The final discussion in our 'Dies Domini' series in which we examine why we keep Sunday holy, the Lord's Day, we talk about how we need to make time for God.
In this fast-paced, always-on, 24/7 society in which we live, a commonly heard expression is “I’m too busy”. Are we too busy to develop our relationship with God? Too busy to go to Mass? Too busy to rest?
The final discussion in our Dies Domini series in which we examine why we keep Sunday holy, the Lord’s Day, we talk about how we need to make time for God.
Elliot Vanstone, Mission Adviser at the Bishops’ Conference, concludes our series alongside Natalie Orefice, Advisor for Parish Evangelisation for the Archdiocese of Birmingham based at the Maryvale Institute.
“On Sunday I’m thinking about what everybody else needs for school and work for the rest of the week,” says Natalie. “There are lots of jobs that need to happen for the week to run smoothly. But more important than all the practicalities of the week is my time given to Christ – my time going to Mass.
“We go together as a family and know that all those jobs are still waiting, they will all happen, but you don’t lose time by going to Church, by going to Mass. Take your time throughout that day to pray. God sees what you give, and he gives you the extra time. That’s a great mystery. He gives you the time and the energy to be able to approach the rest of the week in a way that He would desire.”
Hello and welcome to this episode of our Dies Domini discussion where we’re discussing Sunday as our day of prayer. Today we’re joined by Natalie Orefice. Natalie, would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi, Elliot. My name’s Natalie Orefice, and I currently work for the Archdiocese of Birmingham as advisor for parish evangelisation, and I’m delighted to be teaming up with you on this project.
Thank you very much. I think it’s a very interesting thing we’re discussing today in terms of Sunday as our day of prayer and what Sunday means to us. John Paul II released this on 30 July 1998 and within this document he quoted St. Jerome saying, “Sunday is the day of the Resurrection. It is the day of Christians. It is our day.” I was wondering, Natalie, what does Sunday mean to you?
Well, Sunday is a day that has been set aside by God himself from the beginning of time – from creation – He set time aside for rest. But rest, I think, is a bit messed up in our busy, busy society. I think we got an idea of what it’s like to be restful during Lockdown when everything stopped and slowed down – the whole pace of life slowed down. I spoke to many people who, during Lockdown, found that they had more time to pray, more time to connect with God and to set that time aside. Sunday really is a time to develop our relationship with God. John Paul II said that the Sunday the day, par excellence, for our relationship with God.
Now we all know what it’s like to be in relationships – family relationships, relationships with husbands, children, cousins, relationships we have with our friends. Sometimes we can just meander through speaking on a really superficial level, making sure that everything’s okay, just checking in with each other and getting through. But we all know what it’s like to really appreciate those special days, that time set aside where you might go out for a lovely meal together or a nice walk, and you really begin to open your heart and speak and connect with each other.
That’s really what God’s calling us to do on a Sunday. And that’s why the Sunday Mass, in particular, is special . We should want to be there. But we live in a really busy and hectic society where every moment is taken up with something, whether it’s scrolling down on social media, checking in and checking up on things. If you speak to people, it’s like they have to say, “oh, I’m really, really busy.” It’s almost like a really unnatural response for somebody to say, “oh, well, I’ve got nothing to do. I’ve just had a really nice rest.” We’re not expected to say that. In our society, it’s almost like a let down if somebody does have some time and they’re not doing something super important.
So Sunday is the time to really take our time back. And I’d like to emphasise a particular line from John Paul II, and he says, “do not be afraid to give your time to Christ”. I know what it’s like to be a mum and a wife, and I always feel like I’m thinking for four people. On Sunday I’m thinking about what everybody else needs for school and work for the rest of the week. There’s lots and lots of jobs that need to happen for that week to run smoothly.
More important than all the practicalities of the week is my time given to Christ – my time going to the Mass. We go together as a family and know that all those jobs are still waiting, they will all happen, but you don’t lose time by going to Church, by going to Mass. Take your time throughout that day to pray. God sees what you give, and he gives you the extra time. That’s a great mystery. He gives you the time and the energy to be able to approach the rest of the week in a way that He would desire.
I think that’s a very good answer, Natalie. I really like the focus you put on the word “relationship” there and the fact that the Sunday is used to improve our relationship with God. Anyone that has any sort of family, partner or loved ones knows that during the week, you’d spend even just a half an hour an hour working on that relationship with another person in order to keep it moving forward, progressing. Keep it fresh. Sunday is our day in which that relationship becomes the most important aspect of our week. That’s the one day that we can improve our relationship with God. We can go to Mass, we can come together. But the amazing thing about Mass is we can come together, improve our relationship with God while improving our relationship with others in the community around us. That’s a really important aspect of why we’re going back.
I’ve always thought of the day of rest as something exciting, something to look forward to, because although your body is resting, your mind is in full flow. You’re contemplating the gospel, you’re contemplating the liturgy. Every time you listen to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, you’re hearing a new line that you haven’t heard before, and I always find that really interesting. You can always interpret something different from it.
I completely agree with you, Elliot. That’s a beautiful reflection – the importance of contemplating on a Sunday, contemplating what you’ve heard at Mass throughout the day and reflecting on that relationship in a new way. Certainly for me, every time we hear the readings and the gospel, something new hits me. The Holy Spirit talks to me in a different way and shows me what God wants to say to me on that particular day. During the Lockdown, we all experienced a distance in many of our relationships – including our relationships from going to Sunday Mass. We had the great opportunity to connect online and have some experience of that. But we also felt the separation from relationships and friends and family who we couldn’t see and couldn’t visit.
I hope that we’ve all had a little bit of a hunger and desire burning inside us, to reconnect with the Mass, to reconnect with Jesus in the Mass on a Sunday, and to reconnect with all our friends and family and those people within our local community. Those faces we’d see at Mass and who we chat to. We long to be with them again and I hope that people will return to do that.
I think it’s important, as well, that we acknowledge that Lockdown has given people a great opportunity to extend the way that they pray and to improve the way that they pray. People have found different ways to make time for prayer. In actual fact, some would even say that the pandemic has brought people a lot closer to God. They’ve really reached out and grabbed hold of some solidarity in the midst of all this pain and distress that’s being caused by this deadly virus. What’s important in the future is trying to find a way to harness this new way we pray – this incredible means of prayer that we’ve utilised – to take that to Sunday Mass.
I definitely agree that there has been a spiritual awakening. The Holy Spirit has been at work throughout the pandemic, and many people who have not considered themselves Christians have had some desire awakened in them during those times. I think the statistics show that those first few weeks of the pandemic, for every one person who was diagnosed with having Covid, there were 300 hits on Google and somebody searching “how to pray” and “is there a God?” I mean, that gives us great hope to know that people are longing and wanting that. The relationship is written inside us, and we just all work, always hoping to improve our own development in our relationship with God every week and every day.
Like you say, Elliot, so many people have actually had the time, through the lockdown to maybe reflect on what their relationship with God was like. There have been so many wonderful opportunities to learn how to pray in different ways or to listen to talks. There have been so many resources online that it’s been hugely beneficial for everybody.
It’s important going into the future, as I mentioned, I think that we take some of that back into our daily Mass lives and use it in the best way that we possibly can.
Thanks very much, Natalie, for talking to me today and for being involved in this episode of our series Dies Domini. Thank you very much.
Thank you Elliot.