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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Giving Ourselves a Time-Out


Focusing on What's Important
For Teens: Rest and Relaxation
For Kids: Set an Example

Visit our new Conversation Corner! This month: share ways your family observes the Sabbath.

Cast Your Vote: How often does your family observe Sunday as a day of rest?

This month, kids across the country will head back to school. For many families that means schedules crammed with homework, afterschool activities, sports, Scouts and a million other tasks— especially on the weekends. For many of us, the weekends are the time to accomplish all the things we couldn’t do during the week.

So when do we rest? Even God, after spending six days creating the earth, needed some rest—“Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken” (Genesis 2:2). As Catholics, our faith offers us a built-in “time-out” from our hectic lives—the Sabbath, which comes from the Hebrew word for “rest” or “cease.”

By definition, the Sabbath is “Sunday observed among Christians as a day of rest and worship.” But oftentimes it’s not the worship part we have trouble with—it’s the part about rest. Kids coming to Mass in their soccer or baseball uniforms and then rushing out after Communion with their parents to make their games have become a rather common sight at Mass these days.

This trend of using Sunday as just another day to get things done is one Pope John Paul II lamented in his apostolic letter Dies Domini (Celebrating the Lord’s Day). In that letter, the pope urged Catholics “to rediscover Sunday.” He further noted, “The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, not only so that we may live the demands of faith to the full, but also so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human.” (A condensed version of this letter is available in the March 1999 Catholic Update.)

Focusing on What’s Important

Next month, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Following the attacks, there was a renewed sense of slowing down and living in the here and now. People spoke of focusing on what was important in their lives, such as spending time with family and friends. But as the saying goes, “Old habits die hard.” And as the months passed, people—myself included—fell back into our hectic ways of life.

So as our kids head back to school, let’s remind ourselves to take a break. Can’t figure out when? Just look to our faith. There’s time already set aside just waiting for us to take advantage of it.

Here are some suggestions for ways to slow down and re-energize yourself and your family:

• Take a look at the family calendar. Are you in control of your schedule, or is it in control of you? Slow down.

• Learn to say “no.” Your family doesn’t need to be involved in every activity that presents itself.

• Read an inspirational book, meditate or listen to some soothing music.

• Plan a family dinner for Sunday evening. When I was growing up, Sundays were always a time for family. As I look back, my memories of these dinners are mostly of just being together, talking and laughing. Or even better, go out for dinner so Mom or Dad doesn’t have to cook!

• Have a “lazy” day. Recently, after my husband and I had spent Saturday running errands, cleaning the house and doing laundry, we decided to do absolutely nothing on Sunday after we got home from church. It was amazing how much more energized and tolerant I was the following day.

• Follow your children or grandchildren’s lead. Kids often—though not all the time—have a sense of when they need to slow down. Offer to color with them, play a board game or watch a video. If they rest or take a nap, lie down with them.

• Take a drive somewhere or go to a park for a picnic and walk in the woods.

Next Month: The Family and the Current Church Crisis



For Teens: Rest and Relaxation

A common concern I hear from parents of teenagers is that they are always “on the go.” Between school, work, afterschool activities and friends, this exciting time in your life can also be emotionally and physically draining. Don’t forget to recharge your batteries.

Take advantage of Sundays to relax. Go into your room or a secluded area of the house, and listen to your favorite CD, write in your journal about your hopes and thoughts, read a book you’ve been meaning to get to or take a nap. Studies have shown that teens are seriously sleep-deprived.

If for some reason, such as work, you can’t do these things on Sunday, make sure to find some other time in your schedule.

For Kids: Set an Example

Invite an adult to sit with you and color, read a story, play a game or watch a movie. Sometimes adults need a gentle reminder to slow down and relax. If you ask and they say they can’t right now, don’t keep asking. Just start the activity by yourself and invite them again in a little while.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at

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