the phone.
As Catholics, setting Sunday aside is more than an obligation, it is a means to re-order our lives and our weeks around what is vital. In prioritizing the events of Sunday, we make an effort to focus on what is essential: our worship of God, our rest to renew us, and our bonding with family.
One final note: This was a trying time for our students, especially those who graduated from high school. Celebrations were toned down or canceled, and friends who have shared so much through the years have been isolated from each other during this momentous time. Because their liturgical roles have been suspended, this has also happened to our Sunday altar boys. Therefore, let me take this time to celebrate and recognize our graduating seniors who were regular servers at St. Andrew's: Joseph Lalli III, Andres Lopez, Dominic Olszewski, Joseph Reilly, Nate Remington, and Patrick Wood. May the Lord bless them for their faithful service to the priests and guide and protect them as they go forth in faith after high school.