Thou Shalt Take it Easy: 7 Reasons to Embrace Sunday Rest

December 29, 2014

Recently, my wife and I were at a Catholic thrift store we frequent, and posted prominently by the entrance was a large sign announcing that beginning in January, the store would now be open on Sundays. The sign explained that Sunday used to be a special day for family, for worship, and for rest—but it simply isn’t that anymore. Instead, it is just another day to get things done. “We want to meet people where they are,” the sign concluded, “and that means being open on Sunday.”

My wife and I were saddened. We had been proud of this store for being one of the handful that still closed on Sunday. In a day when nothing but profit remains sacred, it’s hard to believe that only 50 or so years ago, everything was closed on Sunday. Catholic, protestant, or secular, the culture recognized the uniqueness of Sunday as a day of rest.

But while the culture is racing madly about, being “productive” on Sunday, we Catholics should still respect the Lord’s day. Here are seven reasons why you should rest on Sunday.

1. God commands it

The first and foremost reason for resting on Sundays is because God commands it. In Exodus chapter 20, God gives his people ten commandments that summarize the moral law. Among these is a commandment to “remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” How is the sabbath to be kept holy? By resting.

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

Mother Church also instructs the faithful to rest on Sundays, including a commandment to rest as the first of her six precepts.

“The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days” (CCC #2042).

In other words, go to Mass and then enjoy some leisure.

2. God rested

When you think of resting on Sundays, you may immediately begin to think of reasons why it is impractical. Perhaps you don’t feel tired, or maybe you have too much to get done to take a day off, or maybe you simply don’t want to.

Whatever the reasons you come up with, though, your excuses are exploded by the fact that God rested on the seventh day—and if anyone didn’t need to take a break, it was him! Think about it, God has unlimited energy. Creating the universe, magnificent and complex at it is, did not tax God’s strength. He could have created a million universes without breaking a sweat. And yet he rested.

There are deeply theological reasons for God’s Sabbath rest that can perhaps be explored in another post, but the point is, God rested, and so should we.

3. You actually need it

Whether you think so or not, you need to rest on Sundays. Unlike God, you do not have unlimited creative energy. It is a scientific fact that the human brain and body can only take so much activity without deteriorating dramatically. The vast majority of us are overworked and stressed out, teetering on the brink of burnout. In fact, business is a badge of honor in some circles.

Stress is hard on the body, and rest is absolutely essential to productivity. St. Thomas once said, “Without work, it is impossible to have fun.” This could easily be reversed: Without fun (rest), it is impossible to work effectively. You need a day off to recuperate before tackling a new work week.

4. Family and friends

When is the last time you shared a family meal with your wife and children or close relatives? Big Sunday meals with the family after Mass used to be a highlight of every Catholic week. They still should be.

The modern world, fueled by technology, has left us more isolated than ever before. The lack of face-to-face, personal interaction has left families fragmented and many people painfully lonely. Sundays, if properly respected, offer a unique opportunity to spend time with those we love, whether that is family or friends.

5. Prayer and spiritual reading

The saints tell us that prayer is absolutely essential to salvation. Spiritual reading, too, offers us an opportunity to hear God speaking in return. These two activities should be weekly habits for every Catholic.

Yet, despite their critical importance, many of us are so busy that we feel we simply do not have time to pray, read, or meditate as we want to. That’s why Sundays are so important—they offer us the space we need to commune with our Lord, both literally in the Holy Eucharist, but also in restful times of prayer and meditation on the truths of the Faith.

6. Things you enjoy

Creativity is part of being made in the image of God. It is fascinating to me that cultures of the past had far less of what we would consider free time, and yet everything they made—from tools to blankets to clothing—was made beautiful with intricate patterns and decorations. These days, we have countless conveniences that give us incredible amounts of free-time, but rather than creating, we merely consume.

It is important for men to have a creative outlet. The options are endless—writing, woodworking, gardening, model building, working on engines, leather-working, and a lot more. Again, Sunday offers a unique opportunity to work with our hands, doing something we enjoy for its own sake.

7. Naps

Sundays are all about rest, and there’s no better way to celebrate this fact than with a good nap. To be honest, I would feel pretty guilty if I took a nap in the middle of the day during the rest of the week when there are many obligations to attend to (my boss probably wouldn’t appreciate it either). But on Sundays, I take a guilt free nap if I feel like it, and it really is great. You should try it sometime.

Thou Shalt Take it Easy

If you think about it, it’s really a beautiful thing that God commands us to rest. He is not a slave-driver or brutal taskmaster, pushing us to exhaustion and burnout. On the contrary, he is a loving Father who knows and desires what is best for his children. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart,” Jesus said, “and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I would encourage you to examine your Sunday routine and look for concrete ways to make it more restful and relaxing. Cut out the the unnecessary shopping and errands. Make it a day of quiet, rest, fun, prayer, friends, and family.

Our Lord, in his great love for you, is commanding you to keep holy his day by setting aside the to-do list and enjoying some rest. Six days thou shalt run around like a madman, but on the seventh, thou shalt rest, take it easy, play a little bit. Really. Just do it.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Free by Forty!!! says

    Great post! I strive for this every Sunday but sometimes am forced to squeeze in some work. It is important to reserve a day of rest and reflection on God! I hope more people see how important this is.

  2. Ellis Spear says

    Dear Sam,

    Great post for thought and reflection. I think that it is important to embrace Sunday Rest. It seems that Sunday would be a good day for husbands and fathers to set a good example and take time to smoke their pipe and relax 🙂


  3. cheryl harkenrider says

    sam, I enjoyed your post very much! I ‘m very pleased you started this site. It reminds me of my childhood and it what meant 2 me. I miss my dad each and every day. He wasn’t catholic but brought my sister and I up catholic. He made sure we attended Mass every week and Holy Days of Obligation. He attended Mass w/ us and our mother. He had a laid back personality and he did rest on Sun. and followed Jesus’ teachings.
    I hope u didn’t mind a woman responding. Tell you wife she’s lucky to have a caring, loving spouse and father of her children and that he is Catholic. The faith is quite amazing!!

  4. Catherine says

    This is another woman who appreciates your post on this topic. I also try very hard not to shop or attend activities that require others to work on Sunday. It seems hypocritical to avoid work and yet be part of the system that prevents others from enjoying a Sunday rest. I know its not really going to change anything in our current culture, and it’s not always possible to do, but I think it’s part of my obligation to model the behavior I want to motivate in others.

  5. Daniel O'Connor says

    Great article. Let’s also not forget Works of Mercy! Sundays are great for these, especially as a family. CCC 2186: “Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly.” (Cf. Mark 3:4). Visiting a nursing home to pray the rosary with the residents there, Praying/sidewalk counseling outside a Planned Parenthood (if any are open Sundays), bringing food to the poor, etc. And as a side note, we should keep in mind that the same Mass AND rest obligations apply to all Holy Days of Obligation.

  6. E. Spear says

    Dear Dan,

    That is a great reply and some great ideas for the start of 2015. Thanks for commenting on Sam’s Post 🙂

  7. patholscher says

    No store needs to be open on Sunday, and its particularly sad that a Catholic thrift store would think that it does. The sole reason that everything is now open on Sunday is because businesses slowly crept into Sunday and people tolerated it. That ultimately results in everything needing to be open on Sunday.

    Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man. People need a break. If the law doesn’t provide for it through “blue laws”, we can do what we can by not making Sunday or own personal shopping or service day.

  8. Trev (@TrevSliw) says

    A great reminder. It might be of interest, that in my local area (Alberta) the “no business on Sunday law”; appropriately the Lord’s Day Act was only successfully challenged in the 1980s (nevermind 50 years ago) when a mall challenged the constitutionality of the law. While I can appreciate certain places being open Sundays (perhaps grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) there is certainly no obligation for Catholics to patronize these stores on Sunday.

    • patholscher says

      There weren’t any “blue laws” here when I was a kid, but just through societal pressure I guess, businesses here closed on Sundays. I distinctly remember that you couldn’t buy gasoline on Sunday, for example, as there were no gas stations open. This was true of well recognized holidays as well.

      This has changed so much that my kids have a difficult time imagining that everything isn’t open on Sundays. I’ll sometimes get a kids’ request that “can we go to” some store that is actually closed, and they’re stunned.

      But, in all truthfulness, why, for example, is PetCo open on Sunday? Or the sporting goods stores? They truly do not need to be.

  9. virtuouscitizenship says

    Some years ago I realized that not only was I not making it the Lord’s Day I was doing worse than servile work on Sunday-I was doing work related to my business to make money. I went to confession and confessed that for years I had made the Lord’s day un-holy. The priest said “Thank you, I have not heard that sin confessed for years.” Since then I have tried to make it God’s Day with reading the Bible, spending time with wife and family and friends, and even, yes, napping. I have also made a really good effort not to watch any sports on TV – to me that is worship of some really bad role models – be it college or pro- and not worshipping God. Guy Mcclung, San Antonio

  10. Gary D. Knight says

    As a graduate student I thought I was pious enough, in attending Mass and not doing servile work (i.e. work for pay, such as a summer job or winter tutoring); but one day I was caught by some spiritual reading that averred even my ‘hobbies’ could be a distraction from the Lord — hobbies that in one sense or other advanced “my own interests”. I mean things like study itself, or wood-work towards the slow restoration of our house; even painting or landscaping. I realized it takes considerable discernment to know whether the activity is not only quiet and undisturbing to others, but in some way serves their better interests more than “my own interests”. I have found that the best litmus test is the sense of inner reward and confirmation that comes from the Spirit of the Lord, for the work of good example. One confirmation came by way of advising a colleague very worried about her essay due within two days. I said, put this to the test if you will: do NO studying or writing today (we went bike riding), ask the Lord to affirm this choice, and see how productive you will be tomorrow! Lo and behold; she scored 100 per cent on her essay. Now she spends Sundays praising the Lord. He really did mean it when He said “come aside with me for awhile” and truly He makes all burdens light.

  11. Jack says

    I’m very glad that you encourage people to respect the day of the rest, but if you watch closely on your Bible, you will see that the day of the Rest is the seventh day not the firts day of the week. Saturday is the day that God recommanded. There is no where in the bible where the seventh day was changed to the firts day. The fourth coomandement recommand saturday, mean seventhday ( Exodus 20:11). Sunday is day of the catholic’s tradition, so it’s not come from the Lord. Jesus said: ” Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” Matthew chap 15: 6

    • Jacob says

      Actually Jack, thank you for bringing this up, because there is some confusion about this in modern times. Fortunately, we can see from scripture and the writings of the early Christians that there was no confusion in the early Church about meeting on the Lord’s Day, or Sundays ( In fact, Paul seems to specifically address this very issue when he tells his readers not to let anyone bother them about meeting on a different day (Col 2:16), so it is actually a tradition of the Church from the biblical era.

      God bless!

  12. Felipe Sanchez says


    The commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 states that the seventh day of the week, Saturday, is the day which the Lord selected as the day of rest and worship. However, in the New Testament the Christian church began to worship and rest on the first day of the week, Sunday. Are Christians violating the Sabbath commandment by worshiping on the first day of the week rather than the seventh day? I do not think so.

    First, the basis for the command to observe the Sabbath, as stated in Exodus 20:11, is that God rested on the seventh day after six days of work, and that God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. The Sabbath day was instituted as a day of rest and worship. The people of God were to follow God’s example in His pattern of work and rest. However, as Jesus said in correcting the distorted view of the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). The point Jesus made is that the Sabbath was not instituted to enslave people, but to benefit them. The spirit of Sabbath observance is continued in the New Testament observance of rest and worship on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).

    Second, it must be remembered that, according to Colossians 2:17, the Sabbath was “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” The Sabbath observance was associated with redemption in Deuteronomy 5:15 where Moses stated, “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” The Sabbath was a shadow of the redemption that would be provided in Christ. It symbolized the rest from our works and an entrance into the rest of God provided by His finished work.

    Finally, although the moral principles expressed in the commandments are reaffirmed in the New Testament, the command to set Saturday apart as a day of rest and worship is the only commandment not repeated. There are very good reasons for this. New Testament believers are not under the Old Testament Law (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 3:2425; 2 Cor. 3:7, 11, 13; Heb. 7:12). By His resurrection on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1), His continued appearances on succeeding Sundays (John 20:26), and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Sunday (Acts 2:1), the early church was given the pattern of Sunday worship. This they did regularly (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). Sunday worship was further hallowed by our Lord who appeared to John in that last great vision on “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10). It is for these reasons that Christians worship on Sunday, rather than on the Jewish Sabbath.

  13. Tari Brewer says

    Im confused the sabbath but that is the 7th day of the week Saturday and Sunday is the 1st day that Jesus was raised from the dead.


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