Honoring the sabbath is a challenge for us all, but it is particularly acute for our busy teens. By introducing them to small practices like these, we can help them lead Christ-centered lives.
The busyness of being a teen
I recently became a mother, I’ve worked full time, I’ve worked part-time jobs on top of my full-time work, and I’ve been in college and graduate school, and I still look back on my four years in high school as the busiest of my life. Between hours spent learning in school, running during cross country and track practice, completing homework at the library, socializing with friends and family, and partaking in other extra curricular activities after school, my schedule was full to the brim.
Although I attended Mass with my family each weekend throughout my childhood and teen years, I would hardly say that I rested on the sabbath throughout high school. After church and a family brunch, I typically spent Sundays studying and working ahead on projects that I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to complete during the week. Today, I work with high school students in my parish’s youth group and confirmation program, and so I know that teens these days are pulled in as many — or more — directions than I was as a high schooler, and that their Sundays are also full of activity and homework.
Given the reality that many demands for time are placed on teenagers, and the fact that Sundays are viewed by the vast majority of people (including our sons and daughters’ coaches and bosses) as a day like any other day, helping our teens to keep the third commandment might seem like a pie in the sky idea. While overhauling our culture may not be possible, the good news is that, with some creativity, honoring the sabbath still is.
Ideas for honoring the sabbath
Think broadly about what it means to rest.
God rested on the seventh day of creation, so we should too, but rest doesn’t necessarily mean a total abstention from activity. Maybe your son needs to spend a part of Sunday studying for Monday’s geometry exam, but what can he rest from? Have a conversation with your teens about how they spend their time and which of their routine actions energize them, and which drain them. Perhaps Sunday could be a day of concerted resting from social media, criticizing siblings, watching television or negative self-talk.
Do something that brings joy and relaxation.
Canon Law (the code of ecclesiastical laws that govern the Catholic Church) states that on Sundays we should abstain from works that hinder joy or the suitable relaxation of mind and body. Along with avoiding work that hinders, perhaps we should also pay special attention to taking part in activities that promote joy and relaxation. This could mean doing something fun as a family — going to see a movie or playing a game together — or it could mean giving your teen the evening off from helping with after-dinner-dishes. Just be sure to accompany the “night off” pass with particular instructions to spend the fifteen minutes relaxing, whether that means listening to some music, taking a bubble bath, reading a magazine or just lying on the couch.
Remember that God can be worshipped in all circumstances.
Honoring the sabbath by attending Mass is important, but it’s also worth remembering that prayer shouldn’t be confined within church walls. Does your daughter have soccer practice on Sunday afternoon? Remind her to thank God for fresh air and her strong and capable body. Does your son have a work shift at the local grocery store? Suggest that he look for the face of God in each of the customers for whom he bags groceries.
Honoring the sabbath, or living any part of faith for that matter, is a work in progress for all of us. By helping our teens start small with practices like these, we are planting seeds for virtuous and abundant lives. Do you have ideas from your own experience of how to keep holy the sabbath? Please join the conversation by commenting below!